Assessing 24 of the Biggest Swap Deals in Football History

Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel
Inter Milan's Cameroonian forward Samuel | CHRISTOPHE SIMON/Getty Images

With the coronavirus pandemic affecting the finances of every football club, it seems likely that we will see more swap deals take place in the upcoming transfer window.

And while they aren't a common occurrence in past windows, you can still find examples of clubs looking to save money by offloading one player to sign another. It adds another element of drama to the already crazy art of negotiating moves for players, while becoming a source of entertainment of its own, as fans debate and argue over who got the better deal.

With that all said, here's a list of the biggest and most famous swap deals that have taken place in the history of football, with an assessment on each transfer.

Peter Odemwingie (Cardiff) for Kenwyne Jones (Stoke)

Peter Odemwingie
Odemwingie scored all of his five goals for the Potters in one half-season | Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

We begin with the swap deal you've probably forgotten, unless you're a Stoke or Cardiff fan. It's fair to say that neither player had quite the impact their clubs were hoping for.

While Odemwingie started off well with five goals in his first 15 games, injuries led to a diminished role for the Nigerian at the Potters. As for Jones, he failed to help the Bluebirds avoid relegation from the top flight. The striker did end up Cardiff's top-scorer for the next season, but was soon shipped out for loan spells elsewhere.

Winner: Cardiff

Lorik Cana & £1.8m (Galatasaray) for Fernando Muslera (Lazio)

UEFA Champions League"Paris St Germain v Galatasaray AS"
Muslera has played 365 games for Cimbom to date | ANP Sport/Getty Images

It's rare for a swap deal to take place between two teams of different countries. But that's what happened when Lazio arranged for Muslera's departure to Turkey in exchange for bringing Cana to the Stadio Olimpico.

And despite the Albanian midfielder doing well in Serie A, Muslera ended up being a terrific signing for Cimbom. Still the first-choice stopper today, he's won 14 trophies during his time at the club, and was voted the country's footballer of the year in 2016.

Winner: Galatasaray

Ian Wright (Greenwich Borough) for Gym Weights & Footballs (Crystal Palace)

Yes, you read that correctly. Palace legend Ian Wright was swapped for a couple of gym weights and a bag of footballs.

Having been scouted by the Eagles, they offered to hand the non-league side gym weights and balls in exchange for the player. The England international ended up scoring 118 goals for the south London club, and was voted their Player of the Century. As for the gym weights and footballs, we've no idea what happened to them...

Winner: Crystal Palace

Peter Crouch & £8m (Stoke) for Sam Vokes (Burnley)

Peter Crouch
Crouch played just six games for the Clarets before retiring | Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

There was excitement in the air on deadline day of the 2019 January window. No, not because Lazar Marković was headed to Fulham.

Rather, the big move was when Crouch and cash were exchanged by Stoke for the Burnley striker Vokes. In hindsight, neither side really won the deal - Crouchy retired months after the deal, while his Welsh counterpart has only netted seven times for the Potters. Hard to pick a winner here.

Winner: Burnley (for the £8m)

Fernando Torres (AC Milan) for Alessio Cerci (Atlético Madrid)

Fernando Torres
Atléti legend Torres returned to win the Europa League | Power Sport Images/Getty Images

With Torres clearly not in the Rossoneri's long-term plans, a move away seemed inevitable. Keen to bring him back to Los Rojiblancos, Diego Simeone traded away winger Alessio Cerci to sign the Spaniard on loan.

Despite having previously flourished in Serie A, the Italian scored once in 33 games for the club and now finds himself in Serie B. On the other hand, Torres played another 160 games for Atléti and was able to win the Europa League with his boyhood club.

Winner: Atlético Madrid

James Beattie & £7.5m (Blackburn Rovers) for Kevin Davies (Southampton)

James Beattie
Beattie was at his most prolific at the Saints | Ben Radford/Getty Images

Having scored nine league goals in the 1997/98 Premier League season, Davies soon attracted the attention of Blackburn, who went on to send both youngster Beattie and £7.5m to the south coast in exchange for the forward.

