David Beckham lit up a subdued transfer deadline day in Europe by securing perhaps the final move of his globetrotting career, a surprise short-term deal with ambitious French club Paris Saint-Germain.
Mario Balotelli, a headline-grabber at the opposite end of his football career, finalized his switch from Manchester City to AC Milan for €20 million ($27 million). Otherwise, there was plenty of speculation but precious little activity as another January window closed for business on Thursday.
With economic problems continuing to hit the continent hard, top clubs have also been forced to rein in their spending to ensure they adhere to UEFA's strict financial fair play rules.
The English Premier League — usually the scene of last-gasp trolley dashes among clubs — was quiet by its standards, with Arsenal moving late to sign Spain left back Nacho Monreal from Malaga for a reported fee of 8.3 million pounds ($13.6 million). Inter Milan was the busiest of Serie A's major teams but only to bring in four unheralded names.
Nothing, though, was ever going to upstage PSG's signing of Beckham, who moves to the French capital on a five-month deal during which time he will donate his salary to a local children's charity.
"I am 37 years old and I got offered a lot of offers, more offers now than I have probably had in my career," said the former England captain, who revealed he rejected bids from Premier League teams.
"I can still run around, I can still play as I did when I was 21 years old."
Where Beckham fits in at PSG is another question entirely. Once he regains his match fitness, he will likely have to settle for a bit-part role with the French league leaders, who are close to becoming the modern-day "galacticos" with Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva among the big names already at the club.
"I'm excited about the challenge," Beckham said. "I love the challenge wherever I have played, whatever league or culture I have played in."
Balotelli, who has been afforded hero status since his return to Italy on Wednesday, completed his move to Milan early Thursday, ending a turbulent two-and-a-half-year stint at City where he was rarely out of the headlines for his behavior on and off the pitch.
"Being at City was an important part of my life and career," the 22-year-old Balotelli said. "I needed to grow up like a player and as a person and it has been a very good experience for me."
Elsewhere in Italy, Napoli signed FC Porto defender Rolando on loan, Mohamed Sissoko joined Fiorentina on loan from PSG and Inter's signings were teenager Mateo Kovacic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic, Ezequiel Schelotto and Juan Pablo Carrizo.
In England, last-minute deals were mainly confined to the Premier League's strugglers, with last-place Queens Park Rangers sealing the biggest signing by bringing in giant defender Christopher Samba from Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala for a reported club-record fee of 12 million pounds ($19 million).
In a bizarre twist late on deadline day, Nigeria striker Peter Odemwingie drove to London from central England in an attempt force a move from West Bromwich to QPR. West Brom released a statement saying Odemwingie had been denied permission to talk to QPR and he was barred entrance to Loftus Road. Bundesliga clubs in Germany also resisted the urge to splash out on deadline day, with relegation-threatened Hoffenheim bringing in Tottenham's third-choice goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes on loan in the biggest move.