Swift moves across Europe
As the old saying goes, the early bird catches the worm. It is a piece of homespun wisdom that many of Europe's clubs have taken on board by dipping into the transfer market almost as soon as the continental league season came to an end. And just as it has always done whenever the transfer window is ajar, FIFA.com rounds up all the latest comings and goings across the old continent.
In anticipation of a long-awaited return to their old stomping ground of the UEFA Champions League, Juventus embarked on another rebuilding programme back in January, pulling off an early coup with the signing of Olof Mellberg from Aston Villa, where the Swedish centre-half had performed with distinction for seven years. In recent weeks La Vecchia Signora have also bolstered their attack by acquiring the services of Palermo's Brazilian forward Amauri, one of the most sought-after strikers in the Serie A. After making a name for himself with Chievo, the 28-year-old confirmed his predatory instincts in a two-season stint with the Sicilians, hitting the back of the net 21 times in 53 games, 15 of those goals coming this term.
While Juve are gearing up for a return to the continental elite, old rivals AC Milan will have to make to do with a place in the UEFA Cup after finishing a disappointing fifth. Determined to return to the top of the Italian and European pecking order, the Rossoneri have drafted in French midfielder Mathieu Flamini from Arsenal and welcomed 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ winner Gianluca Zambrotta back to calcio after two seasons at Barcelona.
One Germany 2006 winner to vacate the San Siro, however, is striker Alberto Gilardino, who failed to establish himself with the Milan giants despite picking up FIFA Club World Cup, Champions League and UEFA Super Cup winners' medals. Having switched to Fiorentina, his task now is to recapture the form that made him Serie A's leading marksman in 2004/05.
Lloris ready to slip into Coupet's shoes
Across the other side of the Alps, Lyon are continuing to pursue the recruitment policy that has brought them so much domestic success over the last seven years. The undisputed kings of France have been investing in their future by persuading Nice to part company with two of their prime assets. After coming to an agreement with the Brazilian Ederson back in January, Les Gones returned to the sunny climes of the Côte d'Azur to snap up promising goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, beating off competition from AC Milan in the process.
Lyon's latest additions now have the onerous responsibilities of replacing Brazilian wizard Juninho Pernambucano, who is coming to the end of an illustrious career, and international goalkeeper Gregory Coupet, soon to make his departure from the club. "Greg is a legend and it won't be easy to replace him," commented Lloris when he was unveiled at the Stade Gerland. "I'm not worried about the challenge though. Anything but."
Down on the Mediterranean coast, Marseille have been fine-tuning their defensive set-up, undoubtedly their Achilles heel in a season in which they finished third. The arrival of Moroccan international Amine Erbati from Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates could provide the stabilising influence they have been looking for. After staving off relegation, Paris Saint-Germain now have to face up to life without Pauleta, who has decided to leave the struggling Parisians following five seasons of loyal service.
The successor to his crown is Guillaume Hoarau, a young striker who ended the Ligue 2 season as top scorer with Le Havre. Another man making an exit through PSG's revolving doors is goalkeeping understudy Jerome Alonzo, who has switched to newly-promoted Nantes in search of first-team football. Saint-Etienne have also been dabbling in the market, celebrating their return to European competition after a 26-year absence by hiring Japanese midfielder Daisuke Matsui, a revelation with Le Mans for the last three seasons.
Not to be outdone, England's finest have been on the hunt for reinforcements too. Keen observers of Portuguese talent since Jose Mourinho's spell in the hot-seat, Chelsea have just lured Jose Bosingwa to London. A European champion in 2004 and a three-time league winner with Porto, the right-back is the latest addition to the illustrious Portuguese colony at Stamford Bridge, where he will team up with Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho and Hilario. Across the English capital, meanwhile, Tottenham Hotspur were so determined to tie down the hugely gifted Croatian prodigy Luka Modric that they went out and broke their transfer record for him.
