The Premier League's summer transfer window always promises much, but in reality there's only ever a few clubs who have the money to make a real impact on their squad. As clubs get richer, transfer fees inflate and it is down to a select number of teams to set things in motion.
In preparation for the 2008/09 season, some have already been busy bringing in the talent to improve their side, while other have remained strangely quiet. Giving the impression that one big deal could set off a chain of transfer across Europe, this summer's transfer window has the potential to be the most expensive in history - to those who can afford to participate.
Chelsea - Man City - Tottenham - Portsmouth
A number of clubs have led the way in transfer negotiations so far this summer and none more so than Tottenham. Signing Croatian Luka Modric before Euro 2008 had the chance to send his price-tag through the roof, Spurs paid £16.5million for the playmaker and then brought Mexican youngster Geovanni Dos Santos, John Bostock and goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes to their squad as well.Adding some much needed creativity to the midfield, Juande Ramos has certainly got the club's backing to improve upon their Carling Cup success of last year and West Ham defender Anton Ferdinand could be next on the list to add depth to the defence.
With a host of players set for the exit door including Paul Robinson, Pascal Chimbonda, Younes Kaboul and Young-Pyo Lee, money has not been a problem for the white half of North London and they are also reportedly tracking £15million rated England winger David Bentley.
However, the Blackburn star may choose to reunite with former boss Mark Hughes at Manchester City. Hughes has a huge transfer war-chest to play with, despite City owner Thaksin Shinawatra's corruption trial currently ongoing in Thailand, and is keen to bring Bentley and Roque Santa Cruz to his new club. Having already paid £19million to bring Brazilian youngster Jo to Eastlands, Shinawatra will want more and City could find the cash to bring Lukas Podolski and Fabricio Coloccini into the squad if their move for Barcelona's Ronaldinho falls through. The former World Player of Year seeming to favour a move to AC Milan, or Chelsea.
Unsurprisingly the Premier League's wealthiest club have been busy too. Forking out a decent pay packet for new manager Luiz Felipe Scolari, the Blues also spent big in attempting to solve their right-back problems, with Portugual's Bosingwa signing for around £16million. In addition, £8million for his international team-mate Deco seems a good deal given his performances in Austria & Switzerland and Chelsea now have a wealth of attacking options. The future of Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard continues to be speculated, so the likes of Samuel Eto'o or Kaka could yet fill any gaps left by departing players if the rumours turn out to be true.
Portsmouth will be keen to snap up anyone unhappy under the Scolari regime, with Shaun Wright-Phillips already on their radar. The diminutive winger would provide great ammunition for newly acquired £10million striker Peter Crouch, while loanee Ben Sahar will be keen to show the Chelsea boss that he can flourish in the top flight. Harry Redknapp has always been a shrewd operator in the transfer market, although the recent signing of Glen Little does little to enhance that belief. Reading left-back Nicky Shorey could prove the most costly of his future additions and, for a change, Harry does not have to sell in order to buy.
Balancing the books
Arsenal - Aston Villa - Blackburn - Bolton - Everton - Liverpool
However, some clubs are not so lucky. With a £24million-a-year stadium bill to deal with, Arsenal have officially become a 'selling club' according to boss Arsene Wenger. The imminent arrival of Samir Nasri from Marseille and Bremen's Amaury Bischoff (as well as the £5million addition of Cardiff teenager Aaron Ramsey) has to be balanced, with Alexander Hleb and Emmanuel Adebayor looking likely to depart. Having already lost Mathieu Flamini to the bright lights of Milan, Wenger has another summer of transition to deal with - although the money recouped could go towards Ruben de la Red, David Villa or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
Another club forced to sell before they buy is Liverpool. Despite the funds brought in by American investors George Gillett and Tom Hicks, the sale of Peter Crouch to Portsmouth and Xabi Alonso to Juventus seems to be the driving force behind Rafa Benitez's pursuit of players this summer. The signings of Andrea Dossena and Philipp Degen have already been balanced by the departures of John Arne Riise and Harry Kewell, while Valencia pair David Villa and David Silva have caught the Spaniard's eye, although he has admitted that he may struggle to find the money to buy them. However, if he can agree the sale of Scott Carson and Steve Finnan then the £18million-rated Gareth Barry from Aston Villa could finally get his move.
Indeed Barry's transfer dealings have been one of the stories of the summer and, ironically, Villa boss Martin O'Neill is in a similar position to that of Benitez. Having signed Curtis Davies and Steven Sidwell, O'Neill's hands are tied by Liverpool's stubbornness over Barry's fee. If Barry leaves, O'Neill has the possibility of signing a host of players with the funds received and a goalkeeper is a key priority with Scott Carson, Paul Robinson and Brad Guzan all attracting attention.
