The most important swap deals in football history

In other sports (mostly popular in North America), the swap deal strategy is more commonly used. Although it exists and is applied in football, it is not as common.

In football, teams use it mostly for economic reasons since it serves as part of the payment for a player they are signing, although it also serves to "make up" accounts since the value of a player when sold is not the same as when bought. Italian clubs specialized in this type of operations, but little by little it has expanded to other markets.

David Luiz, Chelsea

David Luiz - Nemanja Matic

The Serbian midfielder was considered a young promise from the region of the former Yugoslavia, so in 2009, Chelsea signed him for £1.5 million from Slovak side Kosice. For the Serbian, it was difficult to play in a team that had John Mikel Obi, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack or Deco in the midfield, so he was loaned a year later to Vitesse.

In the summer of 2011, Chelsea became interested in David Luiz, a Brazilian defender who was standing out at Benfica and after some tough negotiations, the Portuguese club accepted the English offer that included Matic. The Brazilian would have two spells at Chelsea, one better than the other, while the Serbian would return to the English club in 2014 after paying 21 million pounds.

Ivan Zamorano - Roberto Carlos

In 1995, Roberto Carlos arrived in Europe with Inter Milan, after having had a great performance at Palmeiras in his country. His stay in Italy would last only one year since English manager Roy Hogson, in charge of Inter at that time, saw him as a midfielder or winger and not as a left or wing back, a position where he had played throughout his professional career.

This situation led the Brazilian to look for a way out, something that almost immediately caught the attention of Fabio Capello, who had just taken over as manager of Real Madrid, and urged the club to sign Roberto Carlos. In the operation, the Chilean striker, Iván Zamorano, headed to Milan. Although it can be said that Zamorano had some good seasons at Inter, Roberto Carlos was clearly better as he became a Real Madrid legend and one of the best left backs in history.

Ricardo Quaresma - Deco

In the summer of 2003, Sporting Clube de Portugal had two promising young players who looked like they were going to take the place of the Figo or Rui Costas of the golden generation of Portuguese football; Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma. The first signed for Manchester United and the second for FC Barcelona. Quaresma did not have much continuity with the Catalan club in his first and only year in the Barça team since he was not very liked by manager Frank Rijkaard.

In that 2003-04 season, Mourinho's FC Porto became champion of the UEFA Champions League with Deco as a figure. Barcelona was interested in the Portuguese-Brazilian and the Portuguese club asked for Quaresma as part of the operation. Deco would remain at the Catalan club for 4 years and help the team win several titles, including the 2005-06 UEFA Champions League, while Quaresma had one of the best periods of his career with FC Porto.

Alexis Sánchez, Inter
Alexis Sánchez - here playing for Inter Milan

Alexis Sánchez - Mkhitaryan

Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2018, the Chilean player was the star of an Arsenal that was not at its best, although Sanchez did manage to stand out. In that winter transfer window of 2018, Mourinho, manager of Manchester United at that time, saw in the Chilean the player who could make the difference in favor of the Red Devils due to his speed, skill and ease in scoring and assisting.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining Arsenal - Sky Sports 2018">United's offer consisted of an exchange for the Armenian Henrik Mkhitaryan who had already been at the Manchester club for a year and a half, although without having the expected performance for a player for whom they paid around 30 million pounds. The swap was not fruitful for either party, since neither the Chilean nor the Armenian performed at a good level in their new clubs.

Arthur Melo - Pjanic

In a context of COVID-19, in the summer of 2020, FC Barcelona, which was already looking for alternatives to alleviate an economic situation that was already becoming complicated (and would become even more complicated in the following years), looked for a swap deal with Juventus between the Bosnian midfielder, Miralem Pjanic, and the Brazilian Arthur Melo.

Both clubs made somewhat high valuations for each player so that the operation was as beneficial as possible from an economic point of view. Pjanic would only play one season at the Catalan club with little participation while Arthur received opportunities with Juventus although his non-sporting problems harmed his stay at the Turin club.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic holding up Barcelona shirt

Eto´o - Ibrahimovic

This is, possibly, the most important swap deal, or at least on the largest scale, that has occurred in world football. In the summer of 2009, Samuel Eto'o was finishing his fifth season with FC Barcelona, which coincided with Pep Guardiola's first year coaching the Catalan club and that memorable treble. The relationship between the Cameroonian and the manager was not the best despite the good results they had achieved and that led Guardiola to look for a striker in the market, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being the chosen one.

The offer from the Catalan club was 40 million pounds and Eto'o, which was an almost irrefutable offer for Inter, the team in which the Swedish star was. Ibrahimovic began as a regular in Barcelona's starting eleven, although he later lost that place due to Messi's placement as a false 9 as well as deterioration in his relationship with Guardiola, so he only stayed for one year, before returning to Italian football with AC Milan.

For his part, Eto'o won a second consecutive treble, eliminating the Catalan club in the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League.
Kelvin Tingling knows most things about football and also likes to write about it. Kelvin lives in Buenos Aires and his favorite team is Boca Juniors.