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Football braced for transfer mayhem

Clockwise from top left: Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Franck Ribery

By Jonathan Stevenson

Real Madrid's attempt to initiate Project Galactico Part II with the £56m capture of Kaka may trigger the biggest summer spending spree in the history of football.

A list of players linked with moves reads like a who's who of the modern game: Cristiano Ronaldo, David Villa, Franck Ribery, Cesc Fabregas, Samuel Eto'o, Sergio Aguero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Carlos Tevez and plenty more besides.

Real, with Florentino Perez - the man who ushered in their first Galactico era at the start of the century - back as president, will not stop at Kaka as they seek to challenge Barcelona for Spanish supremacy next season.

BBC Sport

Closer to home, the likes of Manchester City and Chelsea are set to stretch their financial muscles as their multi-billionaire owners showcase their recession-proof wealth.

One of Britain's leading sports business professors told BBC Sport he believes it is these three clubs that could prove to be the catalyst for a summer of spend, spend, spend.

"Potentially, I can see individual records being broken and the total spent by Premier League clubs being broken too," said Dr Simon Chadwick, from the Coventry University Business School.

"But I don't think it will be spent very widely. It will be highly skewed by two or three clubs and you are looking in particular at Man City and Chelsea.

"What is even more important, though, is what happens at Real Madrid. That will have a cascading effect on the rest of football - especially in Spain and in England, the two big leagues in Europe."

Returning as president at the Santiago Bernabeu after a three-year absence, Perez had hardly settled back into his old chair before reasserting his authority on the game.

His pursuit of Kaka, along with his stated desire to "work to bring Ronaldo to Real" and repeated links with Valencia's Villa, Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic and Liverpool's Xabi Alonso have fired an early warning shot of supreme confidence.

This will be the biggest internal transfer window ever, no doubt about it

Football agent Barry Silkman

This, after all, is the man who, in four consecutive summers starting from 2000, took Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham to the capital of Spain for a combined fee of about £132m.

Real have not only endured their first empty-handed season since 2006, but had to sit and watch arch rivals Barcelona claim an unprecedented treble of La Liga, Spanish Cup and the Champions League while winning hearts and minds for their style of football.

Perez wants what Barca have got, and the billionaire construction magnate with vast independent wealth will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

City, who tried an audacious swoop for Kaka in January and have been linked with a move for Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas among plenty of others, have even more money than the Madrid club to play with.

But they are not yet competing at the same level as their more illustrious European neighbours, as their differing levels of success in the chase for Kaka appear to have illustrated.

1. Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
2. Maicon (Inter Milan)
3. Yuri Zhirkov (CSKA Moscow)
4. Nemanja Vidic (Man Utd)
5. Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
6. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
7. Cristiano Ronaldo (Man Utd)
8. Kaka (AC Milan)
9. David Villa (Valencia)
10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Inter)
11. Franck Ribery (Bayern)
Subs: Joleon Lescott, Xabi Alonso, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero, Samuel Eto'o

The challenge for City owner Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan is to turn a side that finished 10th in the Premier League into one that can qualify for the Champions League - with no expense spared.

Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has tasted at first-hand City's phenomenal financial muscle as his bid for Gareth Barry was easily trumped by the Eastlands outfit.

"I tried to sign Gareth, we made a decent offer and Liverpool were prepared to make a big offer too," said Redknapp.

"But we have both been blown out of the water by Man City. They offered a far bigger transfer fee and are giving the lad much bigger wages. We could not get near."

Football agent Barry Silkman expects City to carry on spending money like it is no object throughout the summer.

"When you talk about Manchester City, a club with a massive amount of money, for them it's of no consequence how much they spend," Silkman told BBC Sport.

"It's irrelevant if the money they spend is 'worth it' too, because they will just pay whatever it takes to get the player they want.

"Other English clubs are going to really struggle to buy from the continent this summer because the pound is so poor against the Euro, but that won't affect City in the slightest.

"They have a bottomless pit and they can go and get who they want without posturing. They need to as well because right now they are five or six world-class players short of competing near the top end of the table."

Silkman expects the poor value of the pound to have a positive impact on the volume of transfers completed between English clubs this summer.

"This will be the biggest internal transfer window ever, no doubt about it," he added. "There will be a lot more deals and much bigger ones than we've seen for a while too.

"The pound is struggling so much that clubs are finding it hard to even pay a player's salary from abroad and so the established players from Europe we've seen coming over in the last few years might dry up."

So, can we expect a trickle effect throughout English football, with Manchester City, Chelsea and Real Madrid the catalyst for a summer of spending throughout the leagues?

"I don't think so," says BBC Sport pundit Pat Nevin. "It's the level below these clubs that will be the most interesting to watch because it's the most unpredictable.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we see transfer fees on the whole at this level - we're talking average Premier League teams - go down and I'm not convinced these clubs will be involved in many massive deals any more either.

"Go down another level to the Championship or the Scottish Premier League and I think we'll see just how little bargaining power these clubs have at the moment.

"It's a different world to City and Chelsea. Those owners just don't get affected by economic downturns like most other businessmen - they aren't working within normal economic parameters."

How much Premier League clubs have spent in recent transfer windows

Dan Jones, the editor of Deloitte's Annual Review of Football Finance, takes it a step further. He believes the record spent by English clubs in a summer transfer window - £530m in 2008 - is not going to be broken.

"I'd be surprised if it was," said Jones. "We're expecting it to be busy, but possibly not record-breaking.

"Part of the reason for that is because there has been such a lot of activity in the last couple of windows - though you have to be careful of the Man City, Chelsea and Real Madrid factor.

"They could kickstart something like Roman Abramovich did when he first arrived at Chelsea six years ago, we have seen it happen before.

"I stand to be corrected by the end of August, but I don't think there will be more spent than last year. Probably not far off the same, but not more than."

Messrs Perez, Sheikh Mansour and Abramovich may have something to say about that. Watch this space.

Additional reporting by Sam Lyon

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see also
Friday's gossip column
05 Jun 09 |  Gossip
History of the world transfer record
11 Jun 09 |  Football
Kaka completes Real Madrid switch
09 Jun 09 |  Europe
Man City snap up Barry for 12m
02 Jun 09 |  Man City
Ancelotti appointed Chelsea boss
01 Jun 09 |  Chelsea
Perez to return as Real president
01 Jun 09 |  Europe
Premier League 'defies downturn'
03 Jun 09 |  Business
Europe's football finances 2007/08
03 Jun 09 |  Business
Real beat Man Utd in rich league
12 Feb 09 |  Business
New football transfer spend high
02 Feb 09 |  Business

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