Summer is a time of sun, sand and spending. The transfer market enables football to provide drama 12 months a year. And the close season, with its lulls and periods of intense activity, with the blend of rumour and fact, has a rhythm of its own.
With seven weeks remaining, the Premier League squads may be taking shape, but jigsaws remain frustratingly incomplete. Ill-fitting spare parts linger, plans remain unrealised and time represents an increasing enemy. As it is, pre-season friendlies have commenced with the futures of many of the marquee talents still the subject of high-profile debate.
If Carlos Tevez, Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Luka Modric linger in limbo, they are not alone. It is a particularly common situation at West Ham United and Birmingham City, where relegated players await their passport back to the Premier League. As the reigning football writers' Player of the Year, Scott Parker has been expected to leave since West Ham were relegated two months ago. He, too, is in no-man's land.
Thus far, however, it has been a summer of surprise spenders and uncharacteristic caution. Over the past two years, Sir Alex Ferguson's lament that there was no value in the transfer market had become all too familiar.
After spending £50 million (Dh292.5m) on David de Gea, Phil Jones and Ashley Young as well as pondering costly deals for Nasri and Wesley Sneijder, it is a complaint Ferguson has dropped. Manchester United appear intent on reclaiming their reputation as the division's - and the city's - financial powerhouse.
In a role reversal in Manchester, Roberto Mancini has been prudent in acquiring Gael Clichy and Stefan Savic for modest fees. The interest in Neymar, Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero indicates that both the budget and the desire are available to make a statement signing to strengthen the side in the forward department.
Should Tevez go, the search for an elite striker may be extended to add a second. It must be accompanied, however, by the disposal of the unwanted and unhappy as finding new clubs for players such as Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz is another priority at the Etihad Stadium. City and Chelsea have generally powered the transfer-market carousel in recent years, but that has not been the case so far.
Andre Villas-Boas only made his first signing at Chelsea yesterday - that of Belgian goalkeeping prospect Thibaut Courtois, 19 - and Radamel Falcao's decision to sign an extended deal with Villas-Boas's former employers, Porto, appears one blow. With Michael Essien missing for much of the season, the quest for midfield reinforcements may have to be accelerated.
At Anfield, however, it has proceeded at remarkable speed. The signings of Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing mean only United have outspent Liverpool and gives Kenny Dalglish a surfeit of midfielders. Outgoings will be as important as incomings in the remaining weeks of the window.
If Liverpool can content themselves with the sense that they have shown ambition, that is now the task for north London's neighbours. Arsene Wenger has conceded Arsenal could not be regarded as a big club if they lost Fabregas and Nasri. Moreover, while the Frenchman has added Gervinho, the Ivory Coast international forward, to his attack, bolstering the defence was a priority in the summer. So far, it has been weakened by Clichy's exit.
At White Hart Lane, Harry Redknapp's reputation is as an enthusiastic collector of talents but Tottenham Hotspur's concern is to keep Modric out of Chelsea's clutches. The long-running attempts to sign a world-class striker remain unresolved and, Redknapp being Redknapp, further arrivals can be anticipated.
His mantle for wheeling and dealing is being assumed by Steve Bruce. Sunderland's nine signings make them the busiest club while promoted Norwich City have quietly brought in six players, one of them - the striker James Vaughan - from a typically quiet Everton. While other managers go into overdrive at this time, David Moyes remains in neutral.
He is the great anomaly. Managerial changes mean others are reshaping their squads. Paul Lambert at Norwich, Swansea City's Brendan Rodgers and Queens Park Rangers' Neil Warnock have a new division to prepare for; Roy Hodgson, Alan Pardew and Steve Kean are in their first summers at their respective clubs, West Browmich Albion, Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers; Martin Jol and Alex McLeish are new appointments at Fulham and Aston Villa, the latter with a sizeable budget, courtesy of Downing and Young.
So it doesn't require a great deal of foresight to predict plenty of movement and the usual scramble in the closing hours of the window on August 31. But while the personnel change, the questions remain the same: Who? Where? Why? And, sometimes the most intriguing of all, how much?