DORTMUND, Germany -- The World Cup may soon be over, but the games are
just beginning in the transfer market.

The giants of the European game have their checkbooks at the ready as
the tournament nears its climax in Berlin on July 9, with a World Cup
winner likely to cost a pretty penny.

But for the likes of Chelsea and Real Madrid money is no object as they
look to sign the best players in the world to add to their already
star-studded ranks.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo was supposedly on the shopping list of Real
Madrid but both player and club have cooled their mutual interest since
Ramon Calderon was announced as Real's new president.

Calderon's election pledge was to sign Brazil's Kaka of AC Milan, the
Netherlands' Arjen Robben of Chelsea and Cesc Fabregas of Spain and
Arsenal. It will be a coup if he pulls off that tasty trio of signings,
but Real has a habit of getting what it wants.

So do Chelsea. Backed by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Blues
coach Jose Mourinho has already added Germany's Michael Ballack and
Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko to the ranks of last year's Premier League
title winners.

Ballack came on a free transfer but commands wages of about £130,000
a week, which makes him the highest paid player in the world.
Shevchenko isn't playing for peanuts either after arriving from AC Milan
in a £30-million transfer deal. Mourinho has now set his sights on
Arsenal and England left back Ashley Cole, who will cost about 20
million pounds.

Italian juggernauts AC Milan and Juventus would normally be expected to
be circling the créme de la créme of footballing talent in the summer
months, but both clubs are caught up in the match-fixing scandal rocking
the domestic game in Italy. They face the ignominy of relegation from
the top flight in Italy, which would likely signal a mass exodus of
their star players.

Juve's cause is not helped by the recent resignation of coach Fabio
Capello, who is heading to Spain to coach Real Madrid.

France's Patrick Vieira, who had a tough time in his debut season in the
Italian League with Juventus, may not need much encouragement to head
back to the Premier League, with Manchester United and Liverpool rumored
to be interested in the ex-Arsenal star.

Less likely to leave their clubs in the lurch are the Italians such as
Juve's Fabio Cannavaro and AC Milan's Gennaro Gattuso, although if they
did choose to up sticks, Man Utd, Real Madrid and Chelsea would be more
than willing to accommodate them.

Vieira's French teammate Franck Ribery is hot property after a number of
dazzling displays for Les Bleus in their run to the semifinals. The
Marseille winger -- earmarked as Zinedine Zidane's successor when the
master retires after the World Cup finals -- looked likely to be heading
to Gerard Houllier's Lyon after the tournament was over but his stock
has risen and he may now try his luck in Spain or England.

Bayern Munich's Philipp Lahm has been in brilliant form during Germany's
unexpected run to the semifinals and the youngster was linked to Chelsea
-- who hasn't? -- after his stunning strike in the hosts' opening game
against Costa Rica.

Miroslav Klose's five goals in the tournament have also alerted the
likes of Man United and the Werder Bremen striker may also be in line
for a move if he proves he can steer clear of the injuries that have
blighted much of his career.

His striker partner Lucas Podolski has already booked his post-World Cup
destination -- the 21-year-old is heading to Bayern Munich.

Clubs in the market for a goalkeeper could do worse than put in an offer
for Sporting Lisbon's Ricardo, who set a World Cup record when he saved
three spot-kicks in Portugal's quarterfinal win over England. Ricardo's
teammate Simao Sabrosa, who plays for Benfica, could also on his travels
after the tournament is over, with Rafa Benitez wanting to add the
winger to his collection of Iberian stars at Liverpool.

Sabrosa's ex-club Barcelona have been the quietest of soccer's European
giants -- and they have every right to be seeing as they regained the
Spanish title last season and also won Champions League.

''If it ain't broke, why fix it?'' is the thinking at the Catalan club.

But Barca still may get involved in the summer transfer madness if they
see a player who takes their fancy. Like all their rivals don't bet
against them getting their man.

And if it's a World Cup winner that fits the bill, the clubs should
expect to pay a pretty penny.