Fellow big-spenders Liverpool have strengthened their rearguard with the purchase of Swiss defender Philipp Degen from Borussia Dortmund. The Reds are also waiting on confirmation of Italian left-back Andrea Dossena's move from Udinese. Neighbours Everton said bidden farewell to veteran Republic of Ireland international Lee Carsley, who has chosen to drop down a flight to help Birmingham City try and regain their Premier League status. And finally, newly-crowned champions Manchester United have made but one move in the transfer market so far, putting in a bid for the promising 17-year-old Welshman Aaron Ramsey of Cardiff City.
Home comforts for Lehmann and Butt
Still waiting on confirmation that Marseille's midfield wizard Samir Nasri will be heading their way, Arsenal have seen a number of their personnel head for the door, among them German shot-stopper Jens Lehmann. After a season spent mostly on the bench, the 38-year-old has returned to the Bundesliga to try his luck with Stuttgart. Following him to Germany is Finnish frontman Mikael Forssell, who has left relegated Birmingham for Hannover. The Finn is no stranger to the country, however, having spent a season on loan with Borussia Moenchengladbach in 2003.
Hans-Jorg Butt is another goalkeeper returning to his roots after deciding to leave Benfica to fill Oliver Kahn's gloves at Bayern Munich. The scorer of 26 penalties in the Bundesliga, Butt was understudy to Kahn at Korea/Japan 2002. "With his international experience, Hans-Jorg is just the kind of keeper we've been looking for," said the Bavarian club's general manager Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "He'll also be invaluable in helping our young keeper Michael Rensing to improve." The German champions have also signed international midfielder Tim Borowski from Werder Bremen.
Elsewhere in Germany, last season's revelations Wolfsburg have added the experienced Andrea Barzagli, a member of Italy's Germany 2006-winning squad two years ago, to their ranks, while the much-travelled Cameroonian defender Pierre Wome has left Bremen for Bundesliga new boys Cologne, his tenth European club in the last 12 years. After a season flirting with relegation, Bochum have reshuffled their pack by bringing in Portuguese defender Daniel Fernandes from PAOK Salonika, former German international Paul Freier from Bayer Leverkusen, and Iranian target man Vahid Hashemian from Hannover.
Revolution in Catalonia
Barcelona's eagerly awaited clearout will be closely watched around Europe, with Deco, Ronaldinho, Lilian Thuram and Samuel Eto'o all expected to leave in the near future. Like Zambrotta, Brazilian international Edmilson has already jumped ship, hopping on board the Yellow Submarine at Villarreal, who pipped Barça to second place last term. Heading in the opposite direction as cover for the injured Gabriel Milito is Uruguayan centre-half Martin Caceres. Joining him in the revamped line-up at the Nou Camp is Malian midfielder Seydou Keita, formerly of Sevilla, and home-grown defender Gerard Pique, recently returned from a spell with Manchester United.
With the Cristiano Ronaldo saga still rumbling on, Real Madrid's only transaction to date has been the acquisition of Ezequiel Garay, who has impressed with Racing Santander for the last three seasons. Cross-town rivals Atletico have been celebrating their return to the European big time by splashing the cash. After snaring Ajax and Netherlands defender John Heitinga, LosColchoneros then beat off a host of Italian suitors to win the battle for Fiorentina man Tomas Ujfalusi's signature, the Czech enforcer's stock having risen after helping La Viola secure a Champions League spot.
There has also been plenty of action outside the continent's five major leagues. Fenerbahce fans were delighted to welcome Emre Belozoglu back to Turkish football following his spells with Inter Milan and Newcastle United. And when the international midfielder runs out for his new employers against Istanbul rivals Besiktas, he will cross swords with the Czech Republic's Tomas Sivok, a recent arrival from Udinese. Over in the Ukraine, Dynamo Kiev added a little extra spice to next season's clashes with bitter enemies Shakthar Donetsk by snatching Dinamo Zagreb's international midfielder Ognjen Vukojevic right from under their noses.
With the market remaining open until 31 August, there are sure to be many more transfer tales to tell in the weeks to come. And no matter who goes where, FIFA.com will be reporting back with all the news.