Thursday, July 19, 2007

Real and Barca in Spanish money merry-go-round

Newly-crowned Spanish champions Real Madrid and runners-up Barcelona have killed the proverbial fatted calf this summer in an attempt to establish preeminence in La Liga next season.

Valencia have not been far behind as they also seek to challenge the top two, who have spent more than 100 million euros (130m dollars) between them.

Real have captured German international defender Christoph Metzelder from Dortmund and Pepe from Porto while landing Javier Saviola - on a free transfer - from Barca, as well as taking Spanish international forward Roberto Soldado back from his loan at Osasuna.

New coach Bernd Schuster hasn't finished there as Real also try to secure a transfer for Jose Antonio Reyes, who was on loan last season from Arsenal, as well as pluck winger Arjen Robben from Chelsea.

With such an influx defenders Michel Salgado and Ivan Helguera, who has Fabio Cannavaro, Sergio Ramos, Metzelder and Pepe ahead of him in the central defensive peckingorder, will be seeking new employers.

Alvaro Mejia is already set to join promoted Murcia for two million euros, according to Marca sports daily, and the club are as yet without bidders for misfit Italian striker Antonio Cassano.

Barca, beaten to the wire in the title race, have landed four players to date after agreeing to sign Argentine international Gabriel Milito from Zaragoza for a reported 20 million euros, ten million less than Real paid for Pepe.

Barca had earlier splashed 24 million euros on Thierry Henry, having chased the former Arsenal man for more than a year, though it remains to be seen if he can fit into a forward line already comprising Samuel Eto'o, Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho.

Also coming in is French defender Eric Abidal from Lyon for some 15 million euros and Ivory Coast youngster Yaya Toure.

Barca sporting director Txiki Begiristain explained: "We have fulfilled our objective of strengthening the team and now we have to work on who is leaving so we can end up with the desired squad on August 31 (season starts)."

French midfielder Ludovic Giuly, who won the Champions League with Barca in 2006, has agreed to join AS Roma for an initial 3.2 million euros, rather than the six million the Catalan club hoped for, though another 1.2 million could come if he helps the club qualify for the Champions League.

Barca also want to offload Santi Ezquerro to former club Athletic Bilbao, along with Brazilian Thiago Motta and Maxi Lopez, a striker who spent last season on loan with Mallorca.

Valencia have gone with youth in signing 21-year-old defender Alexis and 23-year-old striker Javier Arizmendi along with German keeper Timo Hildebrand, 28, from Stuttgart, with 37-year-old Santiago Canizares now in the twilight of his career.

Coach Quique Sanchez Flores is set to offload defenders David Navarro, Asier del Horno, formerly of Chelsea and Curro Torres as he plots an improvement on last year's third place.

UEFA Cup winners Seville have signed up Mali midfielder Seydou Keita from French side Lens and taken Dutch defender Khalid Boulahrouz on a year loan from Chelsea.

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