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Neymar, Falcao star in early transfer action

FC Barcelona's new player Brazilian Neymar da Silva Santos Junior gestures during his presentation at Camp Nou stadium

The curtain may have barely come down on Europe’s major leagues, but many clubs are already busy preparing for next season. Several have made their intentions extremely clear, by pulling off some eye-catching transfer deals. rounds up the main moves noted across the continent thus far.

Right from the moment he turned professional four years ago, Neymar had scouts from all over the world reaching for their mobile phones. After having remained loyal to Santos and refused every offer that came his way, the Brazilian international striker has finally chosen to join Barcelona.

“I’m happy to be able to realise my dream. I came here to give the team and Lionel Messi – the world’s greatest player – a hand,” he explained while being presented to the media, clearly determined not to steal the thunder of the local hero.

The arrival of Neymar in La Liga will go a long way to plugging the gap created by the departure of another South American goal machine. After two seasons spent racking up goals and trophies at Atletico Madrid, Colombian Radamel Falcao will soon be pulling on another red and white jersey, that of Monaco.

While the decision to turn his back on a club qualified for the UEFA Champions League in favour of a team that has just been promoted back into Ligue 1 has raised a few eyebrows, the seven-time French champions’ recent transfer activity has left no doubt as to their ambition.

Falcao will meet up with two former Porto team-mates on the Cote d'Azur, the highly promising and fellow Colombian James Rodriguez, and the experienced Portuguese midfielder Joao Moutinho, who both recently helped Os Dragões to secure yet another league title.

Another ex-Porto player, centre-back Ricardo Carvalho, will also be involved in next year’s adventure, having signed for Monaco from Real Madrid.

On the other side of the border in Italy, another of Spanish football’s familiar faces has opted for a change of scenery. Bustling front man Fernando Llorente, a key player for Athletic Bilbao since he joined the Basque club back in 2005, has put pen to paper with Juventus, hoping to add to a trophy collection that includes the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ and UEFA EURO 2012.

Talented winger Jesus Navas,who also took part in those victorious campaigns with Spain, will be seeking further success abroad with Manchester City, leaving behind a Sevilla team to whom he had given 10 years’ faithful service.

His former colleague Andres Palop had been Sevilla’s goalkeeper since 2005, and will forever be remembered by fans for his dramatic headed goal against Shakhtar Donetsk which saved Los Sevillistas from crashing out of the 2007 UEFA Cup, a tournament they would go on to win a few weeks later. He has now brought his shot-stopping (and occasional scoring) skills to Bayer Leverkusen.

Next season, the Spaniard will have to be on his guard when his new employers come up against Bayern Munich’s attacking armada, which recently became even more potent with the capture of rising German star Mario Gotze from Borussia Dortmund.

Brazilian defender Felipe Santana has made an even more controversial move, quitting Dortmund for regional rivals Schalke.

“It was a difficult decision to make, but I need to move my career forward in a club where I’ll have more opportunities to play, as my ambition is to break into the Brazil set-up,” explained the centre-back, whose position in *Die Schwarzgelben’s *squad will be taken by Greek international Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who has spent the last two campaigns with Werder Bremen.

Congolese midfielder Cedric Makiadi will soon be able to call Bremen his new home, his fine displays in Freiburg’s excellent season – which saw the modest club grab a Europa League slot – persuading the Weserstadion side to swoop for him.

Leverkusen will also be playing European football this season, but they will have to do it without international winger Andre Schurrle, who has committed himself to Chelsea, Japanese full-back Hajime Hosogai, who has moved to newly promoted Hertha Berlin, and Spanish defender Daniel Carvajal, now back with Real Madrid after his loan spell came to an end.

Another player returning to former stomping grounds is Ukrainian midfield man Anatoliy Tymoschuk, who has bid farewell to treble-winners Bayern, following interest from Zenit St Petersburg, a club he last played for in 2009.

His team-mate at international level, Oleksandr Iakovenko, will represent Fiorentina during this coming term after five seasons with Belgian heavyweights Anderlecht.

Argentinian forward Sebastian Leto,who had been with Panathinaikos since 2009, will also gain his first taste of Serie A, but he is likely to feel right at home at new club Catania, given that the Sicilians already have no fewer than ten of his countrymen on their books.

Leto spent season 2007/08 with Liverpool, but was never given the chance to play in the English Premier League due to administrative problems, a mishap that is unlikely to befall the Reds’ latest recruit, Kolo Toure. The Ivoirian defender has already proved his worth on English soil, having landed two league titles, three FA Cups and three Community Shields with former sides Arsenal and Manchester City.

Unfortunately, excited supporters still have some time to wait before they can watch their new heroes in action. In the meantime, they could do worse than follow the comings and goings in the transfer market, a soap opera as intriguing as any domestic championship.

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