Transfer activity gathers pace
As the dust settles on another season in most of the world's leading leagues, clubs are picking over the lessons to be learned from their latest campaigns. Some will be aiming higher next time around while others will be determined not to repeat the same mistakes, and in both cases a few shrewd acquisitions could go a long way. In this second look at the state of play in the transfer market, FIFA.com catches up with the comings and goings over the past two weeks.
Having returned to Serie A at the first attempt, Italian giants Juventus are desperate to make up for lost time by building a team capable of challenging for honours at the top of the table. A deal finalised back in January means Bosnian midfielder Hasan Salihamidzic will be turning out for the Turin side next term, and he will be joined by striker Vincenzo Iaquinta, a member of Italy's 2006 FIFA World Cup™-winning squad. Scorer of 64 goals in 187 league appearances for Udinese, including 14 last season, Iaquinta could well find himself asked to step in to David Trezeguet's shoes, with the France international having strongly hinted that he will be moving on.
Juve's city rivals Torino have been busy too, securing the services of Palermo captain Eugenio Corini and Australia's Vince Grella, who played such a key role in saving Parma from the drop. Young French prospect Dominique Malonga has likewise been brought on board after notching goal upon goal for Monaco's reserves.
For AC Milan, meanwhile, not only will the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007 loom large next term but the European champions will also be anxious to dethrone neighbours Inter as the foremost team in Italy. It will have pained the Rossoneri to see their traditional foes celebrate the Serie A crown, yet they have already pulled off one significant coup by recruiting pacey forward David Suazo. After eight years at Cagliari, the Honduran originally travelled to Milan last week to undergo a medical with Inter, only to leave the champions speechless by signing for Carlo Ancelotti's men instead.
Lyon splash out
France may not boast any rivalries at that same level, but newly-promoted Caen suffered an almost identical fate recently when they found themselves beaten to the draw by AJ Auxerre for Brazil's Marcos Antonio. Having informed the press of the Uniao Leiria defender's imminent arrival, the Normandy club's officials were shocked to read he had joined Auxerre in the following day's papers. Instead of letting their heads drop, however, Caen successfully snagged experienced Troyes campaigner Benjamin Nivet as well as defender Juan Eduardo Eluchans, who built himself a solid reputation while at Rosario Central and Independiente in his native Argentina.
Of course, Lyon are usually the most active French side whenever the transfer window opens, accumulating big signings with the same regularity they collect domestic titles, and this summer looks to be no exception. With new coach Alain Perrin pulling the strings, the six-time champions have already splashed out on two of Ligue 1's most gifted players in Lille duo Abdulkader Keita and Mathieu Bodmer. Purchased for 16 million euros, explosive Ivorian winger Keita becomes the club's most expensive acquisition since Brazil striker Sonny Anderson.
Runners-up Marseille have been strengthening their ranks as well, fresh from the lucrative sale of Franck Ribery to Bayern Munich. Keen to reinvest some of that money wisely, the Mediterranean outfit have picked up Auxerre captain Bruno Cheyrou to partner the workaholic Lorik Cana in central midfield.
For their part, Auxerre have also lost promising centre-back Younes Kaboul to Tottenham, while fellow defender Johan Radet and midfielder Lionel Mathis are unpacking their bags in Strasbourg and Sochaux respectively. Côte d'Ivoire international Kanga Akale has left too, snubbing interest from Marseille, Toulouse and Atletico Madrid to team up again with his old mentor Guy Roux at Lens. There he will play alongside Besiktas goalkeeper Vedran Runje, who returns to France after standing between the posts for Marseille between 2001 and 2004. Among other moves in Ligue 1, Saint-Etienne have captured Lille's Greek defender Efstathios Tavlaridis and Nantes' France Under-21 prospect Dimitri Payet.
