In football, player swap deals involve two clubs swapping players with or without an exchange of money. It’s a common and general means deployed by clubs to ship out footballers that are surplus to requirements.
When the Covid-19 contagion hit the football world in 2020, finances of various clubsides suffered huge debasement. So it became expedient for these clubs to cut costs and save themselves a lot of financial stress during the transfer window.
And this brought about resorting to swap deals for some.
Although, much of it didn’t happen. But the swap deal involving Arthur Melo joining Juventus from Barcelona and Miralem Pjanić going to the other side from Juventus brought about scrutiny from different quarters, especially fans of Barcelona .
Barcelona paid €60 million for 30-year-old Bosnian midfielder, Miralem Pjanić while Juventus paid €72 million for 23-year-old Arthur Melo.
The decision to let a young and enterprising Arthur Melo leave seemed like a disastrous move that will come to haunt Barcelona later in future.
It adds to the list of ludicrous swap deals we’ve seen in years past; and becoming a source of entertainment for fans as debates over who got the better deal or which of the teams involved would enjoy the services of the player they got the most.
Having said that, we take a look at the worst swap deals we’ve seen in football history.
Fernando Torres (AC Milan) for Alessio Cerci (Atlético Madrid) – 2015
Torres was clearly not in the Siniša Mihajlović’s long-term plans at Milan, so a move away from San Siro could not be ruled out for the Spaniard.
Meanwhile, Diego Simeone on the other hand was keen to bring Torres back to his boyhood club and to do this, he traded away the Italian winger to get Torres on loan.
Cerci had previously dazzled in SerieA during his days as a Fiorentina and Torino player. However, his return this time was catastrophic. The Italian scored once in thirty-three matches for the Rossoneri. He’s today a winger for a Serie C side, SS Arezzo.
While El-Nino went ahead to play another 160 matches for Atletico Madrid and he was able to bag the UEFA Europa League for the club before he left.
Winner: Atlético Madrid
Zlatan Ibrahimović (Inter to Barcelona) For Samuel Eto’o Plus £35m (Barcelona to Inter Milan) – 2009
Eyebrows were raised when Pep Guadiola in 2009, suddenly dismantled the sextuple winning team. And to make matters worse, he coughed out £35m plus a sacrifice of Samuel Eto’o to make way for Zlatan Ibrahimović – a deal Jose Mourinho gladly welcomed with open arms.
Definitely, no one could have predicted the disastrous consequences that would follow. Prior to this time, Eto’o has been an integral part of the Blaugrana squad even before the arrival of Pep. How he (Eto’o) suddenly became a sacrificial lamb for the Swede was inexplicable.
There’s no denying that Zlatan Ibrahimović was a fantastic player at that time, but it was quite illogical to replace the talismanic Cameroonian with Ibrahimović and still add a valuable amount of money that would’ve gotten a young and vibrant attacker – It was the kind of transaction that will make one check his receipt outside the supermarket.
Eventually, Jose Mourinho and the Nerazurri emerged biggest beneficiaries. Eto’o goals and overall performance propelled the Italian giants to the UEFA Champions League glory a year after, beating Barcelona in the semi-finals. As well as the Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.
Ibrahimović on the other hand had a dismal spell at Camp Nou. There were several controversies between him and Guadiola which to a larger extent, contributed to his underwhelming season and early exit from the club.
Till date, the Swede is neither a friend nor a fan of Guadiola.
Winner: Inter Milan
Leonardo Bonucci & £16m (AC Milan) for Gonzalo Higuaín and Mattia Caldara (Juventus) – 2018
These three have been teammates at Juventus from 2016 till 2017. It was Bonucci that first joined Milan on loan for €42m. His spell at Milan was quite disappointing; and ostensibly, he wasn’t getting younger. Hence the need for a replacement that could assume his position.
Bonucci headed back to the Bianconeri while Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara headed to Milan on a temporary basis.
Few months later, Higuain had landed at Chelsea following a series of unimpressive performances. Also, Mattia Caldara has yet to establish himself for Milan.
Meanwhile, Bonucci has become the captain for the Bianconeri without looking out of place.
Francesco Coco (Inter Milan) For Clarence Seedorf (AC Milan) – 2002
Inter Milan began to record breakthroughs when they successfully swapped Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto’o in 2009. Before then, they’ve made some disastrous swap deals.
The worst of them all is the deal that involved a two time UEFA Champions League winner, Clarence Seedorf, getting traded for Francesco Coco.
Coco, a defender, had been an anointed replacement for Paolo Maldini but he didn’t last longer due to his off field antics distractions. He retired at the age of thirty.
Seedorf won two more Champions League titles with Milan alongside two SerieA titles while Coco after retirement tried his luck in the Hollywood industry, he failed to make a mark as well. He now works as an estate agent.
Ashley Cole (Chelsea) For Wiliam Gallas & £5m (Arsenal) – 2006
This deal looked like a juicy deal initially given that the two players wanted to part ways with their respective clubs. Gallas particularly threatened Chelsea to score own goals if his move away from the club wasn’t sanctioned by Chelsea.
They finally got their wish when the Blues and the Gunners decided to swap the two want away players.
Ashley Cole ended up winning nine trophies with the Blues (UEFA Champions League and Premier League inclusive) while Gallas had a forgettable stint with the gunners.
Despite being named the team captain, the Frenchman became notorious for his numerous squabbles with teammates and his on-field antics ensured that his career nosedived.
Deco (Barcelona) for Ricardo Quaresma & £13m (Porto) – 2004
Following Porto’s captivating display in the UEFA Champions League in 2004, Deco became the most sought after player in Europe as a lot of clubs tried their possible bests to lure him to their clubs.
He opted to join the Blaugrana clubside with his country man, Ricardo Quaresma (who have been at Barcelona for just one year) going the other way along with €15m (£13.2m).
Quaresma had performed awesomely in Portugal before but couldn’t replicate or beat his previous success when he joined the Dragões again in 2004.
Meanwhile, Deco took it from where he stopped when he got to Barca, the artful midfielder won LaLiga titles, two cups and UEFA Champions League – becoming one of the few players that won the UCL with different clubsides in Europe.
Deco also became the first player to win the UEFA Best Midfielder Award with two clubs, Porto and Barcelona.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Man Utd) for Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal) – 2018
Arsenal played a fast one on Manchester United in 2018 when Alexis Sanchez crossed to Jose Mourinho’s tutored Manchester United from the Emirates. The deal was said to be an incredible deal at first, especially for United.
But the events that ensued after the deal was done was not in any way envisaged by anybody.
There were just a few months left on Sánchez’s contract at Arsenal, the Gunners struck a deal with United to send the want-away Chilean out, with Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction.
Sánchez was to be earning £391,000 a week, with a £75,000 bonus for every first team game he starts.
He would get a £1.1 million annual signing-on fee and if he did a combination of 40 goals and assists, He would earn £2m; £1m if United win the Champions League (!!!) and £500,000 for winning the Premier League.
Realistically, he was already set up to fail at United considering the humongous money he was to get if the aforementioned had been achieved.
His calamitous spell ended in 2020 having scored thrice in thirty-two matches for United.
However, Arsenal didn’t also get to enjoy the services of the Armenian, Henrikh Mhkitaryan but they were the side that benefited from the deal.
Winner: Arsenal (For Paying The Lower Wages)