Man City, Palace sign forwards as clubs begin spending

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's high-profile move to Manchester United was confirmed on Friday, headlining the first day of what likely will be the busiest and biggest-spending transfer window ever seen in English soccer (Thibault Camus/AP)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s high-profile move to Manchester United was confirmed on Friday, headlining the first day of what likely will be the busiest and biggest-spending transfer window ever seen in English soccer.

The arrival of 34-year-old Ibrahimovic at Old Trafford came after Manchester City signed Spain forward Nolito 13.8 million pounds ($18.3 million) and Crystal Palace spent about the same on England winger Andros Townsend.

It’s a sign of things to come this off-season as English Premier League clubs start to spend some of the 8.3 billion-pound ($11-billion) windfall from its record domestic and international TV rights deals for 2016-19. That’s an increase of around 70 per cent from the last deal, meaning England will again dominate the European summer transfer window that opened for business on Friday.

Ibrahimovic, who was a free agent after leaving Paris Saint-Germain, will play his club football in England for the first time in his trophy-laden career, in what could be his last big move.

Ibrahimovic has also played Ajax, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Juventus, and won league titles in four different countries.

The striker, who retired from international duty after Sweden’s exit from the European Championship last week, is reunited with new United manager Jose Mourinho. The pair got on well at Inter in the Italian club’s title-winning season of 2008-09.

"Zlatan needs no introduction," Mourinho said. "The statistics speak for themselves. Ibra is one of the best strikers in the world and a player who always gives 100 per cent."

Nolito became City’s second signing under new coach Pep Guardiola — after Germany midfielder Ilkay Gundogan — when he joined from Celta Vigo on a four-year deal.

The 29-year-old Nolito, who played under Guardiola at Barcelona from 2008-11, can play as a central striker or on the wing, and will freshen up City’s attack.

He started all four of Spain’s matches at the European Championship.

"Pep Guardiola is one of the best managers in the world," Nolito said. "He knows a lot about the game and he’s going to help me progress as a player, and I’m sure he’ll get the best out of me."

City later announced Argentina defender Martin Demichelis has left the club after three years.

Townsend joined Palace for a club-record fee of 13 million pounds ($17.3 million) on a five-year deal, with the winger ending his brief spell at Newcastle following its relegation from the Premier League.

Townsend ensured he will not be starting this season in England’s second tier by securing a move back to London. The winger left Tottenham for Newcastle in January but couldn’t stop the northeast team from relegation, despite scoring four goals in 13 games and being one of the form players in England in the second half of the season.

"It’s fantastic that we’ve managed to get a player of Andros’ quality into the club," Palace chairman Steve Parish said.

Striker Dwight Gayle went the opposite direction, moving to St. James’ Park on a five-year deal.

Watford signed Belgium defender Christian Kabasele from Genk and announced that captain Troy Deeney had signed a new five-year contract, ending speculation that the forward might be joining Premier League champion Leicester.

Everton signed Dutch goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg from second-tier Fulham on a three-year contract.

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