Croatian duo join Dortmund
In Germany, Bayern Munich have fallen relatively silent since their high-profile swoops for Luca Toni and Franck Ribery, save for returning Ze Roberto to Bavaria, leaving the road clear for the rest of the Bundesliga to steal a few headlines. On that score, Borussia Dortmund have been particularly animated, making up for Christoph Metzelder's departure to Real Madrid by convincing a couple of Croatian internationals to slip on the famous yellow shirt. At 33 years of age, Robert Kovac signs from Juventus, while his compatriot Mladen Petric, 26, makes the switch from FC Basel.
Another player to have swapped clubs is Hamburg's emblematic Iranian midfielder Mehdi Mahdavikia, who will turn out for Eintracht Frankfurt next year after eight seasons in the port city, where he struck 29 times in 223 encounters. Elsewhere, Bochum have injected new blood in the form of Djurgarden IF's Swedish international defender Matias Concha and Frenchman Marc Pfertzel, who spent four campaigns in Livorno's rearguard and has never appeared in Ligue 1. Further east, Energie Cottbus have recruited a Frenchman of their own in Christian Bassila, with the midfielder joining fresh from a year at Greek side Larissa, following stints with Lyon, Strasbourg, West Ham and Sunderland.
The last of those teams have just welcomed Reading's Greg Halford to the north-east of England, and manager Roy Keane will be hoping the 22-year-old utility man can help keep the Premiership new boys in the top tier. Otherwise, defenders have dominated the market in England so far, with Wigan picking up two for no cost in out-of-contract pair Mario Melchiot of Rennes and Andreas Granqvist of Swedish side Helsingborg.
Not to be left out, Chelsea have finalised a
deal for Bolton's Tal Ben Haim, another good piece of business
for a team usually noted for its extravagant purchases. The Israeli
defender becomes the third player to join the Londoners without a
fee after Steve Sidwell of Reading and Bayern's Claudio
Pizarro, having seen out his contract at the Reebok Stadium.
For Middlesbrough, an underwhelming 12 th-place finish in 2006/07 has convinced the club to freshen up its forward line. Thus, veteran Mark Viduka will be plying his trade at Newcastle next season, while Jeremie Aliadiere has been brought in from Arsenal and will be hoping for a sustained run in the first team after struggling for playing time under Arsene Wenger. Boro's shrewdest capture may well turn out to be coveted forward Tuncay Sanli, however, with the Turkish international making the switch from domestic champions Fenerbahce despite interest from some of the continent's biggest names.
Sheffield United striker Colin Kazim-Richards is venturing in the opposite direction, meanwhile, signing up with the Istanbul club at the age of 20. Adaptation ought to pose no problem as the former Blades man holds both Turkish and British nationality, and after opting to represent Turkey made his debut for the 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists in the 0-0 friendly draw with Brazil on 5 June.
The country's most-capped player Rustu Recber will not be there to welcome Kazim-Richards as he has quit Fenerbahçe for rivals Besiktas. The talismanic goalkeeper will instead team up with Chilean midfielder Rodrigo Tello, who has chosen to leave Portugal after seven seasons at Sporting Lisbon. And there has been activity at the capital's third major outfit Galatasaray as well, with the Lions replacing Japanese midfielder Junichi Inamoto with Sweden's Tobias Linderoth. The former Everton player was a member of the FC Copenhagen side that reached the UEFA Champions League group stage for the first time in their history in 2006/07.
As every year, Spanish sides can be expected to be in the thick of the transfer bustle, but with La Liga only drawing to a close at the weekend, there is little movement to report as yet. That said, Brazil's Savio has left Real Sociedad for Levante, while Osasuna schemer Raul Garcia has penned a five-year deal with Atletico Madrid.
Those moves will no doubt get the ball rolling in Spain and, between now and 31 August, many more players across Planet Football will be leaving their clubs in pursuit of new horizons. In the same vein, teams everywhere will be looking to land a major star or lift an unknown gem from obscurity, so make sure to keep tabs on the latest activity with FIFA.com.