2013 summer transfer window set to be greatest ever
Transfer window 2013: Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Neymar, Edinson Cavani & Radamel Falcao could all move
There January transfer window slammed shut and the curtains were drawn not even a month ago, but its summer equivalent is already moving into sharp focus as Europe's most prominent clubs plan to reinforce come the end of the season.
While last month was a relative damp squib, aside from the splurge of cash at Queens Park Rangers, the summer of 2013 would appear ready to ignite into one of the most engrossing transfer windows since its inception.
It is a rare thing when at least five of the leading players in the world appear that they could move clubs in the same transfer window, but that would seem to be the situation as it stands with spring almost upon us.
Firstly there is Gareth Bale of Tottenham, whose stunning performances of late have seen the Welshman compared to football's undoubted leading duo of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It may be a tad hasty to suggest Bale has reached the same level as the Barcelona and Real Madrid rivals, but the Spurs winger is destined to hit somewhere near the heights of this illustrious duo if he continues his upward trajectory.
Such has Bale's form been this season, the 23-year-old has emerged as one of the most sought after players in Europe, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Barcelona all credited with interest in the player.
Spurs, it is claimed, would be willing to sell for a bid in excess of £50 million and, with the Welshman tied down to a four-year contract, have a strong negotiating position if, as expected, the continent's top clubs come calling.
Real Madrid have been installed as the frontrunners to sign Bale, and a move to the Santiago Bernabeu would be the most high-profile transfer undertaken by the Spanish champions since their capture of Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United in 2009.
Bale, however, could arrive in Madrid as a replacement for Ronaldo rather than a teammate for the Portugal captain, whose potential departure this summer would cast even a deal for the former into relative insignificance.
Ronaldo's future as a Real Madrid player has been the subject of speculation for almost the duration of the season, with reports of a contract wrangle and dressing room unrest leading to suggestions of a return to Manchester United.
The Daily Star reported last week that Manchester United are prepared to smash their transfer record - previously broken in the halcyon spending summer of 2008 - to bring Ronaldo back to Old Trafford, and are working on a deal worth £55 million.
It would be a turn of events few would have predicted following Ronaldo's starring role in Real Madrid's record-breaking season last year, and a transfer that could, in its singularity, make the summer of 2013 one of the most momentous in transfer history.
While Bale could succeed Ronaldo and the Portuguese could return to Manchester United, Neymar's future may also be decided before the end of August this year, as the young Brazilian prepares to take a significant step towards joining the game's elite.
Santos vice-president Odilio Rodrigues summed up Neymar's protracted transfer to Europe quite succinctly on Wednesday, when he said the 21-year-old is 'being sold every day' with conflicting reports regularly emerging about the player's eventual destination.
Neymar's Brazilian employers still hope to convince him to stay with the club beyond the terms of his contract, which expires after the World Cup, but there remains a chance 2013 could be his year.
Although links remain to Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United, Barcelona is Neymar's most likely stop when he makes the move from South America, which is more anticipated than any switch to Europe in a generation.
Two fellow South Americans judged to among the very best in the world at present are Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani, for both of whom 2013 could also be a pivotal year in their respective careers.
For Falcao, a move across Madrid from Atletico to Real would appear to be a possibility, although more likely would seem a transfer to Chelsea in order to finally put Fernando Torres out of his misery.
Chelsea would seemingly have to outlay a similar amount of cash to the fee that landed Torres from Liverpool in January 2011 and, should they miss out on the Colombian, then Cavani is reported to be the next target in the crosshairs of Roman Abramovich.
The Uruguay international, however, is valued by employers Napoli at £60 million, and yet another transfer record would have to be surpassed in the summer of 2013 should Chelsea decide to pursue him.
It may be over four months until the transfer window is forced open once again, but it has all the makings of a transfer window never to be forgotten.