The transfer market is coming to life. Here's a look at who Europe's big guns are after and why.
With the European Championships over, the summer transfer market has begun shifting into high gear with a number of Europe's top clubs beginning to make their moves. Here's a quick look at who Europe's big hitters seem to be targeting.
With the signing of Ezequiel Lavezzi already secured, it seems that coach Carlo Ancelotti and sporting director Leonardo are in the market for a top class forward. The fact that Ancelotti rotated his strikers so often last season with Nene, Kevin Grameiro and Guillaume Hoarau all failing to convince the Italian, a top class forward may well be on his way to Paris.
There have been rumors stating that PSG would like to offer Robin Van Persie a one way ticket on the Eurostar and a whole lot more to cross the channel but despite the financial might of PSG and the fact that they will compete in the Champions League next season it still seems unlikely that Van Persie would chose to move to the Parc de Princes.
The club were close to purchasing Alexander Pato from Ancelotti's old club AC Milan last season and may well go back in for the brilliant but injury prone Brazilian. A move for Carlos Tevez has also been mooted but seems increasingly unlikely. Rumors continue to persist about a move for Zlatan Ibrahimovic which is not as far fetched as it may seem and the enigmatic Swede may fancy a move to Paris if he feels that PSG can truly mount a challenge for the Champions League, a trophy that has eluded Ibra despite his vast collection of domestic trophies.
Elsewhere the club failed in their attempts to persuade another Rossonerri star Thiago Silva to join their petro-dollar fueled project. Do not be surprised to see Milan go back in for Brazil's captain.
Having already picked up Lucio on a free transfer, last seasons undefeated champions are looking to strengthen a squad that was not subjected to the rigors of European football last season. The main priority it seems is to purchase a striker and Juve have already had one bid rejected by Arsenal for Robin Van Persie. The club also retains an interest in Luis Suarez but any chance of this deal occurring would be reliant on Juventus offering at least double the £22.8m that Liverpool paid for the Uruguayan and Suarez openly pushing for a move. Both events seem unlikely. The fact that these two strikers have been targeted by Juventus does gives an indication of what head coach Antonio Conte is looking for though.
Juventus were hugely flexible in their tactics and formations last season using a variety of systems throughout the season. The advantage of both Suarez and Van Persie is that they are both equally adept whether deployed on their own or alongside a partner.
The champions have also acquired Maruicio Isla and Kwadwa Asamoah to reinforce a midfield that was remarkably resilient to injuries last season. With Andrea Pirlo turning 34 this season, surely Conte will have to rotate his team more than last term and the arrival of Isla and Asamoah will bring proven quality to the squad. As will the arrival of Sebastian Giovinco, the talented play maker from Parma who enjoyed such a fantastic season.
Juve will also look to free up some funds and squad space by finally packing off Milos Krasic who not so long was one of Europe's most sought after players but after a couple of indifferent seasons may well find himself heading back to Russia.
As we speak a story is breaking through the Daily Mirror that Modric has agreed personal terms for a move to the Bernabaeu. If this is to be believed then it is an interesting signing from Real as there does not seem to be an obvious position waiting for Modric. Jose Mourinho may well be looking to rest Xabi Alonso more this season as despite a superb season for both club and country, the Basque play maker did begin to tire towards the end of the season. By adding Modric to the books it would give Mourinho more opportunities to rest Alonso. Equally in matches which Real are likely to dominate Mourinho may see no need to deploy a defensive minded midfielder alongside Alonso and will instead use Modric to provide another supply line for Europe's most prolific front line.
Aside from Modric there seems to be little inclination to change much from a squad that won La Liga in record breaking style and was a penalty shootout away from reaching the Champions League final. Expect to see talented centre half Raphael Varanne given more playing time as Ricardo Carvalho continues to be eased out. Whilst both Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain would be pliable to a move there is a reluctance from the club to move either of them on.
