Wiltord completes loan move to Marseille
Marseille made Sylvain Wiltord their second attacking acquisition of the January transfer window by signing the former France forward on a six-month deal.
The arrival of Wiltord, who has been released by fellow Ligue 1 side Rennes, comes hot on the heels of OM's purchase of Brazilian striker Brandao for a fee believed to be as much as 8million euros.
To cap a busy couple of days of transfer activity at the Mediterranean club, out-of-favour defender Gael Givet today joined Premier League strugglers Blackburn on a six-month loan, with a view to a permanent move in the summer.
Marseille's fans are unlikely to lose any sleep over Givet's departure. Indeed, all the talk today was about 34-year-old Wiltord, who will see the move south as a chance to kickstart his career after a difficult year and a half in Brittany.
``We need an experienced player who brings something to the dressing room and who has an exemplary attitude,'' OM coach Eric Gerets said of the former Lyon and Arsenal forward, who was a member of France's Euro 2000-winning squad.
Wiltord barely featured for Rennes, who he joined in the summer of 2007, but his presence has been invaluable at a club who have moved from being wannabe UEFA Cup qualifiers to genuine title contenders.
``His arrival created a dynamic - and not only because we sold more shirts,'' said Rennes president Frederic de Saint-Sernin, whose side are currently third in the Ligue 1 table only two points off leaders Lyon.
``I went to get him because there was a great story to write. His arrival increased the standing of the club. It showed that Rennes could be attractive.''
Signing for Marseille, arguably the biggest club in France, is another thing entirely but Gerets will hope Wiltord can be an influence on their young forwards, such as the mercurial Hatem Ben Arfa, who he played alongside at Lyon.
Marseille finally have options and numbers up front, something they have not had for a couple of seasons.
With Brandao providing competition alongside Mamadou Niang, Baky Kone, Mamadou Samassa and now Wiltord, OM should not be short of goals as they continue their three-pronged assault for honours, in Ligue 1, the UEFA Cup and the Coupe de France.
Since Djibril Cisse left for Sunderland on a season-long loan last summer, Niang has had to shoulder the striking burden more or less alone, with Kone inconsistent and Samassa bought for the future.
But since Niang broke a bone in his foot at the start of December, OM have slipped off the pace in the league - they are currently fourth, four points off Lyon - and have struggled for goals.
Niang will return at the start of February, by which time Brandao should have made his mark, and the pair should complement each other well.
``I am a fighter, I'll give my all,'' said Brandao, who signed from Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk.
``I have come to score goals immediately, and to win the league. It is a great team, the best in France. I have always followed this club.''
Brandao, the 19th Brazilian to sign for OM, admitted he was unlikely to figure in Saturday's Ligue 1 match against Le Havre, the division's bottom club.
``I am not yet physically ready to play. I need time to adapt to my new team-mates,'' he said.
``In a week, I think I will be at a good level.''
However, Gerets, who today insisted OM would not be signing any more players in the current transfer window, is keen to integrate his new recruit as quickly as possible.
The Belgian will wait to see how Brandao performs in training tomorrow before deciding whether to include him in the squad for the weekend.
Brandao has taken the number nine shirt, the jersey vacated by Cisse.
That, dovetailed with Cisse's successful first few months back in England, is a clear indication the France international is unlikely to be returning to Marseille at the end of the season.