Transfer window sparks moves
The traditional winter transfer window opened up for business on 1 January with more than a few clubs venturing into the market in a bid to strengthen their squads for the second half of the season. FIFA.com rounds up all the big moves from the last fortnight.
Real Madrid have few equals when it comes to making speedy transactions. Recruited as cover for his compatriot and long-term injury absentee Ruud van Nistelrooy, Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar made the switch from Ajax to the Casa Blanca back in December. With Malian midfielder Mahamadou Diarra also out of action, the Merengues wasted little time in drafting in French namesake Lassana Diarra from Portsmouth.
Bought from Racing Santander in 2007, Serbian target man Nikola Zigic failed to make an impression at Valencia, and has returned to the Cantabrians on a six-month loan. Staying in Spain, former Racing goalkeeper Dudu Aouate has signed up for his third Liga club. The Israeli international joins Mallorca after two and a half seasons with Deportivo La Coruna.
On the other side of the Pyrenees, Olympique Marseille have been busier than most, tweaking their defence, the twelfth-leakiest in Ligue 1, by releasing Germany 2006 runner-up Gael Givet to Blackburn Rovers, the Slovenian Bostjan Cesar to Grenoble and the Moroccan Elamine Erbate to Abu Dhabi outfit Al Wahda. And despite having the most potent strike force in the French championship this season, L'OM have lured Brazilian front man Brandao from Shakhtar Donetsk and rescued former Bleus international Sylvain Wiltord from the Rennes bench.
The league's strugglers have also been bringing in reinforcements. Le Havre have snapped up Malian forward Mamadou Diallo, Peter Franquart from Lille and Florian Marange from Bordeaux to help them climb off the bottom of the table. The Tunisian Yassin Mikari and the Czech Vaclav Sverkos left Grasshoppers and Banik Ostrava respectively to bolster Sochaux's striking options. Also new to Ligue 1 is Icelandic sharpshooter Veigar Pall Gunnarsson, who has just joined AS Nancy.
One man leaving the Lorraine club is Marc-Antoine Fortune, who has gone to try his luck with Premier League side West Bromwich Albion. Fortune's former team-mate Sebastien Puygrenier is also in England, having joined Bolton Wanderers on loan from Zenit St Petersburg. Hull City have secured the services of the experienced Kevin Kilbane from Wigan. Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, two big names in trouble at the wrong end of the table, have also been splashing out. City paid €12m to persuade Chelsea to part with Wayne Bridge, while Spurs spent €4m more in bringing old boy Jermain Defoe back from Portsmouth a year after selling him to the south coast club.
Perhaps the biggest story of the window so far came in Italy, where AC Milan made the most of the MLS close season to offer an enticing contract to English's football's best-known ambassador David Beckham. "I have played for the biggest club in England, the biggest club in Spain and now I want to play for the biggest club in Italy," said the ex-Manchester United and Real Madrid man when he jetted into Milan.
Becks' arrival overshadowed that of Milan's two other new recruits, Brazilian defensive duo Thiago Silva and Felipe Mattioni, who have joined compatriots Kaka, Emerson, Ronaldinho and Alexandre Pato as the Rossoneri seek to revamp their ageing rearguard. Another youngster to watch is Italy U-21 international Giampaolo Pazzini, who has emerged from the shadow cast by Adrian Mutu and Alberto Gilardino at Fiorentina in an effort to relaunch his career with Sampdoria. Heading in the opposite direction is Emiliano Bonnazzoli, another striker down on his luck recently.
The last call on our tour of Europe is Germany, where league action does not return until the end of the month. Borussia Dortmund prepared for the renewal of hostilities by signing Germany U-21 international Kevin Boateng from Tottenham and loaned out Argentinian veteran Diego Klimovicz to Bochum. Werder Bremen have taken defensive midfielder Alexandros Tziolis off Panathinaikos' hands, while Bayer Leverkusen, aside from welcoming club stalwart Bernd Schneider back from injury, have added another seasoned campaigner to their squad in 35-year-old Pole Thomas Zdebel from Bochum.
Struggling Borussia Moenchengladbach went to Belgium to bolster their survival chances, purchasing international goalkeeper Logan Bailly from Genk and Standard Leige's Brazilian defender Dante Bonfim in the hope of tightening their back-line. And finally, Japanese forward Yoshito Okubo will get his first taste of German league action with Wolfsburg, while Denmark's Peter Lovenkrands may be bidding farewell to the Bundesliga. The former Glasgow Rangers could leave Schalke 04 and return to the British Isles with Newcastle United should his trial there prove conclusive.
A lot can still happen between now and the closing of the transfer window. To keep abreast of all the comings and goings across the globe make sure you log on at FIFA.com.