There are a few things you can always rely on during the English summer; British heartbreak at Wimbledon, English batting collapses and Arsenal struggling to keep hold of their best players. This year it is Robin Van Persie's turn to step up the plate recently stood upon by Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas. With the captain's move to Manchester City inching closer and closer, it has managed to cloud the fact that, by Arsenal's standards, the Gunners have acted with more conviction than in many previous summers. Lukas Podolksi and Olivier Giroud have been acquired for a combined total of £25m so the fact that Van Persie dropped his bombshell on the club has been doubly devastating.
The major question is whether Podolski and Giroud were signed to play alongside RVP or to replace him. Wenger has insisted its the former but is hardly likely to say anything else. What is important is that with Van Persie set to leave it leaves Arsenal with recognised centre forwards; Giroud, Maroune Chamakh and Nicklas Bendtner. It is a forward line that is unlikely to keep opposing mangers up at night. With both Chamakh and Bendtner unwanted, Arsenal do appear slightly lightweight up front. Another striker is not going to come cheap and no realistic names have been mentioned.
Elsewhere the move for Rennes midfielder Yann M'Villa has either stalled, collapsed or was never really on in the first place. Other alternatives have been mooted but as yet nothing concrete has materialised.
Ultimately like the seasons of recent years, Arsenal's summer will be defined by how they handle the seemingly inevitable departure of their star player. If Arsenal are able to sell Van Persie and bring in additional players in good time prior to the start of the season then things may not be as bad as they seem now. However if the saga drags on into the first weeks of the season it could seriously destabilise the club.
After failing to win either La Liga or the Champions League last season the Catalan giants will be desperate to dethrone arch rivals Real domestically and will also have their eyes firmly on a return to Wembley in May for the Champions League final; a stadium that holds such special memories for the club.
To this end the club has already made its first signing, paying Valencia 14m Euros to bring Spanish left back, and former Barcelona youth player, Jordi Alba back to the Camp Nou. Considering that Leighton Baines England's second choice left back is being valued at £20m, signing Alba for a little over £10m seems like an outstanding piece of business. As Alba demonstrated so emphatically in Poland and Ukraine he is excellent defensively as well as potentially devastating going forward. With Dani Alves not getting any younger bringing in Alba allows for greater flexibility throughout the squad. Like Alonso at Real, Alves was in need of a rest at times last season and by acquiring Alba it allows Barcelona to rest the Brazilian without totally depriving the side of much needed width.
Elsewhere the message has been clear from the Barcelona board in recent seasons, there is not a great deal of money to spend. Any significant purchases are on the condition of a major sale and the two most likely candidates, David Villa and Dani Alves, both seem set to stay which means it could be a quiet summer for new boss Tito Villanova. Expect to see flying wingers Cristian Tello and Isacc Cuenca both given greater game time as well as the promotion of a few more graduates from La Masia.
The club has been looking for centre backs but from what you read their two top targets, Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels and Thiago Silva are both beyond their financial means. Moves have been mooted for both Holger Badstuber and Thomas Vermaelen but both deals seem improbable for any number of reasons.
Considering the club is short of centre forwards, a certain Dutch forward currently residing in London may be heading up the M6. After all considering the club only has Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Mario Balotelli on their books it seems only right to add at least one more to that. FYI the accumulative cost of those players is a bed wetting £159m.
In all seriousness there does seem to be agreement amongst the press that any move for Arsenal's want-away captain is dependent on at least two of those strikers departing. The problem is that it has consistently proven very difficult for the club to move on players who have been given long term deals on huge wages (Adebayor alone is rumored to earn £220,000 per week). If the club is able to find permanent buyers for Adebayor and Santa Cruz then it seems probable that Van Persie may well join the Premier League champions. Ian Mcgary of BBC five live has gone on record saying that a £225k a week contract has already been agreed and that the deal will be done within two weeks at a cost of £20-£24m.
Elsewhere there does not seem to be too much activity as it seems that Financial Fair Play is really starting to play a factor in the boardroom at the Etihad. Alexsander Kolarov is regularly linked with a move back to Italy but it seems Roberto Mancini is very reluctant to see him go and is unlikely to receive a bid close to the £16m that City paid for the Serb. Another centre back may be brought in given that both Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure did not prove themselves to be wholly reliable deputies last season.
