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31.08.2005 Sports News

Transfer window dominated by Essien, Robinho sagas

AP

LONDON, - Featuring more twists and turns than any soap opera, the long-running sagas involving Michael Essien and Brazilian Robinho dominated the August transfer window.

French champions Olympique Lyon surprised no-one when they finally relented after almost three months of negotiations by selling Ghana midfielder Essien to Chelsea for 38 million euros ($47.06 million).

Speculation linking Robinho with a move to Europe went back even further and only reached a conclusion last week when the young Santos striker put pen to paper on a $30 million deal to join Real Madrid.

A long impasse seemed to be settled in July when Robinho's agent Wagner Ribeiro said nine-times European champions Real had reached agreement to sign the player.

But Ribeiro was not counting on an intervention from the Brazilian Football Federation, which refused to grant the International Transfer Certificate to allow the move to proceed.

The tide could not be turned for long though and it was with a grand announcement that Real welcomed their new signing.

"Today we are going to present one of the great players in the world," said president Florentino Perez as Robinho gave 8,000 ecstatic Real fans a taste of things to come with a spectacular exhibition of ball skills at the Bernabeu stadium.

DOUBLE SWOOP

Real's signing of Robinho came close on the heels of their capture of another Brazilian striker, Julio Baptista, from Sevilla for an initial fee of 20 million euros.

The double swoop for Robinho and Baptista left Michael Owen with little option but to end his brief sojourn to Spain in time for a return to England to join Newcastle United before Wednesday's midnight CET deadline.

Despite spending a fortune to lure Owen, Scott Parker, Emre Belozoglu and Jean-Alain Boumsong to St James's Park, Newcastle are unlikely to be able to compete on the field with Chelsea this season.

The English champions splashed out around 21 million pounds on Manchester City winger Shaun-Wright Phillips and 12 million euros on Athletic Bilbao left back Asier Del Horno before having to fight tooth and nail to land Essien.

"He (Essien) will play for us this season again, there is no doubt about that," Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas told Reuters in June after rejecting a Chelsea offer of 25 million euros.

Three weeks later Aulas told the club owned by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich that they would have to pay 45 million euros to get Essien.

COMPROMISE FEE

But Chelsea continued to test Aulas's resolve and the 22-year-old Ghanaian eventually signed for the Londoners for a compromise fee of 38 million euros.

Lyon dominated the transfer window in France, earning and spending more than any other Ligue 1 side.

The four-times French champions paid 43.5 million euros on new players, notably Brazilian striker Fred from Cruzeiro and Portugal midfielder Tiago, formerly with Chelsea.

In Italy, Juventus bolstered last season's title-winning squad with the capture of France midfielder Patrick Vieira from Arsenal.

AC Milan, desperate to rebound from their Champions League final defeat by Liverpool, acquired two top strikers with Christian Vieri arriving from Inter and Alberto Gilardino from Parma.

Inter raided Real Madrid for a trio of players, Argentine defender Walter Samuel, Portuguese winger Luis Figo and Argentine midfielder Santiago Solari.

In Germany, the usual flow of top players from lesser clubs to Bayern Munich abated during the window.

Champions Bayern bought French centre back Valerien Ismael from Werder Bremen for eight million euros but were busier offloading players than buying.

VfB Stuttgart sold Alexander Hleb to Arsenal for 15 million euros while Bulgarian Martin Petrov left VfL Wolfsburg for Atletico Madrid for eight million euros.

Spanish champions Barcelona, who spent more than 60 million euros before the start of the 2004-05 season, spent nothing this time round.

Their two new recruits, Mark van Bommel and Santi Ezquerro, joined Barca on free transfers from PSV Eindhoven and Athletic Bilbao respectively.

European Cup winners Liverpool were busy in the window, bringing in several players including Southampton striker Peter Crouch for around seven million pounds, goalkeeper Pepe Reina, midfielder Boudewijn Zenden and winger Mark Gonzales.

Manager Rafael Benitez also showed the door to Milan Baros, El Hadji Diouf, Igor Biscan and Vladimir Smicer among others.

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