Yet the move backfired on the Lancashire club, as Davies ended up scoring just twice in two seasons. And while Beattie needed some time to settle in, he eventually assumed the mantle of being the Saints' star striker, netting 76 goals in 235 games before moving on to Everton.

Winner: Southampton

José Antonio Reyes (Arsenal) for Júlio Baptista (Real Madrid) 

Jose Antonio Reyes
José Antonio Reyes scored seven goals in his only season at Los Blancos | Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With Reyes keen for a move back to Spain, Arsenal finally agreed to a loan-swap deal with Real Madrid, sending the winger there and gaining Júlio Baptista in return.

The Brazilian only scored three league goals in his sole season at the Emirates Stadium, and failed to make a major impact for the Gunners. Reyes on the other hand was more regularly used by Los Blancos as they went on to lift the La Liga title that year.

Winner: Real Madrid

Giampaolo Pazzini & £5.5m (Inter) for Antonio Cassano (AC Milan)

Gianpaolo Pazzini
Pazzini ended up the more prolific of the duo at I Rossoneri | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

With both city rivals struggling to make it work for their Italian strikers, they decided to swap them, albeit with Inter paying an extra £5.5m for Cassano.

Yet the Nerazzurri would find the former Real Madrid forward difficult to work with, despite his seven league goals, with many questioning his fitness and work ethic. Their counterparts, however, managed to get a prolific first season from Pazzini, before his scoring touch began to diminish in later years.

Winner: AC Milan

Michel Vorm & Ben Davies (Swansea) for Gylfi Sigurðsson (Tottenham)

Gylfi Sigurdsson
Sigurdsson became a key figure for the Swans | Stu Forster/Getty Images

In what became Mauricio Pochettino's first signings as Tottenham manager in 2014, Gylfi Sigurðsson was swapped to Swansea in exchange for both Ben Davies and Michel Vorm.

The Icelandic star became the key midfield talisman for the Swans, with his set-pieces and creativity crucial in staying afloat in the Premier League. But considering Davies' status as the first-choice left-back in north London, Spurs will be happy with the deal they got, given that Vorm has also served as a solid back-up option for Hugo Lloris.

Winner: Tottenham

Andy Cole (Newcastle) for Keith Gillespie & £6m (Manchester United)

Man Utd v Valencia
Andy Cole's goals were key to the Red Devils' success | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

It was a major surprise when Sir Alex Ferguson sanctioned the signing of Andy Cole from Newcastle United, with £6m and youngster Keith Gillespie heading in the opposite direction.

But the legendary manager would have the last laugh, as Cole scored 121 goals to help the Red Devils claim five top-flight titles in a hugely successful period. As for the Tynesiders, they weren't able to challenge their rivals, even though Gillespie ended up becoming a decent winger at St James' Park.

Winner: Manchester United

Bobby Zamora & £7m (Tottenham) for Jermain Defoe (West Ham)

Tottenham's Jermain Defoe celebrates aft
Defoe scored 143 goals in two spells at Spurs | AFP IOPP/Getty Images

Few swap transfers end up working out for both sides. Yet this deal ended up leaving Spurs and West Ham both happy with their respective goalscoring strikers.

Defoe would score 22 goals in his first full season at Spurs, and became the team's chief marksman up front before he departed for Portsmouth. Meanwhile, Zamora didn't quite reach the same heights as his predecessor, but was still a key player for the Hammers, helping the club achieve promotion in 2005.

Winner: Tottenham

Andrea Pirlo (Inter) for Andrés Guglielminpietro & £1.7m (AC Milan)

AC Milan's midfielder Andrea Pirlo celeb
Would you ever consider trading away Andrea Pirlo? | PACO SERINELLI/Getty Images

Inter fans, look away. Here's a brief summary of how you traded away arguably the best modern Italian footballer to have played to your city rivals.

