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Five stunning swap deals in football history as Tottenham seal £21m Bryan Gil transfer



When Tottenham announced the signing of Spain Under-21 international Bryan Gil on Monday, there was a notable mixed reaction to the news.

Of course, by snapping up one of Spain’s most exciting talents for £21m, there was the initial buzz of anticipation from Spurs supporters, eager to see the 20-year-old in action for the first time.

But the deal that saw Gil arrive from Sevilla also means that Erik Lamela — a cult hero amongst the Tottenham supporters — has headed in the opposite direction after eight years in north London.

As often seen with transfers of this sort, there is a bittersweet feeling of gaining something new but losing something treasured.

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Bryan Gil has joined Tottenham from Sevilla in a £21m deal, with Erik Lamela heading to Spain

Despite the circulation of potential swap deal stories in the transfer market speculation machine, very few actually come to fruition in the modern game.

That is because it is extremely difficult to find a balanced deal that satisfies all parties in monetary terms.

Both players must want to go to the clubs involved and more importantly, both clubs must want the players.

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Then there is the small matter of agreeing personal terms, agents fees and adhering to their league’s registration rules to complete the swap.

But on occasion, they can make for some of the most historic deals between some of the biggest clubs in the world.

Mirror Football picks out five of the most eye-catching swap deals from the modern era of football…

Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Samuel Eto’o enjoyed his two-year spell at Inter Milan but Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stint with Barcelona did not go to plan
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Getty)

Pep Guardiola has many transfers to demonstrate why he is arguably the world’s best coach, but the Catalan would not include this deal amongst his best examples.

When the Catalan took over at Barcelona in 2008, Guardiola shook up their playing style and wanted to eradicate every trace of Frank Rijkaard’s era, which included selling Ronaldinho, Deco and their top goalscorer Eto’o.

Guardiola had identified Ibrahimovic as the man to lead his new-look attack in 2009 after years of impressing in Serie A with Juventus and Inter Milan.

But the Swede would not come cheap. Inter demanded a huge £40m fee and Jose Mourinho wanted Eto’o included in the deal too — and to his surprise, Barca agreed to meet their demands.

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There is no question Inter got the better end of the deal, with Eto’o playing a pivotal role in their Treble-winning season and scoring 53 goals in 102 games for the Nerazzurri.

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, lasted only one season in Catalonia after falling out with Guardiola, having called his head coach “not a man” and returned to Italy with AC Milan.

Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan headed to Arsenal as Alexis Sanchez became a Manchester United player
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REUTERS)

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On paper, it was a transfer that made a great deal of sense for both Arsenal and Manchester United.

Alexis Sanchez was running down his contract at Arsenal and had showed no sign of renewing. Rather than risk losing him for free or a cut-price amount, the Gunners identified a replacement: Henrikh Mkihtaryan.

The Armenian playmaker had fallen out of favour under Mourinho at Old Trafford and the Red Devils were also keen to sign Sanchez.

So when Arsenal made their interest known in January, a swap deal was put forward and Man Utd almost snapped their hand off.

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It was agreed that there would be no fee exchanged, it was a straight swap. For Arsenal, they were gaining a player for free when they were primed to lose Sanchez anyway. For Man United, they had beaten Manchester City to sign one of the Premier League ’s star performers.

But with both players aged 29 and troubled by injury, there was always a chance that such a high-profile move could end in failure. Indeed, only two and a half years later neither player are at their respective clubs.

Sanchez managed to score only five times in his miserable 18-month spell at Old Trafford, while Mkhitaryan was flogged to Roma for £8m.

Ashley Cole and William Gallas

William Gallas (L) headed to Arsenal as Chelsea signed Ashley Cole (R)
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PA Archive/PA Images)

The recurring theme of these swap deals is that Mourinho seems to relish deals of this kind, but the Portuguese boss paid a heavy price for his involvement in this transfer.

Mourinho had targeted Cole as his top target to replace Wayne Bridge at left-back and when his contract talks broke down, the then-Chelsea manager made his move in the summer of 2005.

Chelsea had set up a meeting inviting Cole and his agent for lunch at a hotel in London which was spotted by photographers.

The Blues were found guilty by the Premier League of “tapping up” Cole and fined £300,000, The England defender defender was fined £100,000, later reduced to £75,000, while Mourinho was made to pay £200,000.

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Cole penned a one-year extension with Arsenal but when Chelsea returned the following year, the two clubs came to an agreement which would see Cole move for £5m and William Gallas would head to the Emirates in exchange.

The left-back became a popular figure with the west London club and won the Premier League in 2010 as well as the Champions League in 2012. Gallas endured a mixed spell with Arsenal and later completed the journey between London rivals after signing for Tottenham in 2010.

Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanic

Arthur Melo (L) swapped Barcelona for Juventus, with Miralem Pjanic (R) heading in the opposite direction
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As their current financial crisis shows, Barcelona have been guilty of making some catastrophic errors in their transfer dealings in recent times — and allowing Arthur to leave for next to nothing is at the top of the list.

The financial records will show that the Catalan giants paid around £65m to sign Pjanic in the summer of 2020, with Juventus then signing Arthur for £71m a day later. But the reality was very different.

It is claimed that this accountancy trick was utilised to ensure both clubs were able to skirt Financial Fair Play regulations, with only a small fee being exchanged by the clubs.

What was clear was that Barca had let one of their brightest players in Arthur, 23, depart to sign the experienced playmaker Pjanic, 30 — and the Bianconeri must have been delighted to secure such a deal.

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While Arthur featured 32 times for the Serie A outfit in his debut season in Italy, Pjanic made only six starts for the Blaugrana.

Barca’s financial crisis means they are required to drastically reduce their wage bill and that could see the Bosnian depart on loan or permanently this summer, only serving to highlight how bizarre this deal was from the very start.

David Luiz and Nemanja Matic

Nemanja Matic excelled at Benfica after being part of the deal that brought David Luiz to Chelsea
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REUTERS)

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Chelsea had tracked Luiz for the best part of a year before signing the Brazilian in January 2011 for a £25m fee. But as part of the agreement, Benfica had insisted Nemanja Matic was included as part of the deal.

At the time, the Blues were more than happy to oblige. Matic had been signed as a youngster from MSK Kosice but had only been used as part of their development squad.

The Serbian was not viewed as a player with high potential and he was allowed to join the Portuguese side. Letting him go, however, would prove to be a huge — and costly — mistake for the club.

Just three years after they had let him go, Mourinho had registered his interest in re-signing the midfield enforcer following an impressive stint in Portugal. Luiz, meanwhile, went on to join PSG in a record £48m deal.

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In July 2014, Chelsea agreed to pay £21m to bring Matic back to Stamford Bridge and the defensive midfielder went to play a key role in their two Premier League triumphs in 2014-15 and 2016-17.

They made their money back by selling Matic to Man United in 2018 for £40m, but it showed the club that perhaps they should err on the side of caution before giving up on their youngsters.

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