It's Thursday February 7th 2019. That means one thing and one thing only. No, not Neil Etheridge's 29th birthday, no, not even Neil Taylor's 30th birthday. It's the NBA Trade Deadline.
With this in mind, we thought we'd use their model of swapping players (without getting bogged down too much in the salary cap etc), to map out the six biggest possible moves that could be made in the footballing world with this format.
To start with, we'll offer you an introduction to how it works, by creating a couple of comparative trades to the one's recently made in the NBA, before shedding the stabilisers and freewheeling down the football trade highway.
Right, so, let's get on with it.
7. Example: Kristaps Porzingis Trade
So, as you may or may not have heard, the young Latvian prodigy Kristaps Porzingis was recently traded by the New York Knicks to the Dallas Mavericks, in what many suspect to be a salary dump ahead of a free agent run this summer that could include Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
So, basically this was the swapping of a unique (hence the nickname Unicorn) and special young talent for three fairly average players of differing ages, in order to create space for at least two big free agents in the summer. In that sense, it's slightly unusual, because, on the face of it, it's a terrible move that makes zero sense - there's nothing more valuable in this day and age than a good rookie on a good contract - unless, of course, you're sure you're able to get some generational talent in at a later date.
This was the trade in full: The Knicks gave Dallas Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee (somewhat useful veteran), Tim Hardaway Jr. (overpaid youngster with famous dad who never fulfilled potential) and Trey Burke (26-year-old squad player, former not-so-prodigy) in exchange for Dennis Smith Jr. (young player losing his allure), DeAndre Jordan (grizzled vet who can barely move), Wesley Matthews (see Courtney Lee) and two future first round picks.
A nice comp for Porzingis is Ousmane Dembele - young, prodigal, potential attitude issues, painted in a bad light, unique player, extremely exciting etc. And, we've chosen for him to go to Chelsea, because, well, it makes sense. You'll see.
Thus, the football equivalent becomes: Barcelona give Chelsea Dembele (Porzingis), Thomas Vermaelen (Lee), Rafinha (Hardaway Jr.) and Sergi Samper (Burke) for Marco Van Ginkel (DSJ), Gary Cahill (Jordan), Olivier Giroud (Matthews) and two future youth-team players.
See, it works! Chelsea get their next young winger (as a likely replacement for *spoiler* Eden Hazard) and La Blaugrana clear their decks for a superstar or two.
6. Neymar to Real Madrid (Using Anthony Davis as an Example)
Just in case the process isn't completely clear (do you not trust it? The process?), our first trade will come with another example, though this one is still (just about) hypothetical heading into the deadline.
When it's all said and done, Anthony Davis is probably the third best player in the NBA, certainly moving forward, just like (although no one likes to admit it) Neymar in world football. The problem is, they're both in too small a market (sort of) - one wants to go to the LA Lakers, and the other wants Real Madrid.
Let's take the proviso that both have already asked to leave, as Davis has done, meaning their respective teams, Paris Saint-Germain and the New Orleans Pelicans, have lost a little of their leverage. So we'll set out Davis' likely haul, before mapping out the Brazilian's.
Even with Davis' trade request, the Pelicans (because they aren't quite as tragic an organisation as the Knicks) will be giving up solely their star - no extras.
Thus the trade would be: Anthony Davis for Brandon Ingram (highly rated youngster who hasn't stepped up to the mark yet), Lonzo Ball (ditto, if pushed by a ragingly nuts but entertaining father), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (former prospect, now very meh) and a 2020 first round pick.
Now, the equivalent: Neymar for Asensio (Ingram), Dani Ceballos (Ball) and Sergio Reguilon (Caldwell-Pope) and a miscellaneous youth player in 2020.
Pretty straight forward, no?
5. Mohamed Salah to Paris Saint-Germain
Ok, now we go off-piste. It's a brave new world. And in this brave new world, if PSG really are going to shop Neymar, they're likely to have had another swoop lined up. Step forward Mohamed Salah.
