- The European football season has two transfer windows
- One runs in the offseason, the other throughout the month of January
- Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez are two high-profile EPL stars linked with moves
- French clubs Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain have spent heavily
The sun is shining, barbecues are out, beaches are packed and the commute to work is slightly less crowded than normal. It can mean only one thing: football's summer transfer window is upon us. Most managers hate it, fans are powerless to resist hourly updates on it; sports journalists worldwide are consumed by it. With a further month of fevered speculation, rumor, counter-rumor and downright subterfuge to come before it closes, CNN tries to work out what it all means.
Will he, won't he?
Every summer needs a transfer saga. Recent tradition tends to place an Arsenal player at the center of a heart-wrenching drama, with dastardly suitors attempting to steal him away from Arsene Wenger's bosom.
Usually, after a summer of emotionally charged hearsay, these players stick around to give the Arsenal boss one more chance to deliver the satisfaction they crave.
But eventually, as with Patrick Vieira (Juventus), Thierry Henry (Barcelona), and Robin Van Persie (Manchester United), the lure of new pastures proves too strong, and the bond is broken.
This year, in a dramatic break from tradition, it is Arsenal's turn to play the villain in the love triangle, and covet the prized assets of other clubs. Gonzalo Higuain proved to be nothing but a flirt, eventually finding Napoli more enticing than North London.
While many label him a bad boy, Arsenal now seem only to have eyes for Luis Suarez. Faint heart, as they say, never won fair maid; but only time will tell whether Arsenal's seduction technique and slightly eccentric offers of £40 million, plus one pound, will be enough to tempt the controversial Uruguayan.
But none of these great romances can hold a candle to events on the other side of North London. For weeks Tottenham Hotspur have been clinging desperately to Gareth Bale, begging him to remember the good times and promising that a top four finish in the Premier League can make him happy again.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, have been suggestively whispering that, while he looks great in white, he'd look even more fabulous in the white of the Castilian giants.
Certainly the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale on their respective wings is more than enough to get most Madrilenos salivating, but until this week it seemed that Spurs would keep their man.
Now, however, things have changed; the latest reports indicate the Londoners' passion for Bale has cooled sufficiently for them to admit defeat. As with many a high-profile divorce, however, the scale of the pay-off should at least help to wipe away their tears.
Vive la revolution!
Time was when the mere suggestion Chelsea or Manchester City were interested in a player pretty much put an end to transfer speculation; indeed, when Edinson Cavani indicated he was ready to leave Napoli behind him, England seemed his inevitable destination.
To the surprise of many, however, the towering striker opted to join the newly minted French champions, Paris Saint Germain, instead. The Premier League may still believe itself to be the world's best, but this summer's evidence shows that its spending power may be diminishing.
What's more, the traditional big three European leagues -- England, Spain and Italy -- can no longer have it all their own way. For a start the Bundesliga has already demonstrated its strength on and off the pitch, with trophies and multi-million dollar transfer fees alike.
France's Ligue 1, however, is making a surprise bid to join the giants. The resurgence of Monaco, and their favorable tax rules for foreigners, has added a new string to the French elite's increasingly impressive bow.
Alongside their Qatari-backed Parisian rivals, Monaco are simply outbidding the big spenders, leaving the likes of Chelsea -- who they also beat to the signature of Falcao -- scratching their heads. Suddenly, French football seems a lot more interesting, and Jose Mourinho's billionaire-backed Blues a little less potent.
Austerity is for normal people
All over Europe, austerity is biting hard. Unemployment, particularly among the young, is at eye-watering levels, and belts are being tightened accordingly.
In England, where former Premier League perennials Coventry City have become the latest club to hit skid row, fans have also been protesting at high ticket prices. All the signs should point to a more sensible age of spending in the game.
Of course, we're talking about football here though -- a world where almost nothing makes any sense whatsoever. So while Spanish unemployment lines grow, talk of Real Madrid paying a record-obliterating $120 million for a player many argue they don't really need seems absolutely genuine.
In fact, according to a FIFA report, transfer spending over the first six months of 2013 sharply increased, while the list of multi-million dollar deals in this summer's window grows almost daily. It remains to be seen whether spending in 2013 will set new records, but don't bet against it.
Are you ITK?
Everyone likes a bit of juicy gossip, and starved of the usual stuff to talk about, football fans in summer are particularly susceptible to a little tittle-tattle.
The inexorable rise of Twitter has spawned a wave of people claiming to be "ITK" ("in the know") -- particularly supposed agents. The most notorious of these fakes unmasked himself last year, but only after his (completely fabricated) rumors had found their way into the mainstream media.
One hapless fan even bought a shirt with the name of an apparently done-deal transfer emblazoned on it.
These days it is often hard to tell whether the rumor you have picked up on social media is anything more than a mischievous hoax, but fake agents are not just found on Twitter.
A more insidious breed is also playing a highly damaging role in some young footballers' careers. The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where an international scouting camp has been set up to help young players find genuine agents and avoid being exploited by chancers.
Even experienced players can be hoodwinked, as Glasgow Rangers striker Francisco Sandanza discovered to his cost earlier this year. The Spaniard was sacked after details of an overly candid phone call with a man purporting to be an agent were made public, to the anger of his employers. Buyer beware.
Footballers have feelings too
Wayne Rooney is "angry" and "confused". Gareth Bale is "horrified" and "distraught". Meanwhile Arsene Wenger apparently experiences every defeat "like a death", so who knows how the Frenchman is coping as Arsenal keep missing out on their transfer targets.
Footballers and their agents, managers and chairmen have been reaching for their thesauruses in an attempt to convey the sheer emotional turmoil that the transfer window brings.
There are safety issues for the general public too: back in 2006 Ashley Cole almost "crashed his car in disgust" when he heard Arsenal were only prepared to offer him £55,000 a week, rather than the £60,000 he had his heart set upon.
Top footballers are fragile creatures. During this unsettling period, as they are forced to endure exotic beach holidays and wonder just how much money might be on the table, one really has to feel for them.
Still, with just a matter of weeks to go until the Window closes, calm will soon be restored - at least until it reopens on January 1st, and the whole astonishing business gets underway once again.