|Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has gone on record saying he is at the European Championships to "splash the cash". If that's not a starting pistol for every top manager in Europe to sprint to Austria and Switzerland, I don't know what is. While supporters from all around the world will be arriving to watch a festival of football, coaches and scouts from the continent's biggest clubs will be stampeding their way to the tournament with check books in hand. Euro 2008 is not only a contest to see who the best team in Europe is, it's also the soccer equivalent of the summer sales at Harrods.
Wenger has allegedly already picked himself out a nice little French number before the doors have even opened. After presumably setting up his camp bed in the street outside, Wenger heads the queue to sign France's Samir Nasri, the latest tyro to be saddled with the title of "The New Zidane". If Internet rumors are true, the Arsenal manager is about snap up the Marseille attacking midfielder for a cool 16 million euros ($25.2million).
Other covetous eyes will fall on the France squad during Euro 2008, most notably the beady ones of Manchester United supremo Sir Alex Ferguson. The manager of the newly-crowned European champions will undoubtedly be spying on the progress of Lyon striker Karim Benzema (left) despite the player's assertions that he is staying in France and that he would choose a move to Italy or Spain above the English Premiership. Sir Alex is unlikely to be put off by such piffling details.
While Ferguson is busy casting his stony glare over Europe's most sought after talents, he may want to keep the eye in the back of his head trained on his star player. Cristiano Ronaldo is currently the most sought after item in the luxury goods section and as such is being pursued by teams for whom money is no object. Real Madrid have made all the (vehemently denied, yet hugely obvious) running in this summer's drawn out "will he, won’t he" saga and are reportedly ready to part with a record 75 million euros for the Portuguese winger. Not to be outdone, Barcelona are ready to break more than a few banks to bring Ronaldo to Camp Nou.
While the giants of Spanish soccer are hand-bagging over Ronaldo's talents, a few of his Portugal team-mates may slip quietly from their clutches. Ricardo Quaresma is another on more than a few shopping lists this summer with long-term admirers Liverpool keeping tabs on the Porto flyer while Brazilian-born midfielder Deco is also a potential target for Chelsea.
If Italian labels are more your thing, there are some established brands and some new trends reportedly ready to strut their stuff down the Euro 2008 catwalk for potential customers to salivate over. AC Milan's veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo (right) is apparently on the market with a view to a move to the rough-and-tumble of the English Premiership while Juventus prodigy Giorgio Chiellini could follow him out of Italy. Roma's Alberto Aquilani has pledged allegiance to his home team but with the majority of Europe's top clubs circling, we'll see how strong his resolve is after a summer lighting up the European Championships ups the ante.
When it comes to causing scenes of careless spending and wild, consumerist abandon, it seems the Spanish squad tops the list this summer. If the Spanish hotel was a shop, there would be a sign on the door saying "open for business" while a queue of billionaire club owners would stretch down the street outside. If your budget allows, a Spanish shopping spree could include any of the following classy players: David Silva, David Villa, Daniel Guiza, Ruben de la Red and Raul Albiol.
Valencia's disappointing mid-table finish and their on-going plans for a new stadium mean that the Mestalla could see a fire sale this summer. If that is the case, attacking midfielder Silva, striker Villa (left) and right-back Albiol may be offloaded to capitalize on their soaring value. Barcelona are circling the hugely talented Silva, while Liverpool's Spanish coach Rafa Benitez is known to be an admirer. Villa is a target for London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal, and with Wenger at the Euros ready to spend, it could be the Gunners that succeed. Albiol is generating interest from within Spain but also in England too.
Mallorca hit-man Guiza, the continent's silver boot winner behind Cristiano Ronaldo in the scoring stakes, will feel the attention he's getting from various European clubs increase should he enhance his reputation at Euro 2008 while Real Madrid-bound midfielder de la Red may find his route to the Santiago Bernabeu diverted to Old Trafford.
All in all, it could be a busy summer of transfer activity accompanied by the sweet sound of ringing tills.