Top 7 Biggest Transfer Swap Deals

With Alexis Sanchez all but set to switch places with Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Manchester United, one of the finest swap deals of the era could be on the cusp of coming to reality.

However, deals of this nature haven’t always been the easiest to negotiate due to the various parties involved. Regardless, the business side of the game has had a few opportunities to witness them. Let us look at some of the best ones:


1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto’o

Probably the biggest swap that European football has ever witnessed, with two world class strikers at the peak of their game being involved.

Barcelona received the Swedish international as part of the exchange, who was yet to have struck fear into the hearts of defenders that his tenure at Catalonia, Paris, and eventually Manchester would strongly cement. While his days at Barcelona were not the best of his career, it’s what happened to the player he was swapped for that is interesting to note.

Eto’o arrived at Inter to a rare success, with the Italian side having a sour history with swap deals. Over the course of the two seasons, he found the back of the net 52 times and aided Jose Mourinho’s side to a historic treble in 2010. His future stints across Europe were noteworthy too.

2. Ashley Cole for William Gallas

The Premier League seldom sees swap deals, but when it does, the English game trumps in drama. The most obvious example is the saga that went down between Arsenal and Chelsea in 2006.

With the Blues desperate to land Cole, the staggering £25 million that the Gunners wanted for his signature turned quite a few heads. In the end, Chelsea were forced to give up £5 million in addition to French international William Gallas in order to make the signing.

But of the two London clubs, it was undoubtedly Chelsea that came out superior, with Cole leading them to win nine trophies over eight years and continuing to be a vital cog in their squad until his departure in 2014.

In contrast, Gallas didn’t achieve anything in his four-year term, and was eventually sold off to rivals Tottenham.

3. David Luiz and Nemanja Matic

Two players that have made Chelsea a lot of money as a result of clever pieces of business. The  London side was desperate to land David Luiz in 2011, with the Brazilian having made great strides during his days at Benfica. However, in the end, the deal had to go through with the inclusion of Matic as well as a fee.

Interesting enough, Matic played with such brilliance during his stint in Portugal that Chelsea re-signed him for £21 million a mere two and a half years later. David Luiz, on the other hand, was sold to PSG for an astounding fee of £50 million.

Later on, he too was brought back to the Bridge, while Matic moved to Manchester United. All the while, the board at Chelsea must have been all smiles.

4. Antonio Cassano for Giampaolo Pazzini

The merchant of swaps deals, Inter Milan did a memorable move back in 2012. This time around, the piece of business was closer to home, and with bitter rivals AC Milan.

Pazzini left Inter with a reputation for being a firm-headed striker, but it was the man coming in on the other side that would make a stronger mark.

Both Italians were remarkable in their style of play, but judging by their shared time at Sampdoria, one does feel that the teams had erred quite a bit and would have been better off keeping one and buying the other.

5. Luis Garcia for Fernando Torres

Garcia was a staple striker for Liverpool during his days in England. A fond memory would be his contributions in the Champions League title they secured in 2005. However, in 2007, he decided to move to Atletico Madrid.

Meanwhile, the Merseyside club received a young striker by the name of Fernando Torres. None of the clubs knew it at the time, but at £27 million, the Spaniard was the then club record signing, with Garcia contributing to a mere £4 million of the total fee.

Unfortunately, despite scoring prolifically at Anfield, Torres was unable to win any trophies, and he moved to Chelsea, breaking yet another club transfer record. But his tryst with swap deals hadn’t ended, as his eventual return to Madrid from Milan would indicate.

In comparison, Garcia was able to stick with the La Liga side for quite many years after which he had stints in Greece, Mexico, and Australia.

6. Ricardo Quaresma for Deco

This one goes back all the way to 2004. Having impressed quite well at Porto, Deco had nearly every major European giant to choose from as his summer destination. However, his eventual choice was the cause of much dispute that drew out and had the potential to get ugly.

In the end, Barcelona had to settle for €15 million, and offered up Ricardo Quaresma to land the Portuguese midfielder. With a Champions League firmly under his belt, this is perhaps one of the earliest instances of a swap deal being employed as a deal breaker for a big name.

7. Michael Owen for Antonio Nunez

Another deal from 2004, this one involving a Ballon D’Or winner. Owen was phenomenal at Anfield, leading Real to believe that he would be the perfect Galactico. To ease the deal through, Antonio Nunez headed to England and a fee of £8 million exchanged hands.

As fate would have it, Owen spent only a year at Madrid, having netted 13 goals in 36 games, which in retrospect might not have been that bad of a tally prior to the goal heavy days that post 2010 football has graced supporters with.

In fact, his demise at Madrid came due to being used mostly as a substitute, by virtue of bigger stars being present.


However, if the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal does go through, it will be interesting to see which of the above instances it will have the most common with; or will a new precedent be set altogether?


Written by Naveen Kelvin  

A writer trying to craft the poetry within football. Purpose in life is to Make Good Art.


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