Club Football

New destinations and homecomings

Fernando Torres attends his presentation as the new Club Atletico de Madrid signing at Vicente Calderon Stadium on January 4, 2015
© Getty Images

January is a busy time in the football calendar, with the star-studded FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala attracting the world’s gaze and the month-long transfer window triggering plenty of frenetic activity in the marketplace. The first two weeks of 2015 have seen a host of players make the move to new clubs. From the major deals to the long shots and investments for the future, rounds up who has gone where in the last fortnight.

The big dealsIn urgent need of a striker following injuries to Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic, Manchester City have filled the void by signing Wilfried Bony from Swansea City. The Côte d’Ivoire forward has become one of the finest front men in the business, top-scoring in the Premier League last year with 20 goals. Though less prolific in front of goal, Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri made a name for himself in scoring a hat-trick for his country against Honduras at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. Despite his obvious talent, Shaqiri found himself relegated to the bench at Bayern Munich last season and has moved to Inter Milan on loan in a bid for more first-team football. Joining him there will be Germany forward and world champion Lukas Podolski, who had himself been languishing on the bench at Arsenal.

Homecoming heroes 
One man who has left Milan is Spanish goal-getter Fernando Torres, who joined AC from Chelsea on loan last summer and has now gone back to his roots at Atletico Madrid, where he received a very warm welcome from 40,000 jubilant fans. After making his debut for Atleti as a 17-year-old in 2001, when they were playing second-division football, Torres went on to become a club idol, helping himself to 91 goals in 244 appearances. Moving in the opposite direction is Italy international Alessio Cerci, who failed to make much of an impact at the Vicente Calderon following his arrival from Torino. Also returning to Italy is Alessandro Diamanti, who excelled with Bologna and the national side before joining up with Marcello Lippi at Guangzhou Evergrande. After six months in China, the attacking midfielder is back in Serie A with Fiorentina.

A clutch of Argentinians have also made the journey home, among them veteran midfielder Pablo Aimar. The diminutive playmaker, who ran out for La Albiceleste at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, has rejoined River Plate, the club he left in 2001 to star for Valencia, Real Zaragoza and Benfica before enjoying a short stint in Malaysia with Johor FC. Meanwhile, Mariano Pavone, who top-scored in the Argentinian league with Estudiantes in 2005, has signed on the dotted line for Velez Sarsfield, having just appeared for Cruz Azul at the FIFA Club World Cup. Compatriot Dario Cvitanich graced the club world finals in 2010 with Mexican outfit Pachuca, to where he has returned after spending the last two and a half years with Nice.

Uruguay defender Diego Lugano has gone back to Brazil in a bid to revive his career following luckless spells with Paris Saint-Germain and West Bromwich Albion. A legend at Sao Paulo during a three-year-stay there earlier in his career, the Celeste captain is now hoping to achieve the same kind of status at Internacional of Porto Alegre. Staying in Brazil, Andre Santos has gone back to Figueirense, the club where he launched a career that saw him play for several Brazilian sides before moving on to Fenerbahce, Arsenal and, latterly, Indian Super League outfit Goa.

Players to watch Yaya Sanogo also ran out for the Gunners, making an appearance or two in the UEFA Champions League group phase earlier this season. Anxious for more regular opportunities, however, the 21-year-old, who is held in high esteem by Arsene Wenger and helped France win the FIFA U-20 World Cup Turkey 2013, has moved to Crystal Palace on loan. A member of the USA squad at Brazil 2014, speedy young defender DeAndre Yedlin is himself aiming to make his mark in the Premier League, having joined Tottenham Hotspur from Seattle Sounders. Manolo Gabbiadini might have missed out on a place at last year’s world finals, but his excellent start to the season with Sampdoria has earned him a call-up to La Nazionale and a move to Napoli.

Another rising star on the move is Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. Regarded as a fine prospect by Bayern Munich, the 19-year-old has been farmed out by Pep Guardiola to Augsburg, the idea being for him to pick up experience. Regularly in among the goals for Rijeka over the last two seasons and trailed by a number of big clubs lately, up-and-coming Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric has turned down Chelsea’s advances to sign for fellow Premier League side Leicester City. Last but not least, 23-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder Ricardo Goulart, the architect of Cruzeiro’s back-to-back league titles in 2013 and 2014, has become Chinese football’s most expensive signing ever, moving to Guangzhou Evergrande for a fee of €15m.

The stat10 - the number of clubs Argentinian forward Maxi Lopez has now signed for following his latest move to Torino. A River Plate youth product, the 30-year-old front man played for Barcelona and Mallorca in Spain, FC Moscow in Russia and Gremio in Brazil before decamping to Italy, where he ran out for Catania, AC Milan, Sampdoria and Chievo. Lopez spent six months with the Verona side before switching his allegiances to Il Toro.

What they said“He is one of the main reasons why I came here. I know how demanding he was as a team-mate and he’ll be even more so as a coach,” Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres on his new coach Diego Simeone.

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