Clubs eye next season with early moves
It has become a yearly occurrence: as soon as a league season draws to a close, preparations begin almost immediately for the subsequent campaign. For that reason, many clubs waste no time in strengthening their squads as quickly as possible. FIFA.com runs the rule over the transfer deals that have already been completed.
The Bundesliga was the first major European league to shut down for the summer, and it has also seen the most action in the transfer market so far. Borussia Dortmund, champions for the last two years in a row, have bid farewell to their Paraguayan forward Lucas Barrios, who has moved to Chinese outfit Guangzhou Evergrande, but have in turn signed rising star Marco Reus from Borussia Monchengladbach, recently voted Player of the Year by his fellow professionals.
The tricky task of replacing the young midfielder falls to Swiss international Granit Xhaka, winner of the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup, who arrives in Germany fresh from securing a league and cup double with Basel.
The chances are high that while there he will cross paths with international team mate and former club colleague Xherdan Shaqiri, whose performances in Switzerland and in Europe have earned him a move to Bayern Munich.
The German giants have also bolstered their defence, bringing in Brazilian centre-back Dante, a first-team regular for Monchengladbach since 2009, after having had spells with Lille and Standard Liege. “I’ll train hard over the summer break so that I’m at peak fitness when I arrive at Bayern in July. I want to be as well-prepared as possible for this new challenge,” the defender told FIFA.com.
Croatian forward Ivica Olic, meanwhile, is exiting the Allianz Arena, and will aim to gain more playing time under Felix Magath at Wolfsburg. Germany international Lukas Podolski will also be hoping for a change of fortune at new club Arsenal, following a difficult season with Cologne that ended in relegation to the second division.
Bayer Leverkusen had a much better year, but have still decided to trim their squad significantly, with the departures of striker Eren Derdiyok to Hoffenheim and goalkeeper Rene Adler to Hamburg adding to that of Michael Ballack.
Keepers appear to be in high demand in the Bundesliga, as demonstrated by Werder Bremen custodian Tim Wiese’s move to Hoffenheim, and by the signing of Raphael Wolf from Austrian club Kapfenberger to replace him.
Hoffenheim have also strengthened their midfield, capturing former Japan youth international Takashi Usami on loan from Gamba Osaka. Usami spent last season playing for Bayern’s reserve side.
As one Asian arrives in German football, a Bundesliga star has decided to further his career in Asia: Spanish legend Raul, who spent two impressive campaigns at Schalke 04 and close to two fruitful decades at Real Madrid, will sport the colours of Al-Sadd in Qatar next season.
Passing the Spaniard on the way out is another player who made his mark in the German top flight, Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto, who has left Qatari side Al-Gharafa to link up with Gremio in his homeland. At the Porto Alegre-based club he will rub shoulders with another returning countryman in the shape of defender Fabio Aurelio, who was released by Liverpool after 134 appearances in six seasons.
Other transfer deals in the country that will host the next FIFA World Cup™ include former Everton striker Jo’s move from Internacional to Atletico Mineiro. Team-mate Tinga has also opted for new pastures, with Cruzeiro his chosen destination.
The most surprising signing announced so far, however, was that of Dida by Portuguesa, due to the fact that the ex-Corinthians keeper had been in retirement since his departure from AC Milan in 2010.
Another former Rossoneri player looking for a new challenge is Mark van Bommel, who has put pen to paper with PSV Eindhoven, seven years after leaving for Barcelona, an adventure that was followed by stints at Munich and finally Milan.
The Lombardy club have also parted company with Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi, paving the way for younger recruits such as Italian playmaker Riccardo Montolivo from Fiorentina, and Malian midfielder Bakaye Traore from Nancy.
A Serie A stalwart and a firm favourite of the fans at Bologna, where he scored 64 goals in four years, Marco Di Vaio has decided, at the age of 35, to export his considerable goalscoring talents to North America, and to Canadian team Montreal Impact in particular.
In the MLS, he is likely to cross swords with Colorado Rapids’ newly signed Brazilian, Edu, who between 2000 and 2009 plied his trade in Spain with Celta Vigo and Real Betis. Los Verdiblancos’ great rivals Sevilla have also been busy, swooping for highly-rated Villarreal shot-stopper Diego Lopez.