Across town and United may have already made the signing of the summer in acquiring Shinji Kagawa from Borussia Dortmund. Quick, intelligent, direct and with an eye for both a killer pass and a goal Kagawa could prove to be a real coup for Sir Alex Ferguson. There will doubtless be concerns about him being able to handle the physicality of English football but considering he has spent a number of season in Germany this should not really become a factor. The lack of a winter break however may well play a part, as will his regular long haul flights for Japanese international duty.
Elsewhere it seems very much a case of evolution rather than revolution for United. Ferguson has consistently espoused the values of his young squad and the fact they have yet to reach their potential. With Ashley Young, Phil Jones and David De Gea all having plenty to build on following a hugely promising but slightly inconsistent first season. Rumors of a £20m move for Leighton Baines refuse to go away and it seems that long term target Luka Modric is set to choose Madrid over Manchester.
One of the most interesting managerial appointments of the summer so far saw Brendan Rogers depart South Wales for the North West. Famed for his devotion to possession football and encouraging his players to play out from the back; seeing how Rogers is able to translate his ideas at Anfield will be a hugely intriguing aspect of the season.
Having missed out on Gylfi Sigurdsson who chose Tottenham over Liverpool, Rogers has turned his attention to another player who he worked with at Swansea with the £8m acquisition of Roma forward Fabio Borini. The signing is an interesting one for two reasons. Firstly to see whether Borini who has undoubted ability is able to show it on a more consistent basis than he has managed so far in his short career. But perhaps more importantly it surely provides an insight into how Rogers is planning on setting up Liverpool for next season.
It seems likely that Rogers will employ a 4-3-3 and with Luis Suarez certain to occupy one of the forward spots, the signing of Borini gives an indication that Rogers is looking for a relatively fluid front three who are comfortable drifting out wide, dropping deep and constantly rotating positions. Three things that seem to exclude £35m Andy Carroll and given this it is hardly surprising that rumors of Britain's most expensive footballer going out on loan continue to gather pace.
With Andre Villas Boas now fully in charge developments at Tottenham will surely shift into over drive. In his first press conference AVB has made it clear that Luka Modric will leave and the talk of a move for Joao Moutinho, who was one of the best midfielders at the European Championships, gathers pace. The signing of Emmanuel Adebayor seems to be slowly moving towards a conclusion and Jan Vertonghen has finally completed his to White Hart Lane. So it would be fair to say that Tottenham have achieved most of their major goals for the summer already as not only have they secured Vertonghen and it seems Adebayor but Gareth Bale agreed a new contract with the club.
One imagines that before any more players come into the club there will need to be a clear out of a squad that became increasingly bloated under Harry Redknapp. Steven Pienaar and Jermaine Jenas will surely both depart and William Gallas, Carlo Cudicini and Heurelo Gomes may also leave. Whether Ledley King retires or not may be key in whether Villas Boas signs another centre back but with Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone both fit for the new season things appear quite positive for Spurs which is slightly surprising given the sudden and surprising nature of Redknapp's departure one month ago.
So far the continents biggest spenders with Eden Hazard and Marko Marin both already secured and with Brazilian youngster Oscar seemingly also on the way. It certainly seems that a fresh injection of attacking talent is being targeted as Didier Drogba, Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka have all departed in the past 6 months. Equally with players such as Romelu Lukeku and Oriel Romeu set to be more involved next season it is an exciting time for Chelsea. The club also retains an interest in both Luka Modric and Hulk. Modric looks more likely to move to Spain whilst Porto are still living in the slightly delusional world of demanding over £50m pounds for Hulk. Unless they lower their prices significantly it seems probable that Chelsea will take their business elsewhere.
How all these players will fit into the side that had such an incredible end to the season will be a big test for Roberto Di Matteo. It seems likely that he will stick with the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 that served him best last season, but with Juan Mata and an increasingly confident Fernando Torres on the books, attacking berths will be at a premium.
