If this summer's transfer window is any indication, we can look forward to one of the most exciting European seasons in decades. With the three most expensive transfers in the history of the game recently made for amounts previously unimaginable, the stakes are higher than ever.
As is generally the case, only the biggest clubs are making the big purchases, but the less-established clubs also are making some interesting buys. And as is usually the case, South Americans have been among the most mobile during the transfer window, with several making high-profile moves to and across Europe.
South Americans have become an integral part of European soccer. And while Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese clubs traditionally have accounted for stockpiling players from the region, English clubs recently have caught up after realizing the kind of impact they can make, both in the trophy department and the bank account.
Here are the top 10 South American players who have swapped teams ahead of the 2009-10 European club season:
The 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year's mega-move to los Galácticos from AC Milan may have been eclipsed by the record-breaking $131 million transfer of his new Portuguese teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, but Kaká is well aware that at Madrid, he'll be the one calling the shots. The impressive track record of the playmaker suggests that he'll be an instant success at the Santiago Bernabéu, even if Spanish soccer will be a new experience for him. Kaká has the required skill and experience to succeed at the club, and he'll benefit from the loads of talent around him.
However, it will be up to Madrid's new Chilean coach, Manuel Pellegrini, formerly of Villarreal, to get the most out of the Brazilian. With so much star power in the squad this season, it wouldn't be any surprise if Kaká were to be overshadowed by Ronaldo (much like Kaká did to Ronaldinho with Brazil and Milan). Kaká pretty much owned Milan during the six years he spent there, but that may not be the case at Madrid. But if Kaká pulls the strings and Real manages to gel, los Merengues could be unstoppable.
For years, the Brazilian has been on the agenda of several of Europe's top clubs. Finally, after much speculation, he sealed a high-profile move to 27-time Italian champion Juventus. Diego is a class act and has the potential to flourish at a club that will be highly competitive next season. If he's able to take command of the midfield, as he did with Werder Bremen, "The Old Lady" will be a force to be reckoned with.
Diego's style of play is ideal for Serie A and particularly for a club with the ambition of Juventus. He will have the opportunity to prove himself in one of Europe's top three leagues, and he promises to deliver the goods. Diego often has been overlooked by Brazil boss Dunga because of his desire to remain in Germany. With the World Cup just around the corner, his move couldn't have come at a better time. Juve's other South American reinforcements -- FelipeMelo and Martín Cáceres -- also are expected to turn on the style.
Traitor or not, Tévez will have the opportunity to demonstrate that he's still a world-class striker after a horrid spell at Old Trafford. The exciting Argentine was presented with limited opportunities by Alex Ferguson at Man. United, even if he made a telling contribution whenever he was called upon. "Carlitos" rescued United on several occasions, but was treated unfairly by a club that initially wasn't willing to purchase him on a permanent deal. But even if the English champions ended up offering the player an eventual contract, Tévez agreed to join its cross-town rivals instead, becoming the first player to switch between the two Manchester clubs in 10 years.
At first it seemed Tévez was only in it for the money, or perhaps to irritate his former club. But City has signed plenty of reinforcements and has the potential to be a serious Premier League contender. But with so many options in the City attack (including Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz and Emmanuel Adebayor), Tévez knows he can't afford to slack off.
One of the more prolific strikers in the world, Milito's scoring record is nothing short than amazing. Since arriving on the European scene with Genoa five years ago, he has proven to be dangerous, and his transfer to Inter was a reward for his hard work. Often overlooked because of his low profile, the Argentine is extremely consistent, and his attacking partnership with Inter's latest signing, Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o, could be extraordinary. If Milito gets the right service from his teammates, he'll finish among the leading scorers of Serie A again next season. He got his Inter career off to a perfect start on Sunday by scoring twice as his team beat archrival AC Milan 2-0 in the World Football Challenge in Foxborough, Mass.
After a frustrating first stint in Europe with Lyon, Nilmar decided it was time to try his luck again. Last Saturday, he became the most expensive signing in the history of Villarreal after completing a $15 million move from Internacional of Brazil. Nilmar should provide immediate help for the Yellow Submarine, which has been one of Spain's most consistent teams in recent years. Nilmar is best known for his speed and dribbling ability, and the explosive attacker could take La Liga by storm. If he manages to adapt to Spanish soccer quickly, he could be one of the revelations of the competition. A good season with Villarreal certainly would improve his chances of making Brazil's World Cup squad.
Rather surprisingly, Valencia was brought in as a replacement for Ronaldo. How's that for pressure? The Red Devils were expected to recruit a more established player, but the Ecuadorian winger proved his worth in the Premier League with Wigan Athletic last season and has the talent to become a household name.
Few South Americans have succeeded at Old Trafford in the past, and Valencia's signing can be described as somewhat of a gamble, especially because he's only 23 and has yet to play for a major European club. But Ferguson has plenty of experience in the business and believes Valencia is more than capable of replacing Ronaldo, even if the Portuguese superstar scored 26 goals with the club last season -- an exceptional figure for a winger.
After five predominantly successful years with Bayern Munich, where he won three league and German Cup doubles, Lúcio decided it was time to part ways with the club and completed a lucrative move to the defending Italian champions. The Brazilian national-team captain is one of the most efficient center backs in Europe, and his experience can make Inter even stronger this season. The Nerazzurri may have won the Scudetto four seasons in a row, but will give all that up for Champions League glory next season. The addition of Lúcio will surely boost its chances of claiming Europe's biggest club competition for the first time in 44 years.
"El Conejo" finally signed for a club where he'll be able to play week-in, week-out. The Argentine is a very capable striker, but ever since his incredible introduction to European soccer in his first season at Barcelona eight years ago, he has struggled to find his top form. After a miserable time at Real Madrid, where he was never taken seriously, Saviola will be hoping to prove his worth at Benfica. With three goals in his first three games for the Portuguese giants, signs are looking very good. Benfica's two Brazilian signings, Keirrison (on loan from Barcelona) and Ramires, are also expected to make an impact.
The Argentine starlet is blessed with incredible skill and has the potential to become a superstar in Serie A this season. The fact that he spurned the opportunity to join Manchester United or AC Milan in favor of Palermo might be a good move: He'll be guaranteed regular first-team action.
After a phenomenal season in Argentina where, along with Matías De Federico, he transformed Huracán into a serious championship contender, much is expected of Pastore. There's no question about his ability, but in order for the Sicilians to get the most out of him, he needs to adapt quickly to one of the toughest leagues in the world. Only 20, there's plenty of time for the lanky attacking midfielder to make his mark on the league and possibly move to a bigger club in the future.
After four extremely successful seasons at FC Porto, "Licha" agreed to join Lyon for a club-record fee of $39 million. As the permanent replacement of Karim Benzema -- who moved to Real Madrid -- the Argentine has big shoes to fill and will be under pressure to perform. Lyon isn't a club that normally dishes out that amount of cash for a player and will be expecting miracles from the former Porto star striker. But López's track record speaks for itself -- with 49 goals over four seasons with the Portuguese powerhouse, he promises to be an instant success in France.