Swap Deals: Assessing 6 of the Biggest Player Trades in the History of Football

​Don’t ask why, but for some reason Barcelona are willing to do whatever it takes to bring Neymar back to the Nou Camp.

Despite frantic efforts from the Catalans to seal the Brazilian’s return before the European transfer window closes on 31 August, he remains a Paris Saint-Germain player, but there have been no signs of his presence in the French club’s first few matches of the 2019/20 season.

​La Blaugrana and the Parisians have both rejected each other’s proposals for the sale of Neymar, with the latter ​holding out for a swap deal involving Ousmane Dembele and Nelson Semedo, plus €100m.

It seems Ernesto Valverde is unlikely to land his man unless the board agree to a trade that includes some of their finest talent. Should that occur, it would no doubt be the biggest deal of its kind in the history of the sport, though ​Juventus are looking to hijack Barça’s attempts to sign the forward.

Here’s a look at six other high-profile swaps and an assessment of which team came off better in the long run.

Gallas for Ashley Cole

Ashley Cole

Gallas was a good servant for ​Arsenal, but the centre-back was no way near achieving the levels of success enjoyed by Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge following their switch in 2006.

​Chelsea acquired arguably the world’s greatest left-back for the modest price of £5m and a defender who was threatening to score own-goals; it should be pretty easy to see which club got the worse end of the stick here.

Cole was an integral part of a side that won four FA Cups, the 2013 Europa League, one League Cup and a ​Champions League title, whilst also ending ​Manchester United’s run of three successive top-flight triumphs. 

In comparison, Gallas’ finest achievement in north London was finishing third…

Winner: Chelsea

Fabian Carini for Fabio Cannavaro

Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro (C) cel

Fabian Carini spent his time at Juventus as understudy to Gianluigi Buffon, the Uruguayan failing to make an appearance for the Bianconeri in ​Serie A before being shipped out on loan to Standard Liege for two years.

Nevertheless, Inter viewed him as equal in value to Fabio Cannavaro, the Nerazzurri nonchalantly agreeing to a trade. The latter went on to play in all bar two of Juve’s league fixtures in the two seasons that followed, with the club collecting the Scudetto in both.

The Calciopoli scandal saw the Old Lady stripped of both titles and relegated to Serie B – Cannavaro deciding to leave as a result – but that wouldn’t stop Cannavaro captaining Italy to victory at the 2006 World Cup.

Winner: Juventus

Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto’o

Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel

There can be zero doubts that Inter were the main beneficiaries of this controversial transfer in 2009 after they sent Barcelona tumbling out of the Champions League in Samuel Eto’o’s first campaign at the San Siro.

The Cameroonian didn’t manage to get on the scoresheet in either leg of their semi final encounter, but that is also true of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Fortunately for Eto’o, he ended the season as ruler of Europe, while the Swede ended it in a fit of rage.

Zlatan was unable to cope with the Lionel Messi love-in at the Nou Camp – as well as Pep Guardiola’s infamous intensity – and left Catalonia after just 13 months. It’s ludicrous that Barcelona let go of a first-rate finisher and £59m for a year of tantrums and poor form from Ibrahimovic.

Winner: Inter

David Luiz for Nemanja Matic

David Luiz,Nemanja Matic

On the face of it, this was terrible business from Roman Abramovich. He forked out £20m to bring in David Luiz during the winter of 2011, with Nemanja Matic also joining Benfica to sweeten the deal.

Then again, Luiz was in the starting lineup for what remains the Blues’ finest hour: their penalty-shootout victory over ​Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final. The defender was likewise selected to play against – of all teams – Benfica as they won the Europa League the following season.

So, it seems the Portuguese outfit fared better in terms of financial rewards, whilst Chelsea enjoyed on-field glory. They both have reasons to be cheerful!

Winner: Everyone

Ricardo Quaresma for Deco


Ricardo Quaresma is the king of flattering to deceive. A virtuoso talent who never fulfilled his potential, the forward will likely look back on his career and wonder what could have been.

Eager to be rid of him after a number of altercations, Barça coach Frank Rijkaard must have been counting his lucky starts when Porto bid €15m and the highly-rated Deco to bring him to the Estádio do Dragão in 2004.

During Quaresma’s troublesome time in Spain, his counterpart was busy earning himself a continental crown with Jose Mourinho. Deco would earn another Champions League medal with La Blaugrana, amongst numerous other honours. 

The less said about his countryman’s career back in Portugal, the better.

Winner: Barcelona

Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Alexis Sanchez

Henrikh Mkhitaryan,Alexis Sanchez

In the words of President Donald J. Trump: this has been the worst trade deal in the history of trade deals, maybe ever.

Alexis Sanchez rakes in at least £350,000-a-week at Old Trafford, though that figure is normally bolstered by a further £150,000 in add-ons. What does he do to command such an astronomical wage? I…um…I don’t actually know.

The Chilean has an absolutely dire strike-rate of one goal every nine matches for United, a ratio that is eclipsed by make-weight Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who scores once in every six. More to the point, the Armenian actually tries, something which cannot really be said of Sanchez.

It’s a tragedy and a comedy wrapped into one big tale of decline, disgrace and dumb dealings. The Red Devils tried so desperately to get one up on neighbours ​Manchester City and they’ve only succeeded in making themselves a laughing stock.

Loser: Manchester United


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