In terms of departures there is still talk of Florent Malouda following Jose Bosingwa out the door and so a new defender may well be brought in as cover for Branislav Ivanovic.
Milan director Adriano Galliani gave an interview this week discussing the lack of financial clout now possessed by Italy's biggest clubs and discussing how the countries financial difficulties are increasingly hard to separate from the clubs fortunes. With this in mind do not expect to see any major acquisitions by Milan this summer. With the departure of two icons of the club in Pipo Inzaghi and Reno Gattuso as well as Gianluca Zambrotta Milan must rebuild and do so whilst winning back the Scudetto.
Milan have had an unprecedented change over this summer and have added Francesco Acerbi, Bakaye Traore, Sulley Muntari and Kevin Constant amongst others to their squad.
Montelivo arrives on a free transfer and his perfomances as the Euro's will have been encouraging to his new club. The ex Fiorentina midfielder will bring plenty of craft and elegance to a side that had gained a reputation as one based primarily on power and strength particularly in centre midfield. Whilst the arrival of Traore and Muntari ensures that Milan will be able to deploy a more physical presence should coach Max Allegri feel it is required.
The fact that Thiago Silva chose to stay in Milan is a huge boost as is the return to fitness of Antonio Cassano.
Rumors linking Andy Carrol with the San Siro are surely little more than paper talk as the club currently has on its books Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robinho, Pato, Stefan El-Sharoway and Cassano so the need for another striker is certainly not evident.
Like their city rivals it promises to be a summer of change for Inter. New coach Andrea Stramaccioni has already begun to break up the team that was so successful for Mourinho with Lucio already gone and Julio Cesar, Maicon and others also available at the right price. The club has already brought in Freddy Guarin from Porto who is talented but wildly inconsistent. The club were interested in Eziquel Lavezzi but were unable to compete with the lure of Paris St Germain. Whether the club will spend big is unlikely given the looming impact of Financial Fair Play on one of Europes biggest spending clubs coupled with the fact that part of Stramaccioni's appointment was based on his excellent work in the youth system.
Inter have brought in former Udinese keeper Samir Handanovic to replace the transfer listed Julio Cesar. Handanovic has been one of Europe's best keepers over the past few seasons and will serve as an excellent replacement for Cesar, who like many Inter players, never recaptured the form he found under Jose Mourinho.
After spending big last summer and coming close to a treble but instead ending up with nothing the pressure on Germany's biggest club will be huge this season. A trophy is an absolute necessity for Jupp Heynckes and his team. Xherdan Shaqiri arrives from Basle and brings with him bags of talent and a certain arrogance that many players who have succeeded at Bayern have possessed. How much game time he gets will depend entirely on the fitness and form of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. When both fit and in form they can be devastating however they're tendency to miss large swathes of games through injury coupled with their ability to aggravate anyone they come into contact with including each other, makes them an unmissable attraction.
Mario Mandzukic, who was impressive in the Euro's for Croatia also arrives to provide cover and competition for Mario Gomez, as does Claudio Pizarro who returns to Bayern after leaving for Chelsea seven years ago.
Heycnkes is expected to largely keep faith in the team that showed such promise last season. A fully fit Bastian Schweinsteiger will be key as will the promise shown by young left back David Alaba. A defence composed of Manuel Neuer, Philip Lahm, Holger Badstuber, Jerome Boateng and Alaba has everything required to challenge both domestically and in Europe however the cover in these positions is largely unproven at the top level. Brazilian centre back Dante arrives from Monchengladbach and Diego Contento shows promise but too many injuries at the back will stretch Bayern.
Champions for the past two seasons, Jurgen Klopps side will not only be looking to retain the Bundesliga but also make a far greater impact in Europe than they did last season. Although they have lost Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United they have acquired Marco Reus from Borussia Monchengladbach and if they are able to retain the services of Robert Lewandowski then there is no reason why they cannot continue their recent run of success. Much depends on wunderkid Mario Gotze staying fit for the whole season something he could not manage last year.