x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Valencia's United move is just the start

Manchester United kick-start the English summer transfer window with the signing of Wigan's Ecuador international.

Antonio Valencia, left, signed for Manchester United.
Antonio Valencia, left, signed for Manchester United.

Manchester United kick-started the English summer transfer window merry-go-round yesterday when they completed the long-protracted signing of Wigan's Ecuador international Luis Antonio Valencia, the first of several transfers in Europe as clubs were allowed to sign players for the new season.

United are believed to be paying £16million (Dh97m) for the speedy winger, who is Sir Alex Ferguson's first piece of business since losing Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid. Ronaldo's move to the Spanish giants was also confirmed yesterday for a world record £80m. Valencia felt the time was right for a change. "I have enjoyed my time at Wigan, but I am thrilled to have the chance to challenge for the biggest honours in club football," he said.

"Playing in front of 76,000 fans alongside Wayne Rooney, Rio Ferdinand and Ryan Giggs will be an amazing experience. I can't wait to get started." And if Miralem Pjanic is to be believed, Ferguson's re-investment of the Ronaldo fee is unlikely to end with Valencia. The Croatia international said yesterday that his Lyon teammate Karim Benzema has "nearly gone to Old Trafford," with the Red Devils willing to pay £38m for the powerful forward.

Real are also believed to be interested, with Spanish newspapers yesterday claiming a deal was done for him to be lining up alongside Ronaldo next season. Lyon confirmed they had received a bid, but did not name the club. "We have received an offer markedly higher than the figure mentioned, but nothing proves that it has come from Real Madrid," Lyon's director of communications Olivier Blanc said.

A host of other Premier League managers also began ticking names off their shopping lists. Blackburn's Sam Allardyce - buoyed by a cash influx from the sale of Roque Santa Cruz to Manchester City - moved swiftly to sign Steven N'Zonzi from relegated Ligue 1 side Amiens. The French midfielder is Rovers' fourth close-season signing, following defenders Gael Givet and Lars Jacobsen, as well as the midfielder Elrio van Heerden, to Ewood Park.

Bolton clinched the signature of long-time target Sean Davis, who arrives from Portsmouth on a free transfer. London-born Davis has made nearly 200 top-flight appearances with Fulham, Tottenham and Portsmouth. He turned down the offer of a new contract to stay at Fratton Park. Portsmouth have released five players: defenders Noe Pamarot, Lauren and Djimi Traore and midfielders Glen Little and Jerome Thomas.

Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, offloaded the Argentinian winger Sebastien Leto to Greek side Panathinaikos for an undisclosed fee. The 22-year old suffered ongoing work permit problems and spent last year on loan to his new club's fiercest rivals Olympiakos. Burnley, who were promoted to the Premier League this summer, have signed David Edgar from relegated Newcastle United. Although Edgar is out of contract, as he is under the age of 24 the Clarets will have to negotiate a transfer fee with Newcastle.

Wolves, also newly promoted to English football's top flight, followed up their £5m purchase of Reading striker Kevin Doyle with the slightly more economical signing of midfielder Andrew Surman from Southampton for £1m. Arsenal bucked the trend yesterday by not signing anyone - but tied the Wales international Aaron Ramsey to a "long-term" contract. Ramsey, 18, joined the Gunners from Cardiff City last summer.