EURO gives way to transfer buzz
The curtain has barely fallen on UEFA EURO 2008 but domestic matters are very much back at the top of the agenda. While Europe's strongest national teams jousted for supremacy in Switzerland and Austria, the continent's clubs were likewise vying to outstrip their rivals in attempting to sign the finest talents on the market. FIFA.com looks back at the major player movements over the last three weeks.
We start in Spain, home of the newly crowned European champions, where Barcelona have been continuing their efforts to avoid a repeat of last season. Having already snapped up Gerard Pique, Seydou Keita and Martin Caceres, the Blaugranas landed their first real coup by signing Brazil wing-back Daniel Alves, a huge success at Sevilla over the past six years. Brought in to replace Gianluca Zambrotta, his partnership with Lionel Messi down the right flank already has the club's fans drooling with anticipation.
For their part, Sevilla have taken to heart the impact made by Keita and Frederic Kanoute by once again turning to Africa to boost their ranks, with Senegalese defender Abdoulay Konko joining from Genoa and Ivorian midfielder Romaric coming on board from Le Mans. They will team up with EURO 2008 winner Fernando Navarro, the defender having opted to end his three-year stay at Mallorca. The islanders have also lost Ariel Ibagaza, meanwhile, after the key Argentinian midfielder left for Villarreal, but they have strengthened their attack by recruiting Guinean striker Alhassane Keita, who managed 28 goals in 40 matches for Al Ittihad last term.
Another forward switching clubs is former Spanish international Miguel Angel Mista, who is hoping for more playing time at Deportivo la Coruna than he was afforded at Atletico Madrid. Should that wish come true, he could well find himself partnering Omar Bravo after the Mexican marksman parted company with Guadalajara.
As usual, South America is shaping up to be fruitful terrain for La Liga outfits. Eager to build on their surprising eighth-place finish last season, Almeria have acquired a pair of Argentinian strikers in the form of promising youngster Pablo Piatti, who won the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007 with his country and the Argentinian Apertura 2006 with Estudiantes, and prolific Pumas forward Esteban Solari. Elsewhere, Espanyol have put their faith in Rosario Central goalkeeper Christian Alvarez, with Carlos Kameni due to move on, while Real Valladolid have enrolled Paraguayan custodian Justo Villar, successor to the legendary Jose Luis Chilavert with the national side and erstwhile last line of defence for Newell's Old Boys.
Portuguese accent in Premier League
The playing fields of England will echo with a little bit more Portuguese next term, particularly at Chelsea with new coach Luiz Felipe Scolari having signed Deco from Barcelona, where the gifted midfielder was adjudged surplus to requirements. Brazilian goalkeeper Gomes has left PSV Eindhoven for Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile, and former CSKA Moscow forward Jo has penned a four-year deal with Manchester City.
In the north-east, Newcastle have added an Argentinian to their numbers in the form of Mallorca midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, while Portsmouth are hoping for great things from 19-year-old Israeli striker Ben Sahar, sent out on loan for a third successive year by Chelsea. Another young talent keen to make his mark will be Samir Nasri, the French international playmaker having been chased by Real Madrid and Inter Milan before opting for Arsenal. A former Marseille player, he will be joined in England by fellow Ligue 1 graduate Johan Elmander, with the Swedish international swapping Toulouse for Bolton Wanderers.
Norway's Daniel Braaten has travelled in the exact opposite direction, making France his third championship after tasting top-flight life in both Norway and England. The most notable transfers in France have been carried out by the top three outfits in last season's standings, however, with champions Lyon active once again after new coach Claude Puel descended on his old club Lille to pick up Cameroonian defensive midfielder Jean II Makoun.
Runners-up Bordeaux have secured the loan services of AC Milan's Yoann Gourcuff as they attempt to replace midfield orchestrator Johan Micoud, and they will also enjoy more firepower up front courtesy of Yoann Gouffran, with the French U-21 international looking to step up to the next level after advertising his abilities at Caen. Both those teams will be targeting league honours next term, but Marseille will have serious ambitions of their own after adding Brazilian defender Hilton to their rearguard and tempting the highly-rated Hatem Ben Arfa away from Lyon to compensate for the loss of Nasri.
One of Ligue 1's most prolific scorers is also on the move in the shape of Steve Savidan, with the former Valenciennes man joining Caen, while Brazilian-born Tunisian international Francileudo Santos has brought an end to his forgettable three-year stint with Toulouse by returning to Sochaux, where he netted 65 goals in 174 matches between 2000 and 2005. Le Téfécé have nonetheless made an acquisition of their own in Cedric Carrasso, the goalkeeper having been eclipsed by Steve Mandanda at Marseille.
Schalke announce ambitions
Despite experiencing a painful defeat in the final of EURO 2008, Germany seems to have moved on already with the rhythms of a vibrant transfer market filling the void. Leading the way have been Schalke, desperate to win their first Bundesliga title in 50 years and celebrating the double capture of Peruvian forward Jefferson Farfan, a Dutch champion in the last four seasons with PSV, and Twente midfielder Orlando Engelaar, equally impressive for both club and the Netherlands.
Fellow title aspirants Hamburg have bolstered their bid by taking on Burkina Faso attacking midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa, who ends his four-year association with Freiburg. Elsewhere, Hannover cannot lay claim to the same ambitions but they will be aiming to finish higher than last year's eighth place after securing the signatures of Bayern Munich striker Jan Schlaudraff and Karlsruhe's Swiss defender Mario Eggiman.
Borussia Dortmund are another outfit pining for past glories and they look to have strengthened their defence by luring German international Patrick Owomoyela from Werder Bremen, while also agreeing terms with Hungarian midfielder Tamas Hajnal, who fired eight goals for Karlsruhe last term. As for Hertha Berlin, the arrival of Kaka in the German capital made a few less headlines than one might have expected - except that the former Academica Coimbra defender merely shares the same name as his AC Milan-based compatriot.
Staying in Italy, the traditional heavyweights have been fairly discreet so far, although Juventus have recruited Croatian international defender Dario Knezevic from Livorno, despite the knee injury he suffered at EURO 2008. The Bianconeri have also bid farewell to attacking midfielder Raffaele Palladino and defender Domenico Criscito, with both bright, young talents packing their bags for Genoa.
Further south, Catania ensured their Serie A on the final day of last season and will want to guarantee safety much earlier this time around after signing Steaua Bucharest's Romanian international striker Nicolae Dica and Argentinian midfielder Pablo Ledesma. The former Boca Juniors player becomes the seventh Argentinian on the Sicilian club's books, which now count one less Peruvian after Juan Manuel Vargas responded positively to Fiorentina's advances.
Several other South Americans have been injected into Italy's top flight with Brazilian forward Tulio de Melo pitching up at Palermo from Le Mans and Argentinian forward German Denis teaming up with Ezequiel Lavezzi at Napoli after finishing top scorer in the Argentinian Apertura 2007 with Independiente. He may well cross Austria's Gyorgy Garics heading out of the same door to Atalanta, who will also be home to Christian Vieri next season after the 35-year-old elected for a third spell with the Bergamo side.
Also worth noting is the transfer of Jon Dahl Tomasson to Feyenoord from Villarreal, where the Danish striker struggled for playing time. Likewise, much will be expected of River Plate's Uruguayan forward Sebastian Abreu at Beitar Jerusalem, while Banfield goleador Dario Cvitanich ought to be prepared for similar pressures at Ajax when the 2008/09 campaign gets underway.
Expect plenty more transfers between now and then, however, with market activity sure to step up as the new season approaches. Stay tuned to FIFA.com for all the latest developments...