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United lead recruitment drive

Published: Tuesday 20 January 2004, 19.00CET checks out where the money has been spent - and may yet be laid out - during the transfer window. features

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Published: Tuesday 20 January 2004, 19.00CET

United lead recruitment drive checks out where the money has been spent - and may yet be laid out - during the transfer window.

The transfer window is already half-shut and Europe's top clubs have only 14 days left to strengthen their squads before the UEFA Champions League resumes in just over a month's time.

Saha to sign checks out where the money has been spent so far and wonders what big deals, if any, we can expect ahead of the deadline for registering players for European competition at 12.00CET on 2 February. Manchester United FC have been the biggest spenders to date. Manager Sir Alex Ferguson is expected to complete the signing of Fulham FC's French striker Louis Saha this week for a fee of around €14.5m.

Butt out?
United have also agreed deals for teenage striker Dong Fangzhou from China's Dalian Shide FC and Celtic FC's Irish midfield player Liam Miller, although neither will join the Old Trafford ranks before next season at the earliest. They may yet lose a player, however, as England midfield player Nicky Butt has handed in a transfer request.

Porto reinforcements
United's opponents in the Champions League first knockout round are FC Porto and the Portuguese champions have responded to the loss of injured strikers Derlei and César Peixoto by signing Maciel from UD Leiria. Midfield player Carlos Alberto has also arrived from Fluminense FC, while Hugo Almeida and Tiago have joined Leiria on loan as part of the Maciel deal.

Sérgio Conceição returns
However, Porto's biggest signing of the month will not be available for the Champions League. Sérgio Conceição has rejoined the club but the Portuguese international has already represented S.S. Lazio in the competition.

Stuttgart signings
VfB Stuttgart, who face Chelsea FC in the next round, have signed Switzerland striker Marco Streller from FC Basel 1893 and Croatian defender Boris Zivkovic from Portsmouth FC, as well as agreeing a new deal with captain Zvonimir Soldo. Streller is ineligible for the Champions League having already played in the UEFA Cup.

New faces
Chelsea doubtless have plenty of money to spend on new players, but so far owner Roman Abramovich has not written out any cheques. It is not for want of trying, however. Chelsea have had enquiries rejected for Stade Rennais FC goalkeeper Petr Cech and Charlton Athletic FC midfield player Scott Parker, and have been linked with BV Borussia Dortmund's Tomáš Rosický and Italy striker Christian Vieri, who looks set to leave FC Internazionale with Adriano returning from Parma AC to take his place.

Saving money
Italian champions Juventus FC will not seek a replacement for Edgar Davids, who has joined FC Barcelona on loan, although Parma defender Matteo Ferrari remains a possible target. Arsenal FC, meanwhile, have promised to give their youngsters a chance rather than sign new players. But with French striker Jérémie Aliadière's knee injury putting him on a list of absentees that includes Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord and Nwankwo Kanu, manager Arsène Wenger could yet be forced to invest.

Celta striker
Arsenal's opponents in the next round, RC Celta de Vigo, have signed striker Mauricio Pinilla from AC Chievo Verona. With doubts over Catanha's future, the 19-year-old Chilean has signed on loan until the end of the season with an option to make the move permanent.

Enticing prospect
Deividas Cesnauskis's desire to play in the Champions League was the deciding factor in his move from FC Dinamo Moskva to city rivals FC Lokomotiv Moskva. The Lithuanian midfield player had been linked with FC Dynamo Kyiv, but instead chose Lokomotiv and will be eligible to face AS Monaco FC next month. Lokomotiv have also signed Georgian Under-21 international Roman Akhalkatsi.

Last updated: 20/01/04 19.49CET

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