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Football's blockbuster business alive and well

ESPN staff
February 1, 2013
Mario Balotelli was one of the big movers in the January transfer window © PA Photos

The January transfer window often does not offer the best value for buying clubs, but across Europe there have been plenty of high-profile moves to catch the eye.

We run down the top movers this month.

Lucas Moura - Sao Paulo to Paris Saint-Germain - £43 million

What more can be said about the Brazilian midfielder? Tipped for the very top, he was linked with Real Madrid, Manchester United and Chelsea before big-spending PSG swooped to seal his signature at a time when other top Brazilian talents - namely Neymar and Ganso - have opted to stay in their homeland.

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the focus on the country's young talent has grown sharper and Lucas' high-profile move to Paris has ensured that there are plenty of eyes trained on him - as well as rolling at the inevitable comparisons with compatriot Ronaldinho.

"PSG has a long history of Brazilian players. I hope to continue writing it, and put a smile on the fans' faces," Lucas revealed as he arrived at the club. "Everyone expects a lot of me, but I'm very confident." Among the stars of PSG, he will need more than confidence to stay afloat, but unlike many of his predecessors, Lucas has the grounding to hit the heights in Europe.

Mario Balotelli - Manchester City to AC Milan - £19 million

Finally, England bid Arrivederci to Super Mario as Milan took advantage of his issues to lure him back to Italy. If reports are to be believed, City had considered the sale of the madcap striker for weeks prior to his move - something which was sparked off by a training ground bust-up with none other than Roberto Mancini himself.

Balotelli, love him or hate him, has been a central figure in the City team - although not always for the right reasons. A Premier League winning assist one minute; fireworks (literally) the next. But he never realised his potential and City have done well to recoup most of the £24 million spent on him a few years ago. No doubt Mancini's life will be easier without Mario around, but whether or not they manage to bring someone in to replace him before the end of the deadline remains to be seen.

Wilfried Zaha - Crystal Palace to Manchester United - £15 million

One of the most highly-rated midfielders in his age group, Zaha has been being tracked by England's top clubs since he made the breakthrough at Palace a couple of years ago. At 20, he is young but precociously talented and his skill and speed with the ball at his feet will ensure that the flanks of Old Trafford are dazzled over the coming years.

United beat off the likes of Arsenal (although Arsene Wenger claimed he was never interested), Newcastle and Liverpool to bring the winger in for £15 million, before loaning him back to Palace for the rest of the season. "We like to sign players with potential," manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. "We develop players and that's been proven many times. Hopefully the boy enjoys it here."

Daniel Sturridge - Chelsea to Liverpool - £12 million

Daniel Sturridge has started brightly at Liverpool © Getty Images

Surely the deal of the transfer window? For the price of just £12 million, Liverpool were able to snap up a 23-year-old England international with a point to prove after failing to make the grade at both Manchester City and Chelsea, and they have ended their striking issues in the process.

Sturridge has long claimed that he wants a chance to shine in a central striking role and he may get his chance at Anfield, although his versatility to play alongside Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling up front is another string to add to his bow. He hit the ground running and scored in his first three games for the club, proving that his mind might finally be in the right place to ensure that he fulfils his obvious potential.

Wesley Sneijder - Inter Milan to Galatasaray - £8.5 million

Another shock signing for Turkish football, Sneijder made it clear a while ago that he would not be signing a new contract at Inter. Instead, he was the subject of a long, drawn-out transfer saga that saw him linked to Manchester United, Tottenham, Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala and almost any other club with a void in central midfield.

Still a class act, Sneijder's fall from grace at Inter - especially considering their drop down the Serie A pecking order - was a tad odd, but Gala have again snuck in to reap the benefits. The Netherlands international revealed upon signing: "I will make the Galatasaray fans very proud and very happy. I'm looking forward to meeting them and making a good life together."

Loic Remy - Marseille to QPR - £8 million

Probably the most surprising transfer on the list, as Remy turned down Newcastle in order to help QPR off the bottom of the table. The striker had almost joined Stoke in 2010 but starred after moving to l'OM and proved himself to be a top goalscorer when his focus was firmly on the pitch.

Money was 'not a motivation' for Remy apparently - despite the fact that he is on a reported £80,000-a-week contract at Loftus Road - but cash seemed to persuade QPR's other French target Yann M'Vila to join Russian side Rubin Kazan, even as they sit in the middle of a transfer embargo.

Giuseppe Rossi - Villarreal to Fiorentina - £7 million

When Villarreal were relegated at the end of 2011-12, many expected Rossi to be the first out of the door. The America-born Italian has been attracting attention ever since he made the move to Manchester United in 2004 and, although he did not make it work at Old Trafford, he remains a top-quality striker.

Recent years have seen him suffer with injury and the main reason for his stay for a few months in the Segunda was his recovery from a cruciate ligament tear. However, when fully fit he will be a fine addition to the club and is happy to be plying his trade at a club which, in his own words, plays "the best football in Italy".

Didier Drogba - Shanghai Shenhua to Galatasaray - £5 million

With his last kick in a Chelsea shirt, Drogba brought home the coveted Champions League title in 2012 before choosing a new path for himself in China. Earning over £200,000-a-week at Shanghai Shenhua was clearly not the only motivation for him to blaze a trail into the Super League, but once the politics behind the scenes at the Chinese club came into play he could not get back to Europe quick enough. (So quickly in fact, that Shanghai are claiming that he is still a contracted player with them and that they intend to take their case to FIFA.)

While he is lacking the pace of old in his ageing legs, Drogba is still a physically imposing striker who could have a huge impact in Turkish football over the next 18 months. Why he chose to reject moves to the likes of Juventus or AC Milan remains to be seen, but Gala are delighted that he has chosen to continue his career with them. Whether or not he is allowed to stay remains to be seen.

Diego Lopez - Sevilla to Real Madrid- £2 million

Wilfried Zaha will stay in Crystal Palace colours for a little while longer © Getty Images

The news that Iker Casillas would be out for three months with a hand injury was followed within hours by the signing of veteran goalkeeper Lopez. In fact, the Spaniard began his career at the Bernabeu and, in a move that mirrors the usual transfer policy of their rivals Barcelona, he has returned.

Lopez has been forced to wade into the fiery debate over Casillas' future in Madrid, but said upon his arrival that he has not "come here to replace Casillas", but he added: "I am here to try and play all the time." Competition across the pitch is important for a squad, so Jose Mourinho can rest easy that his goalkeepers will be well motivated.

Lewis Holtby - Schalke to Tottenham - £1.5 million

Having agreed a deal to sign Holtby in the summer once his contract at Schalke had expired, Spurs decided to pay around £1.5 million to bring him to the club a few months early in January. With top-four aspirations, head coach Andre Villas-Boas was keen to add depth to his attacking options and the versatile Germany international fits the bill perfectly.

A creative and skilful player with good stamina to ensure he is able to get from box to box, Holtby is a big fan of David Beckham (he was snapped with a Beckham England shirt above his bed) and has been handed the No. 23 shirt at White Hart Lane. He won't have the delivery of the former England captain, but Holtby will certainly make a similar impact in the final third for his new club.

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