20 July 2006

Transfer Season Heats Up

Well, it's official: The exodus has begun. Real Madrid kick things off by signing Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson from Juventus. Until the activity started, I supposed that players would wait until the clubs' appeals were complete. But now that two of the big names have moved, it may be that we start to see more players trying to find their spots.

And there are good players to be had, due to the Italian scandals. Three teams -- Juventus, Lazio, and Fiorentina -- are relegated to Serie B and docked points as well, so there's a very good chance they will spend two years at least before winning promotion. (And no European tournaments either.) That could be 20% of a player's career, and so most of the quality players will be desperate to find work elsewhere.
even from Juventus alone. The Turin side have claimed that Alessandro del Piero and Pavel Nedved will be staying with the club, but that still leaves an impressive list of names available. Buffon. Thuram. Zambrotta. Viera. Camoranesi. Ibrahimovic. Trezeguet. Mutu. Lazio and Fiorentina have some quality talent as well, with names like Toni, Ujfalusi, and Oddo. It's a who's who of world class talent and has the potential to shift the balance of power in multiple European leagues.

AC Milan is a more interesting question. They get to stay in Serie A, but they lose 15 points. So they'll be playing in the top Italian division, but will miss European play this year and probably next. That's a less-extreme situation, but still we can expect some departures. Even a couple names -- say, Kaka and Pirlo -- could have a major impact.

So there's plenty of talent to be had. And paradoxically, this may be good for the teams with a bit less money. Normally it's the Real Madrids and the Chelseas that snap up talent like this. And for sure, we've seen that already for both (with Shevchenko going to Chelsea). But there are only so many players that even a Chelsea can sign. So with a glut like this, many players should find their way to other teams.

There's been some speculation about Arsenal of course. Surprisingly, much of it centers around Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon. It would be harsh on Jens Lehmann to sign Buffon, but Buffon is one of a short list of goalkeepers that are better than Lehmann -- and he's only 28 as well.

But Arsenal are in even more need of defensive help, with the departure of Sol Campbell, the injury to Philippe Senderos, and the probable exit of Ashley Cole. So there are natural rumors around Lilian Thuram, the experienced French defender. He had a great world cup, and would provide a solid addition to any team. And in this case, his age (34) would be an advantage, as Arsenal won't want to block the path for their young defenders.

But only time will tell. There's sure to be plenty of news in the next few weeks, especially as the World Cup players return from their vacations. Keep your eye on the transfers, and cross your fingers for your favorite team.

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