For football fans across Europe, January is often synonymous with plunging temperatures and a hectic programme of league and cup matches. That is in stark contrast to followers of the beautiful game over in South America. Searing heat, summer holidays and the footballing close season are the order of the day for many in the region, who, despite the lull in competitive action, are quick to scan the papers every morning for all the latest transfer news.
The build-up to the 2008 campaign has certainly not been short of surprises, with some of world football's most illustrious names heading back to their homelands. Read on as FIFA.com takes a look at the two main markets in the region: Argentina and Brazil.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest transfer coups were pulled off by the traditional South American powerhouses. Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors got the ball rolling in December with the capture of Juan Roman Riquelme, the driving force behind Boca's 2007 Copa Libertadores triumph while on loan from Spanish side Villarreal.
The Argentina No10 has returned to the Estadio Bombonera in a permanent move, and will be looking to help add yet another Libertadores win to the Xeneizes' bulging trophy cabinet. "I'm happy here, I've come back home and I hope to stay for a very long time," said the visionary midfielder on his return.
Another player returning from the old continent with a point to prove is Inter Milan forward Adriano, who has joined Brazilian heavyweights Sao Paulo on loan. The man nicknamed L'Imperatore (The Emperor) on Italian soil has endured a spectacular fall from grace, but two well-taken goals on his Sao Paulo debut against Guaratingueta in the Paulista State Championship have gone some way to silencing his critics.
Boca, under new coach Carlos Ischia, have dipped into the Mexican market for further reinforcements, signing Club America's former Lazio winger Lucas Castroman as well as Tigres' Paraguayan star Julio Cesar Caceres. The move for the Guaraní defender has raised eyebrows in Argentina, Caceres having previously played for and captained the Xeneizes' fierce rivals River Plate.
Following their swoop for Adriano, Sao Paulo also bolstered their squad with another high-profile loan signing, former Porto playmaker Carlos Alberto making the switch from Werder Bremen. "His arrival gives us an added dose of individual quality. If he's in shape and knuckles down he'll be a great signing for us," enthused Tricolor Paulista supremo Muricy Ramalho.
Another man on the homeward trail is former Manchester United midfielder Kleberson, a 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™-winner. The Brazilian has left Turkish giants Besiktas to wear the colours of Flamengo, Brazil's most widely supported club. "I've always dreamed of playing here, like every other boy in this country," said the player himself, who will have to wait until February to make his competitive debut.
Whirl of activity
Back in Argentina, River Plate are looking to put a nightmare 2007 behind them under the firm hand of former Estudiantes coach Diego Simeone. Los Millonarios have moved to acquire well-travelled Uruguayan goal-getter Sebastian Abreu from Mexican side Tigres, as well as rising star Rodrigo Archubi, who spent last season on loan with Greek outfit Olympiacos. San Lorenzo, meanwhile, have signed former Albiceleste left-back Diego Placente, a veteran of spells in German and Spanish football.
Returning to Brazil once more, Fluminense have pushed the boat out in sealing the signatures of three of the country's most exciting forwards: Leandro Amaral, Dodo and Washington, the man who burst on to world football's collective consciousness with his goals for Urawa Red Diamonds at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2007.
Determined not to be left behind, Ronaldinho's former club Gremio have welcomed Colombian international forward Edixon Perea back to South America after a frustrating time in France with Bordeaux. Cruzeiro, for their part, have guaranteed the signature of Ecuador's Giovanny Espinoza from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem.
For all these stars, the aim is to adapt as quickly as possible to their surroundings and help their new clubs achieve their objectives, be they on the domestic or continental stage. And while the faces may change, the expectations remain the same: a place in the annals of South American football history.