Blackburn will need to cash in on David Bentley and Roque Santa Cruz before they can spend anything on new players, although new boss Paul Ince has been boosted by a £3million windfall after the Jack Walker Trustees reinstated their annual payment to the club. Birmingham duo James McFadden and Seb Larsson could be Ince's first dip into the wallet, but £20million from the sale of their two best players could provide Rovers' fans with an interesting summer.
Bolton fans have been through something similar. Having rid themselves of Nicolas Anelka for £15million last season, the Trotters splashed £10million on Toulouse's Johan Elmander and £5million on tough tackling Birmingham youngster Fabrice Muamba. So that just about wraps up the transfer window for them, barring a few Gary Megson 'specials'.
Strapped for cash
Fulham - Hull - Stoke - West Brom - Wigan
Wigan have long been linked with a £10million move for Andrew Johnson, although the JJB outfit's transfer dealings thus far do not suggest they have a lot of money. Bringing in Daniel De Ridder from Birmingham on a free, manager Steve Bruce has let Marcus Bent and Julius Aghahowa leave, paving the way for a £4million deal for Egypt striker Amir Zaki. Freeing up some cash on the club's wage bill, Bruce may struggle for financial backing beyond one major signing.
Having spent over £20million on a host of disappointing players last summer, Fulham boss Mohamed Al-Fayed will be less than keen to furnish Roy Hodgson with any major funds given how close they came to relegation last season. Mark Schwarzer, Andranik Teymourian and Zoltan Gera have represented the best business so far, although the biggest movement from the Cottagers' point of view has been captain Brian McBride's decision to rejoin the MLS with Toronto FC. Not a good omen considering how much the club missed him last campaign.
Newly promoted West Brom, too, have suffered from departures. Gera has chosen to continue his future in West London, while star-striker Kevin Phillips has left to join Birmingham on a free. The addition of £3million striker Luke Moore from Aston Villa looks a decent piece of business, but the Baggies do not have a lot of cash with which to strengthen their squad.
Hull and Stoke are in the same boat, although of the two, Hull have shown a lot more willingness to stay up by signing veteran Premier League midfielder George Boateng from 'Boro and Geovanni from City. Craig Fagan will get another chance in the top flight with Hull, while Stoke's best chances of success lie in tempting Shola Ameobi or Chris Riggott to stay on a permanent basis. But without deep pockets both sides will struggle against the big boys next season.
All quiet on the transfer front
Everton - Sunderland - Middlesbrough - Man Utd - Newcastle - West Ham
And of course there are those sleeping giants who could awake at any moment with a huge transfer deal that could rock the Premier League to its core. West Ham provided it with the Carlos Tevez/Javier Mascherano deal in recent memory, although the Hammers are far from repeating a similar feat this term. Keeping hold of Anton Ferdinand and Dean Ashton is top of the bill, although they may still have a few irons in the fire.
Much like Tyne-Tees duo Middlesbrough and Newcastle. With money to spend, Boro have spent £7million on relative unknowns Didier Digard and Marvin Emnes, which is unlikely to get the fans' pulses racing; while Newcastle have been oddly quiet given the amount of financial backing they have in owner Mike Ashley. Mallorca winger Jonas Gutierrez has been the only addition thus far, while Emre and Peter Ramage have been let go. Expect something more to happen in both camps, although it may be underwhelming.
Everton and Sunderland may also fall into this category, although always have the potential to make waves. The Toffees have done well in recent transfer dealings, but short of signing the likes of Mehmet Aurelio, Aaron Lennon or Joao Moutinho, are not expected to fork out much cash this summer. Niall Quinn has reportedly told Roy Keane that he has £50million to spend at Sunderland, although the Irishman appears loathe to touch it so far. Losing out on George Boateng and Dani Guiza, Keane may turn his attentions to Andrew Johnson, Darren Bent and Aidan McGeady. While there should also be a plethora of Ireland and former-Man Utd players joining the squad, namely Stephen Hunt, Kevin Doyle and Jonny Evans.
United, meanwhile, come last but not least. Having spent £50million to aid their double-winning cause last summer, the club have no real need to buy or sell. Cristiano Ronaldo's protracted transfer to Real Madrid dominates the headlines and if Sir Alex Ferguson can persuade him to stay, then the addition of a top class striker like Klaas Jan Huntelaar or Karim Benzema could improve the squad even more. If it does go through, then £80million from the Ronaldo deal could buy any combination of Dimitar Berbatov, Micah Richards, Benzema and maybe even Sergio Ramos. That Ronaldo deal should make for an interesting summer and potentially a deluge of transfer business.