Spending spree nears climax
With the new season fast approaching, clubs are busy putting the finishing touches to their squads. FIFA.com runs the rule over the top transfers of the last fortnight.
Our round-up of the major European leagues begins with Ligue 1. The French top flight welcomes back two old acquaintances in the form of Ludovic Giuly and Claude Makelele, who will defend the colours of Paris Saint-Germain following spells with Chelsea and Roma respectively. Buoyed by these new additions, the Parisians will attempt to halt the domination of Lyon, who have recruited Ghanaian central defender John Mensah (Rennes) and striker Frederic Piquionne (Monaco).
Fellow title aspirants Bordeaux and Marseille have also bolstered their ranks for their forthcoming campaign. While Les Girondins have swooped for experienced Argentinian defender Diego Placente (San Lorenzo) to compensate for the departure of veteran Tunisian David Jemmali to Grenoble, Marseille have enlisted Bakary Kone (Nice) as the ideal attacking foil for Mamadou Niang and Hatem Ben Arfa. With a view to ending four years of mid-table mediocrity, Monaco have put their faith in 19-year-old American starlet Freddy Adu, a loan signing from Benfica, and Argentinian midfielder Alejandro Alonso, who leaves Bordeaux to be reunited with his former coach Ricardo Gomes.
On the other side of the Alps, Inter Milan have enlisted the services of Ghanaian midfield dynamo Sulley Muntari, who returns to Italy a year after leaving Udinese for Portsmouth. Meanwhile at Lazio, one Swiss midfielder replaces another, as Stephan Lichtsteiner arrives from Lille to cover for West Ham United-bound Valon Behrami. Other English clubs have been equally active in the transfer market over the past few days. Top of the big spenders are Liverpool, who have splashed out 25 million euros on much-travelled forward Robbie Keane. The Irishman is realising a childhood dream in joining the Reds.
Deprived of their prolific forward, Tottenham Hotspur have immediately reinvested most of his transfer proceeds in Blackburn Rovers' promising winger David Bentley. Goalkeeper Paul Robinson is heading the other way, while former Ligue 1 trio Steed Malbranque, Pascal Chimbonda and Teemu Tainio are all leaving White Hart Lane for Sunderland. The northern club's ambitious recruitment drive also includes the capture of unpredictable Senegal winger El Hadji Diouf from Bolton Wanderers.
Despite losing Danish No1 Thomas Sorensen to Premier League debutants Stoke City, Aston Villa have swooped for American shot-stopper Brad Friedel, who was outstanding for Blackburn last term. Having spent most of the 2007/08 season languishing in the relegation zone, Fulham are hoping Swedish international Fredrik Stoor (Rosenborg) can help shore up their backline, an objective shared by Wigan Athletic and Hull City.
While the Latics have swooped for Middlesbrough's ball-winning midfielder Lee Cattermole, the Tigers have signed centre-back Anthony Gardner on loan from Spurs. Another defender seeking pastures new is Israeli international Tal Ben Haim, who will be hoping to get more playing time at Manchester City than he did at Chelsea.
Defensive players are also much in demand in the Bundesliga. Portuguese linkman Petit has left Benfica to help Cologne attempt to survive on their return to German football's top tier. Stuttgart are more ambitious, as proven by their capture of Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz. Since leaving Hamburg, the versatile stopper has turned out for Sevilla and Chelsea but his latest mission will be to fill the shoes of Portuguese centre-back Fernando Meira. The former Stuttgart captain has joined reigning Turkish champions Galatasaray.
Over in Spain, teams appear to be more concerned about scoring goals rather than letting them in. Barcelona have offloaded misfiring striker Santi Ezquerro to Osasuna, the club where he began his professional career. Real Madrid's Roberto Soldado, meanwhile, scorer of 11 league goals two seasons ago while on loan at the Pamplona outfit, has opted to boost the attacking options of Getafe.
Barcelona defender Oleguer Presas has gone in search of more playing time at Ajax, the old stamping ground of another Spanish international, left-back Juanfran. The seasoned defender is leaving relegated Real Zaragoza for a new challenge at AEK Athens.
Our transfer round-up ends in Argentina, where there has been a flurry of activity in the run-up to Apertura 2008. Newly-crowned winners of this year's Clausura, River Plate, welcome defender Facundo Quiroga, whose previous clubs include Sporting Lisbon, Napoli and Wolfsburg, and midfield maestro Martin Galmarini, a driving force with Tigre.
The latest recruit at rival club Boca Juniors is attacking midfielder Daniel Diaz, who arrives from Rosario Central. Finally, striker Dario Gandin and winger Matias Oyola are switching clubs, the former leaving Cologne for Independiente while the latter heads in the opposite direction.