The summer transfer market is a few weeks away from opening and already the signs are that the global financial crisis is forcing clubs to rethink their annual spending.
"Ours will be a minimalist recruitment drive," says AC Milan boss
Even many big deals could be killed. Manchester City, backed by Abu Dhabi's petro-dollars, can be expected to attempt a spending spree that at least matches the millions spent last summer on Brazil's
At the other end of the financial spectrum, Valencia -- with debts of nearly $1 billion -- is being forced to sell its biggest assets. But its desperation for cash could be its undoing this summer. Already, Liverpool manager
"Someone was talking too much," said Benítez. "If we are going to look for someone we will not announce it to the press. We will try to do it properly and secretly."
Villa is still expected to move, though, to one of a handful of "super-clubs" that can afford Valencia's demands. It will be the actions of these clubs that dictate the summer transfer merry-go-round as cash trickles down from the top level of the European game.
At Real Madrid, former president
"Florentino Pérez can do anything he sets his mind to," says
Kaká rebuffed the ambitious advances of Manchester City in January, when Milan was prepared to accept a world-record offer for the Brazilian. A similarly extravagant fee would give Milan the funds to rebuild an aging side, but any deal would require Kaká's seal of approval. So far, the player has kept his counsel.
If Pérez and Madrid don't get their man, they are likely to go back for the player the club tried so hard to sign last summer: Ronaldo. After months of speculation, Ronaldo pledged his future -- at least for one more season -- to Manchester United in August 2008 after the club threatened to report the Spanish champions to FIFA. His comments were widely seen at the time as part of a deal that would see him play another season at Old Trafford before moving to Spain in '09.
Bayern paid a club-record fee to sign World Cup star Ribéry from Marseille in the summer of '07. He won a string of personal awards and helped inspire the club's league title win last season. But his start to this season was delayed by an injury picked up during Euro 2008 and conflicting reports burgeoned over his future during the winter break.
Earlier this spring, Ribéry assured fans and officials that he intended to see through his contract, which runs until 2011. He said: "No one need have any worries that I will be leaving the Bundesliga. I am happy at Bayern, I like the fans and I believe they like me, too. It's never been a matter of money but about where I am happy playing my football."
Whether Ribéry will remain as happy about the future is back in doubt now Bayern is undergoing command change and after the European class gap was evidenced in its Champions League thrashing by Barcelona.
Laporta also insisted that key players would be staying at Camp Nou. "
The transfer situation remains intriguing at Barça. The European champions played the most exciting soccer in Europe this past season with an attack led by a player (Eto'o) they were desperate to get rid of last summer but could find no takers for his wage demands. Although
Eto'o is contracted to Barça until 2010, but he has plenty of suitors in Serie A, not least at Inter Milan, where
"I'm not one to work for results just in the short term," he said. "I won as soon as I got to Chelsea and I hope the same will happen here. But everyone is talking about Mourinho leaving Inter. Why does nobody write that Mourinho will stay at Inter for the next four or five years?"
Caution is the key word, with Inter president
Mourinho still hopes to make a major signing, though. "We're missing a creative player in midfield, to make things happen, and if one arrives I will be happy," he said. "But what Moratti says is true -- it's not just a matter of changing players, but of changing the philosophy of the club. Inter have to close one era and open a new one. We've got to have more youngsters with potential, even if that means reducing our ability to win things in the short term. It's a risk we shouldn't be afraid to take."
Confusion surrounds the future of
At Mourinho's old club, Chelsea, there are few signs of financial self-sufficiency. Instead, further expensive personnel changes are likely with the arrival of another new coach, former Milan boss
Further down the food chain, certain deals are off.