Football's 10 most memorable transfer swaps... and which club got the better deal
The transfer speculation surrounding Sanchez and Mkhitaryan has provided an outing for the scarcely seen swap deal – last refuge of the cash-strapped Football Manager player, and a transfer instrument that is weirdly popular in Serie A for reasons that definitely don’t have anything to do with money-laundering.
Here, we've selected 10 of the biggest swap deals in football history – and suggested who got the better deal...
Andy Cole for Keith Gillespie + £6m
Manchester United and Newcastle
At the time, this just seemed proof that Alex Ferguson was losing his grip – this being the season (1994/95) when he shipped out a number of players who'd helped earn Manchester United’s first league title since the days of Matt Busby.
It worked out OK – Cole went on to win pretty much everything going at United, although he is still maligned by some for perceived wastefulness in front of goal. While Cole was winning it all, and dabbling in music, Gillespie was a key figure in the Magpies side that could never quite match United. He left Tyneside in 1998.
Winner: Manchester United
Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto’o + £35m
Barcelona and Inter
Pep Guardiola may be the sharpest manager in recent history, but he isn’t much at the negotiating table if this deal is anything to go by. Eyebrows were raised when the Barcelona boss immediately dismantled the team that had won everything in 2009 – a straight swap would have just about made sense, but chucking in £35m on top of Eto’o really didn’t. It was the kind of transaction that has you checking your receipt outside the supermarket.
Jose Mourinho’s Inter were the beneficiaries – their Eto’o-powered side went on to win the Champions League the following year, beating Barcelona in the semi-finals. Ibrahimovic and Guardiola clashed spectacularly, particularly after that game, as the striker recalls. "Guardiola was staring at me and I lost it,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I thought, ‘There is my enemy, scratching his bald head!’ I yelled to him, ‘You have no balls!’ and probably worse things than that."
Fabio Cannavaro for Fabian Carini
Inter and Juventus
In 2004, Inter shipped out Italy’s future World Cup-winning captain in a swap deal for Uruguayan goalkeeper Fabian Carini. Cannavaro went on to form part of the Old Lady’s incredible defence in front of Gianluigi Buffon and alongside Lilian Thuram and Gianluca Zambrotta, before leaving to join Real Madrid after the Calciopoli scandal.
Carini struggled to break into the first team at Inter, making just four appearances for the club during a three-year spell, most of which was spent out on loan. Carini retired in 2016 due to chronic lumbar pain, while Cannavaro is the manager of Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.
Roberto Carlos + £1m for Ivan Zamorano
Inter and Real Madrid
Chilean forward Ivan Zamorano was one of the mostly coveted strikers in Europe in 1995, having fired 28 goals in 38 games to help Real Madrid win the Liga title. But he found himself sidelined by the emergence of Raul, and left for Roy Hodgson’s Inter in exchange for left-back Roberto Carlos.
The Brazilian would establish himself as one of the best left-backs in the world, and although Zamorano was far from a failure, he is probably best remembered for putting a plus sign between the 1 and 8 on his shirt to make a 9. Unforgivable.
Winner: Real Madrid