By Andrew Haslam
For the first half of 2003, the European football transfer market seemed to have stalled, as clubs exercised a new-found caution and decided against the free-spending approach of the past that led to many finding themselves in financial difficulty. That all changed in July, when Roman Abramovich became the new owner of Chelsea FC.
The takeover provided the catalyst for a summer spending spree by the English Premiership club of more than €150m, unprecedented across the continent. Some of the world's biggest names moved to Stamford Bridge, including Juan Sebastián Verón, Hernán Crespo, Claude Makelele, Adrian Mutu, Damien Duff, Geremi, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Wayne Bridge.
Chelsea's new-found spending power injected some life into a stagnant transfer market. The January window was notable for the lack of big-money transfers, with the likes of Lee Bowyer and Gabriel Batistuta moving on short-term deals. There was a flurry of late activity in England, with Jonathan Woodgate joining Newcastle United FC and Robbie Fowler moving to Manchester City FC, but elsewhere, clubs largely relied on free transfers and loans.
Moves made permanent
When the transfer window reopened, Christophe Dugarry and Joseph Yobo converted long-term loans into permanent moves. Right-backs Cafu and Steve Finnan joined AC Milan and Liverpool FC respectively, before, in the summer's biggest move, England captain David Beckham signed for Real Madrid CF for a €35m fee.
Market picks up
Italian champions Juventus FC signed Nicola Legrottaglie for €7m, with free-scoring striker Wesley Sonck joining AFC Ajax. Liverpool made another signing, buying Harry Kewell from Leeds United AFC for €8.5m, while Portuguese striker Pauleta moved to Paris Saint-Germain FC from FC Girondins de Bordeaux for €12m, and Ajax captain Cristian Chivu signed for AS Roma.
The summer's longest-running transfer saga came to an end in mid-July when PSG's Brazilian playmaker Ronaldinho joined FC Barcelona for a fee of €30m. Ajax winger Andy van der Meyde opted for FC Internazionale, with the Italian side later signing Kily González, Jérémie Bréchet and Khalilou Fadiga.
Makaay the new
Madrid's Flavio Conceição joined BV Borussia Dortmund on a one-year loan, before FC Bayern München swooped to sign FC Deportivo La Coruña striker Roy Makaay for €18.75m. Now Beckham-less Manchester United added Kleberson and Cristiano Ronaldo - for a combined €25.9m fee - to Eric Djemba Djemba and Tim Howard, while Milan signed Brazilian Kaká for €8.5m.
Flurry of moves
Middlesbrough FC signed three players on year-long loans as August drew to a close; Gaizka Mendieta, Danny Mills and Boudewijn Zenden. The last days of the transfer window were marked by a flurry of activity, with Bayern selling striker Giovane Elber to Olympique Lyonnais, where he replaced the Villarreal CF-bound Sonny Anderson. Madrid loaned Fernando Morientes to AS Monaco FC and released Steve McManaman and Pedro Munitis to join Manchester City and Deportivo respectively. Stéphane Dalmat joined Tottenham Hotspur FC on a one-year loan, while Roque Junior agreed a similar deal with Leeds United AFC.
Late in the year, Valencia CF's Robert Ayala, Juventus FC's Alessandro Del Piero, Milan's Andrea Pirlo and Madrid trio Míchel Salgado, Guti and Raúl González all agreed new deals at their respective clubs. Meanwhile, Milan released FIFA World Cup-winner Rivaldo.
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