The Revolution Of Football Transfers

Cesc Fabregas's desire to return home to Barcelona has confirmed that La Liga is the place to be for football's creme de la creme. David Villa, too, half-heartedly welcomed interest from England's elite over the past 18 months while admitting a stay in Spain would always be his preferred choice - confirming it with a £34million move from Valencia to the Nou Camp.

The Barclays Premier League, eclipsed by the spending power of Spain's big two, is coming to terms with no longer being No 1, just as Italy has previously had to hand over the mantle. The shifting sands of European football just continues…

REAL REVOLUTION 1953-1959
Trendsetter: Alfredo di Stefano Millonarios to Real Madrid, £25,000

Santiago Bernabeu made it his mission as Real Madrid president to rebuild the club by signing the best worldwide talent. His greatest coup was luring Di Stefano from Colombia in 1953. The forward was a symbol for the first truly multi-national team. France playmaker Raymond Kopa arrived in 1956 and Hungary's Ferenc Puskas in 1958, helping the club to win five straight European Cups. Brazilian World Cup winner Valdir 'Didi' Pereira kept the overseas trend going in 1959, but his proved to be an ill-fated move and ushered in an era when Italy became the place to be.

LA DOLCE VITA 1961-1963
Trendsetter: Luis Suarez Barcelona to Inter Milan, £142,000

John Charles had blazed the trail, moving from Leeds to Juventus in 1957, but the biggest shift came when Spain inside left Suarez - the European Footballer of the Year - left his home country to go to Inter in 1961 for a world record fee. Italy, by this stage, was acquiring its reputation as the world's most tactically advanced league and Denis Law left Manchester City for Torino in the same year, with Jimmy Greaves quitting Chelsea for AC Milan. West Germany libero Karl-Heinz Schnellinger, nicknamed Volkswagen, started a successful career in Italy when leaving Cologne for Mantova in 1963. One year on, though, foreign players were banned from the Italian league, as the country's FA tried to revive their national team.

SPAIN STRIKES BACK 1970s
Trendsetter: Johan Cruyff Ajax to Barcelona, £800,000

Barcelona bought the best of the mighty Ajax bunch in 1973. West Germany playmaker Gunter Netzer followed suit by moving to Real Madrid f rom Borussi a Monchengladbach the same year, and his compatriot, the full back Paul Breitner, left Bayern Munich for Real Madrid. Mario Kempes arrived at Valencia from Argentina to become a star in 1977, and Barca later signed Hans Krankl from Rapid Vienna and Allan Simonsen from Borussia Monchengladbach. However, Spanish clubs failed in Europe, as Ajax , Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest took the spoils with mainly home-grown talent.

ITALY'S DECADE 1980s
Trendsetter: Diego Maradona Barcelona to Napoli, £6.9m

Barcelona lured Bernd Schuster from Cologne in 1980, Diego Maradona from Boca Juniors in 1982 and England's Gary Lineker in 1986. But, with the ban on foreigners in Italian football lifted after 14 years, the real business was soon being done there. Maradona left for Napoli in 1984 to find Falcao (Roma), Zico (Udinese) and Juventus magicians Michel Platini, Zbigniew Boniek and Michael Laudrup already there. The Old Lady welcomed Ian Rush from Liverpool in 1987, and AC Milan, having been rescued from bankruptcy by media magnate Silvio Berlusconi, splashed out on Dutch trio Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. Inter responded by snaring West Germany's Lothar Matthaus and Andreas Brehme from Bayern Munich and Jurgen Klinsmann from Stuttgart.

LA LIGA'S LOSING BATTLE 1990-93
Trendsetter: Paul Gascoigne Tottenham to Lazio, £5.5m

Italia 90 sold Serie A to the stars, with Thomas Hassler, Karl-Heinz Riedle, David Platt, Paul Gascoigne, Jean-Pierre Papin and Dennis Bergkamp among the A- listers heading across the Alps.

ENGLAND JOINS THE PARTY 1994-95
Trendsetter: Jurgen Klinsman Monaco to Tottenham, £2m

The Premier League lost Manchester United midfielder Paul Ince to Inter Milan in 1994 but, on the back of Sky money, in came a raft of exciting continentals such as Klinsmann and Romania's 1994 World Cup star Ilie Dumitrescu, who both went to Spurs.

David Platt returned from Italy to join Arsenal a year later, but the star signing at Highbury was Holland striker Dennis Bergkamp, who arrived from Inter Milan. Juninho turned up on Teesside, too, adding a samba rhythm to Middlesbrough's play.

SERIE A GETS SERIOUS 1996-97
Trendsetter: Ronaldo Barcelona to Inter Milan, £17m

The Brazil striker left PSV for Barcelona in 1996, but Inter shelled out a world record fee to snatch the World Player of the Year after one season at the Nou Camp. France's Zinedine Zidane (Juventus) and Youri Djorkaeff (Inter Milan) headed for Serie A after Euro 96, but there were also big-money moves in Spain, and Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea) and Fabrizio Ravanelli (Middlesbrough) made unlikely moves to England.

EURO FREE-FOR-ALL 1998-2001
Trendsetter: Zinedine Zidane Juventus to Real Madrid, £47m

The France playmaker's defection from Italy came in 2001 for a world record fee which would take eight years to beat, but money was flying all over the place at the turn of the millennium.

Patrick Kluivert left Milan for Barcelona in 1998, but there was traffic the other way, with Clarence Seedorf (Inter) and Gaizka Mendieta (Lazio) quitting Spain.

Manchester United grabbed Juan Sebastian Veron, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Jaap Stam, and Arsenal lured Thierry Henry from Juventus.

LOS GALACTICOS 2002-03
Trendsetter: Ronaldo Inter Milan to Real Madrid, £25m

The TV money was drying up in Italy and Brazil striker Ronaldo had seen enough, heading for Madrid in 2002, where he was joined by David Beckham 12 months later. Ronaldinho snubbed Manchester United for a move to Barcelona. Chelsea continued to spend big, but the captures of Hernan Crespo, from Inter Milan, and Claude Makelele, from Real Madrid, didn't have the wow factor of many deals in Spain.

CHELSEA CHANGE THE GAME 2004-08
Trendsetter: Andriy Shevchenko AC Milan to Chelsea, £30m

Roman Abramovich transformed English football and - at the second summer of trying - San Siro legend Shevchenko was prised from Milan in 2006. Italy had been tarnished by the Juventus match-fixing scandal and the best players were now choosing England. Didier Drogba, Arjen Robben, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira had already arrived at Stamford Bridge for huge fees, making most of Real Madrid's signings during this period look lacklustre. Fernando Torres pitched up at Liverpool from Atletico Madrid to confirm the shift in power to these shores. Manchester City joined in at the end of 2008, signing Brazil's Robinho from Real Madrid.

RETURN OF THE GALACTICOS 2009-?
Trendsetter: Cristiano Ronaldo Man United to Real Madrid, £80m

Florentino Perez returned as Real Madrid president and the stars followed him. Within days, Kaka, who had snubbed Manchester City, joined from AC Milan for £56m, then Cristiano Ronaldo quit Manchester United for a world-record fee. Barcelona paid £40m plus Samuel Eto'o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, while only City were spending seriously in England. Chelsea are likely to hit back this year, but the elite players such as Franck Ribery and Sergio Aguero would still prefer to play in Spain.

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