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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Six to watch in the Primera Liga
By Tom McCoy
BBC Sport

An intriguing summer in Spain has seen Valencia, Barcelona and Real Madrid all strengthening their squads.

BBC Sport takes a look at six of the biggest signings in Spain's top division this summer.

Walter Samuel: Roma to Real Madrid, 14.5m

Real Madrid defender Walter Samuel
Samuel spent four years with Roma before joining Real

Real's makeshift defence shipped 74 goals in all competitions last year, prompting president Florentino Perez to rethink his strategy of buying world class stars in attack and deploying youth-team graduates at the back.

First to arrive at the Bernabeu was Walter Samuel, a 26-year-old Argentine international regarded as one of the outstanding centre-backs in Serie A.

Samuel is a tough, tenacious man-marker who will also give Real an aerial threat from set-pieces

His partnership with Jonathan Woodgate, a 13.4m buy from Newcastle, has huge potential - if the injury-plagued Englishman can stay fit.

Although Real missed out on Patrick Vieira, the arrival of Samuel and Woodgate does free Ivan Helguera to occupy the midfield holding role which both David Beckham and Guti struggled to fill last season.

Michael Owen: Liverpool to Real Madrid, 8m plus Antonio Nunez

In: Jose Camacho (coach), Walter, Samuel, Michael Owen, Jonathan Woodgate,
Out: Carlos Quieroz (ex-coach), Javier Portillo (loan), Julio Cesar, Antonio Nunez, Flavio Conceicao, Esteban Cambiasso, Ruben Gonzalez Rocha (loan), Flavio

With Fernando Morientes also returning from a loan spell at Monaco, Owen's surprise move to the Bernabeu means Real now have truly world-class support for last season's front two, Raul and Ronaldo.

Owen hit 158 goals in 297 games for Liverpool but admits he fell into a "comfort zone" at Anfield, where he was virtually guaranteed a starting spot.

The England striker now faces the challenge of a learning a new language, adapting to a new style of football and proving to coach Jose Antonio Camacho he deserves a starting place.

Samuel Eto'o: Real Mallorca & Real Madrid to Barcelona, 16m

Real Madrid first brought Eto'o to Spain in 1998 but the youngster started just 17 games before moving to Mallorca in 2000, where he scored 54 goals in four seasons.

In: Henrik Larsson, Ludovic Giuly, Juliano Belletti, Silvinho, Edmilson, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Deco, Samuel Eto'o
Out: Patrick Kluivert, Luis Garcia, Luis Enrique, Marc Overmars, Oscar Lopez (loan)

Barca swooped for Eto'o after Madrid - who retained half of Eto'o's transfer rights and first refusal on any move - decided against signing the Cameroon star as they already had three non-EU players at the Bernabeu.

Quick and skilful, the current African Player of the Year is also renowned for a short temper which saw him regularly clash with journalists at Mallorca.

With Kluivert departed from the Nou Camp and Javier Saviola out-of-favour, Eto'o will spearhead the Barca attack alongside Swedish veteran Henrik Larsson and Brazilian superstar Ronaldinho.

Deco: Porto to Barcelona, 8m plus Ricardo Quaresma

Deco is presented to the media by Barca Joan Laporta
Deco has signed a four-year deal with Barca

Born near Sao Paulo, Deco left Brazil aged 19 to join Benfica but the midfielder failed to make the grade in Lisbon.

Impressive performances at Alverca and Salgueiros earned Deco a move to Porto in 1998, where he developed into the side's playmaker under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho.

After helping Porto to the Uefa Cup in 2003 and Champions League in 2004, Deco was tipped to follow Mourinho to Chelsea but as the Blues' interest cooled, Barca pounced.

Deco makes up for his lack of raw pace and strength with superb close control and passing ability, although Barca coach Frank Rijkaard will hope the 26-year-old can add more goals to his game.

Marco Di Vaio: Juventus to Valencia, 7m

In: Claudio Ranieri (coach), Ludovic Butelle, Marco Caneira, Emiliano Moretti, Stefano Fiore, Bernardo Corradi
Out: Rafael Benitez (ex-coach), Salva Ballesta (loan), sent Javier Garrido (loan)

In 2002, Di Vaio was one of the most sought-after strikers in Serie A after bagging 35 goals in a two-year spell with Parma.

Juventus paid 17m for his services but the forward failed to established himself as an automatic first-choice at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

Despite some stunning goals, Di Vaio was never a prolific scorer for Juve although he did win a place in Italy's squad for Euro 2004.

Stefano Fiore and Bernardo Corradi : Lazio to Valencia, 11.5m

With Lazio still unable to pay 10m of Gaizka Mendieta's 28m transfer fee, Valencia in effect spent only 1.5m on Azzurri duo Fiore and Corradi.

Fiore, 29, is an attacking midfielder with 35 caps for Italy, most of which were gained during his four-year spell with Lazio.

Corradi, 28, is a muscular target-man who has also played for Inter, Chievo and Cagliari.

Players often struggle to make the transition between Serie A and the Primera Liga so the 18m Claudio Ranieri has spent on his Italian trio represents quite a gamble.





Six to watch in Serie A
26 Aug 04  |  Europe
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Six to watch in the Bundesliga
26 Aug 04  |  Europe

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