Having not impressed the Nerazzurri's management in his 40 appearances, the Andrea Pirlo was sent across the San Siro divide and was swapped for Guglielminpietro, as well as a bit of cash. While Guly only played 30 games for Inter, Pirlo became a star for the Rossoneri and won two Champions League titles. It's pretty easy to see who won this swap deal.

Winner: AC Milan

Michael Owen (Liverpool) for Antonio Núñez & £8m (Real Madrid)

Michael Owen
Owen scored 16 goals in his only season at Los Blancos | Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

With just a year left on Owen's deal, Real Madrid capitalised and signed the Englishman, paying just £8m and sending Núñez to Anfield in exchange.

It couldn't have gone worse for Núñez, who injured his knee in his first day of training and never was able to get into the Reds' first team from that point onwards.

As for his English counterpart, the striker scored 16 goals in his only season in Spain before moving to Newcastle for £17m, in what became great business for Los Blancos.

Winner: Real Madrid

Leonardo Bonucci & £16m (AC Milan) for Gonzalo Higuaín and Mattia Caldara (Juventus)

Bonucci has put a disaster spell at Milan firmly behind him
Bonucci has put a disaster spell at Milan firmly behind him | Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images

Having arrived at the San Siro for a €42m fee, Bonucci was a major disappointment for Milan. Given that he wasn't getting any younger, the club looked for a replacement that could assume his position for the future.

Hence, the veteran was swapped back to former club Juventus for youngster Mattia Caldara, with Gonzalo Higuaín also temporarily headed to the Rossoneri. It didn't work out well at all for Il Diavolo, as the Argentine found himself at Chelsea a few months later. And while Caldara has yet to establish himself for Milan, Bonucci has assumed his role for the Bianconeri without looking out of place. Juve definitely won this deal.

Winner: Juventus

Fabio Cannavaro (Inter) for Fabián Carini (Juventus)

Fabio Cannavaro
Cannavaro became crucial to Juve's defence after the move | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Wait, Inter traded away another Italian great three years after Pirlo?

Failing to excel at the San Siro, Cannavaro was swapped for Juventus goalkeeper Fabián Carini in 2004. The Uruguayan stopper played just four games for the Neruzzurri, while the legendary defender would win two Scudetti (before the club was stripped of their titles). Still, the Bianconeri got a way better return here...

Winner: Juventus

Francesco Coco (AC Milan) for Clarence Seedorf (Inter)

AC Milan's midfielder Clarence Seedorf (
Seedorf lifted ten trophies at Milan | PACO SERINELLI/Getty Images

Another swap deal between the Milan clubs saw Seedorf traded to the Rossoneri, in exchange for Francesco Coco who headed to Inter. Once again, the Nerazzurri got the worse end of the deal.

Coco would fail to play regularly due to a string of injuries that curtailed his time at the club. Seedorf, however, became a legend at Milan, winning ten trophies and becoming an essential part of their success under Carlo Ancelotti.

Winner: AC Milan

Roberto Carlos & £1m (Inter) for Iván Zamorano (Real Madrid)

Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos claimed Roy Hodgson's spell at Inter 'destroyed him' | Ben Radford/Getty Images

Chilean star Zamorano became a transfer target for many of Europe's elite, having scored 28 goals to help Real lift the 1994/95 La Liga title. Inter, keen to sign the striker, offered up £1m plus Carlos, who was unhappy with manager Roy Hodgson at the time.

The Nerazzurri forward wasn't a bad player at the San Siro, but his goalscoring rate began to decrease, as the likes of Ronaldo took his first-team spot. Los Blancos, on the other hand, were delighted to end up with the Brazilian legend Carlos, who ended up playing more than 500 games for the club and was a key part of the successful 'Galacticos' era.

