By Sam Holden
LONDON, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Even though Spain were ousted in the first round of the World Cup, the tournament's brightest lights still flocked to La Liga as Real Madrid and Barcelona again flexed their financial muscles in a busy transfer window.
European champions Real assembled a new breed of 'Galacticos', the most expensive squad of all time with around 640 million euros ($840 million) worth of talent, by snapping up Toni Kroos, James Rodriguez and goalkeeper Kayler Navas who all shone at the World Cup in Brazil.
Barca opted for infamy as they lured Luis Suarez from Liverpool despite the controversial striker receiving a long ban for biting an opponent while playing for Uruguay in Brazil.
English Premier League clubs also splashed out a fortune, Arsenal and Chelsea buying Barca cast-offs Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas respectively while manager Louis van Gaal began his reign at Manchester United by breaking the British transfer record to sign Angel Di Maria from Real for 75 million euros($98.47 million).
Van Gaal concluded some $250 million worth of dealings with a deadline day swoop for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao on a one-year loan deal, leaving England forward Danny Welbeck free to join Arsenal.
However, it was Barca and Real, the two richest clubs in the world in terms of income, that dictated most of the significant comings and goings in Europe.
Real coach Carlo Ancelotti secured his targets early, signing World Cup-winning Germany midfielder Kroos from Bayern Munich and Golden Boot-winning Colombia striker Rodriguez from Monaco.
"I watched James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos play in the World Cup and, for me, they were two of the best players in the competition," Real midfielder Luka Modric told the Spanish newspaper Marca.
"Real have shown their ambition by bringing such fantastic signings to the club. It's great news for us, the players, because we always want to play with the best, and also for the supporters who want to see the best players."
Arch-rivals Barca were forced to act quickly too after receiving a brief reprieve from a transfer ban, for breaching rules on the transfer of under-18 players, while an appeal to world soccer's governing body FIFA was ongoing.
The club eventually lost the appeal but not before they swooped for five players including Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic, Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen and Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo who all featured at the World Cup.
But it was the signing of Suarez, the top scorer in England last season with 31 league goals, who was the biggest buy of the window. He cost 65 million pounds ($107.95 million), the third largest transfer fee in history.
The 27-year-old joined former World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and Brazil striker Neymar in a formidable front line at Barca.
"I have really found a great atmosphere in the dressing room...everyone has been very friendly and obviously the time passes quicker if you are with team mates and new people," Suarez said after making his debut in a pre-season friendly.
"Neymar and Messi were fantastic to watch. Everyone knows what I can offer and I will work hard to bring trophies back to Barca."
La Liga champions Atletico Madrid also spent big to attract World Cup players in the shape of France winger Antoine Griezmann from Real Sociedad and Bayern's Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic.
While one prolific goalscorer left England for Spain, Diego Costa travelled the other way, joining Chelsea from Atletico for 40 million euros.
He already seems to be a shrewd acquisition for Jose Mourinho's side, having scored four in his first three league appearances for the Londoners.
Costa's arrival spelt the end of a disappointing 3 1/2-year spell at Stamford Bridge for Spain striker Fernando Torres.
He arrived in January 2011 as the-then British transfer record at 63 million euros but the fact Chelsea were prepared to allow a player once regarded as among the best forwards in the world to leave for AC Milan on a two-year loan deal was indicative of his spectacular fall from grace.
The high-profile departures from Stamford Bridge in the window, which included Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard, started with Brazil centre back David Luiz moving to French champions Paris St Germain.
The fee for Luiz, worth up to 63 million euros, meant he became the most expensive defender in the world.
Liverpool replaced one bad-boy striker with another by signing Italian international Mario Balotelli from Milan while rivals Manchester United added firepower as Colombia striker Radamel Falcao joined on loan from Monaco.
Southampton brought in a combined 58 million pounds after selling midfielder Adam Lallana to Liverpool and defender Luke Shaw to United.
Moroccan Mehdi Benatia was another expensive defensive signing when he moved from AS Roma to German champions Bayern for 25 million euros, joining Poland striker Robert Lewandowski who completed a protracted move from Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern, the 2013 European champions, also snapped up Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso from Real.
($1 = 0.7617 euro)
($1 = 0.6022 British pound) (Editing by Tony Jimenez/Nick Mulvenney)