Now, the Egyptian is under contract until 2023, and by all accounts loves life in Liverpool. So this isn't an easy one for the Parisians to pull of, but it is possible, as long as a couple of bases are covered.
The Reds need strength in midfield, and would obviously also need some attacking muscle to counteract the loss of King Mo.
Trade: Mohamed Salah for Marco Verratti, Marquinhos and Timothy Weah.
This makes sense for both. While PSG get their next marquee man, Verratti can provide Liverpool with the midfield industry they need. Marquinhos offers valuable defensive chops and is still only 24, and Timothy Weah, as the son of both a global leader and a Ballon d'Or winner, has wonderful potential on and off the field.
If anything PSG have once again bitten off their nose to spite their face, but that's what they always do, so no problems with realism there.
4. Eden Hazard to Real Madrid
The Galactico model is back, babyyy. Gone are the days of stockpiling young Spanish talent. Madrid want success, and they want it now.
But they can also get it at a cut-price deal, thanks to the player's contractual situation, and his desire to up sticks anyway. Quite a simple one, actually.
Trade: Eden Hazard, Danny Drinkwater and one of their 5,000 inactive youth players for Gareth Bale, Isco and Federico Valverde.
This works out for everyone. Chelsea get to dump Danny Drinkwater (who will almost instantly be flipped to Celta Vigo or the like) and Real get to cut ties with a valuable player they don't really like and don't really play, and one who's injury record makes for tired eyes and who's fee-per-game will likely turn out utterly exorbitant. And they get a player who's won 12 FA Youth Cups in a row. Not bad.
3. Paul Pogba to Juventus
Juventus have had enough of the free agents, as impressive a recruiter as they are, and are looking to make a real statement.
Manchester United are deeply reluctant, but see an opportunity to recoup some players in areas they are deeply lacking.
Trade: Paul Pogba and Antonio Valencia for Joao Cancelo, Leonardo Bonucci, Moise Kean and Rodrigo Bentancur.
United dump the overpaid Valencia, and in return receive one of the most promising right backs around, the seasoned centre back they've been crying out for, an up and coming prodigy and a 21-year-old who is already one of the most assured players in the game. Definitely the winners.
2. Harry Kane to Barcelona
It's about time Barcelona got in on the act, and how about the world's preeminent number nine as their target.
Of course, Tottenham are highly reluctant to let go of their prized homegrown star, but they also have a fairly weak squad, and La Blaugrana pounce on this with glee.
Trade: Harry Kane for Philippe Coutinho, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez and a 2020 pick of their choice from La Masia academy.
While Barcelona get their frontman for the next eight years or so, and lose some weighty contracts, Spurs alleviate the creative pressure from Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli and strengthen their lacking midfield by bringing in Coutinho and Rakitic, as well as gaining a wily strikeforce replacement until another is found and a potential future star.
They could even flip Coutinho, should they wish, for another world class forward - there'd be no shortage of suitors. That's the beauty of trades, baby.
1. Lionel Messi to Manchester City
This is the big one. This is the one we've been gearing up to. This is the monster trade.
Instead of waiting for the day, if it does ever come, when Lionel Messi starts to decline, Barca decide to rebuild for the future. And there's only one team with assets sufficient enough to entice them. Here goes nothing.
Trade: Lionel Messi and Sergi Samper for Kevin de Bruyne, Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and John Stones.
This was by far the hardest - I've been going back and forth for far too long - because that simultaneously looks like too much and too little. This is Messi we're talking about...but he is 31. And it's hard to say who does better, because the Catalans basically get a whole new team....but City get Messi.
That's why I've chucked Sergi Samper in there. He doesn't really do much, but he balances City's resulting squad depth a bit. He's basically a first round pick from a couple of years ago who could become a useful member of the starting XI. I don't know who says no...maybe both?
Either way, I think we can confirm this is far more entertaining than just throwing around increasingly insignificant sums of money. Much, much more entertaining, and also probably more repercussive for the teams seeking to bring in the talent, which probably helps.