PSG, Anzhi and the Top 10 European Clubs on the Rise
Today, more than ever in football, it seems, money talks.
A couple of years ago, no one could have imagined Paris Saint-Germain would pull off the biggest transfer deal of the summer. Until recently, Samuel Eto'o had almost certainly never heard of Anzhi Makhachkala, let alone imagined he would play for them.
But thanks to their respective big-money takeovers, both sides have achieved unimaginable things in the transfer market, if not yet on the pitch.
But they are not the only two European clubs who appear to be on a sharp upward trajectory. Here are some more for whom, it seems, the only way is up.
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The aforementioned deal brokered between PSG and AC Milan has seen Thiago Silva and Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrive at the Parc des Princes in a sensational double-deal.
Had you suggested such a transfer would be possible on the first of this same month, you would have been laughed out of town. But there was Zlatan not two days ago, posing in front of the Eifel Tower.
Add in the capture of Ezequiel Lavezzi, French champions Montpellier selling their star striker, Marseille losing their manager and Lyon seemingly intent on re-building from the ground up and the stage is set for PSG to dominate France next season and Europe thereafter.
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The Russian republic of Dagestan, located on the banks of the Caspian Sea, was not known as a hot bed of football before billionaire Suleyman Kerimov took over in January 2011.
A few month later, Brazil legend Roberto Carlos was signed, and he was followed by two-time Champions League winner Samuel Eto'o a few months later, with the Cameroon striker becoming the highest-paid player in world football.
Anzhi finished fifth in the Russian league last season and they began their Europa League campaign this week with a 1-0 home win over Honved in the second qualifying round with the team that also featured Yuri Zhirkov, Chris Samba and Lacina Traore.
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Considering how comically Newcastle used to be run by owner Mike Ashley—whose farcical early days of his reign led to the club's relegation—the turnaround in the club's fortunes he has facilitated is remarkable.
Ashley has learned from his previous mistakes, dispensed with his poor advisers and is now bringing the same sage practices which earned him his fortune in retail into his football business.
If the Magpies manage to sign French right-back Mathieu Debuchy for another miserly price, as they have done for so many of their other top players, then their rise is sure to continue.
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Having only avoided relegation from the Bundesliga via a playoff in 2011, last season Lucien Favre's Gladbach team went through a complete transformation.
They beat Bayern Munich home and away and were for a long while title contenders before eventually finishing fourth, and thus will be in with a shout of a Champions League group place next season.
Losing star attacker Marco Reus has been compensated somewhat by the acquisition of Granit Xhaka from Basel. The German league could be very interesting indeed in the coming months.
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They may have lost Ezequiel Lavezzi this summer but, for now at least, Napoli has managed to hang on to the other two members of their former "Holy Trinity"—Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik.
The addition of Valon Behrami from Fiorentina has bolstered what was already a formidable midfield which helped the Partenopei to fifth in Serie A and the knockout phase of the Champions League last season.
With Inter Milan going through a transitional phase and AC Milan losing their two best players in one fell swoop, this is Walter Mazzarri's team's best opportunity to build on their Coppa Italia triumph and make a real assault on their first title in 23 years.
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Like many clubs on this list, Malaga are rapidly being converted from also-rans in their domestic league into a real prospect thanks to heavy investment from the Middle East.
Although they are yet to land a truly landmark star signing, the wages on offer at the club in Costa del Sol has certainly seen the general calibre of players arriving improve greatly.
The initial splurge of signings was enough to see the Andalucian club sneak into the fourth spot last season. Depending on how they fare in Europe next term, that could prove to be just the start.
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It does seem a little absurd to include the newly-crowned Premier League champions on this list, but it cannot be denied that they are still very much on the rise.
With the two biggest domestic trophies bagged over the past two seasons, thoughts at Eastlands can now turn to making a better fist of it in Europe next term.
Even without another megastar signing to add to the ranks of a team with a spine of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero is still a good way to go.
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Last year's Europa League winners showed themselves a real team to be reckoned with.
Atletico may be the perennial losers in Spain's capital, but they showed they are still capable of glory by winning the same trophy twice in three years.
They may have lost playmaker Diego, but retaining goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on loan and striker Radamel Falcao in his huge contract should see Los Rojiblancos do well next season.
They may not be the most stable club, but Braga have made their presence in the upper reaches of the Portuguese league consistent over the past few years.
Despite going through 10 managers over the past six years, the club nicknamed the Arsenalistas have broken up the hegemony of traditional powerhouses Porto, Benfica and Sporting Lisbon.
Brazilian striker Lima enjoyed a breakout season last term, scoring 20 league goals to share the top of the scoring charts with Oscar Cardozo. Such an asset is something new manager Jose Peseiro can build upon to take the 2011 Europa League finalists up another level.
After years of being linked with almost every club job going in England, Slaven Bilic finally took the plunge this summer by leaving the Croatia national team to take charge of Lokomotiv Moscow.
He took with him countryman and versatile defender Vedran Corluka and inherited a squad which boasts plenty of attacking talent in the form of Roman Pavlyuchenko, Felipe Caicedo and Victor Obinna.
Lokomotiv, who finished seventh last season, got their new campaign off to a great start, coming back from conceding an early goal to win 3-2 at Mordovia Saransk.