Winner: Real Madrid

David Luiz (Benfica) for Nemanja Matić & £20m (Chelsea)

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-ASTON VILLA
Luiz would later become a teammate of Matić during both spells at Stamford Bridge | GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

In high demand after impressing at Benfica, Chelsea acted swiftly to acquire Luiz, with then-reserve Matić and £20m being enough to make the deal happen.

The Brazilian played 248 games for the Blues over two spells, while Matić ended up impressing in Portugal, earning him a move back to Stamford Bridge three years after his departure. With the Blues getting the best of the duo on the pitch in England, they ultimately won the deal in the end.

Winner: Chelsea

Diego Milito & Thiago Motta (Genoa) for 5 Players & Cash (Inter)

Diego Milito
Milito was a goal-scoring machine at Inter | Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

In 2009, Inter, always looking to push the boundaries of player transfers, proceeded to sign Milito and Motta from Genoa, in exchange for a small fee, four players and co-ownership of another youngster.

The two Nerazzurri signings would prove to be instrumental for the club, particularly in the 2009/10 treble-winning season. As for the Genoa quintet, many of them were shipped off to other clubs, including a young Bonucci, who would soon end up at Juventus.

Winner: Inter

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Man Utd) for Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal)

Alexis Sanchez
Sánchez has not been at his best for the Red Devils | Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Remember when this was said to be a good deal for both teams? Seems like a long time ago now.

As Sánchez's deal came close to expiring, the Gunners struck a deal with United to send the want-away Chilean north, with Mkhitaryan heading in the opposite direction. Yet neither side have emerged from the deal as the better side, given that both players are now on loan in Italy and don't seem to have a future at either club.

Winner: Arsenal (for paying the lower wages)

Christian Vieri (Lazio) for Diego Simeone & £28m (Inter)

Christian Vieri
Vieri only won one trophy with Inter despite scoring loads of goals | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

A world-record transfer at the time, Inter signing Christian Vieri to partner Ronaldo was a sign of intent and promised a successful era at the San Siro.

But despite the Italian scoring 123 goals during his time at the Nerazzurri, it was only enough to win a single Coppa Italia trophy. Given that Simeone went on to win a league and cup double with the Biancocelesti, as well as the club pocketing a huge fee at the time for Vieri, Lazio were the winners of this swap deal.

Winners: Lazio

Deco (Porto) for Ricardo Quaresma & £13m (Barcelona)

Deco
Deco helped the Catalans win two La Liga titles and a Champions League | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Having won UEFA's Club Footballer of the Year in 2004, Deco became a sought-after player for many European clubs. But it was the addition of Quaresma that swung the deal in favour of Barcelona, with Porto happy to obtain the services of the young Portuguese star.

Despite dazzling defences in Portugal for several seasons, Quaresma was unable to perform consistently for the Dragões. His compatriot however continued to shine on a bigger stage and helped the Blaugrana win five trophies, cementing his place as a modern midfield great.

Winner: Barcelona

William Gallas & £5m (Chelsea) for Ashley Cole (Arsenal)

Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole played over 300 games for the Blues after his move | Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

A highly controversial deal at the time, both players were keen to leave their respective clubs and got their wish when the Gunners and Blues came together to agree the swap transfer.

While Gallas was a regular at the Emirates, his time was blemished with various incidents, such as sulking after defeat at Birmingham City. Cole, on the other hand, won nine trophies at Chelsea and was one of the first names on the teamsheet at Stamford Bridge.

Winner: Chelsea

Zlatan Ibrahimović (Inter) for Samuel Eto'o & £35m (Barcelona)

Samuel Eto'o
Eto'o scored plenty of goals to lead Inter to a treble in the 2009/10 season | Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Having decided that Eto'o wasn't going to fit into his system, Pep Guardiola decided to exchange the striker, with cash (and Alexander Hleb until he refused the move) for Ibrahimović in 2009.

The mercurial Swede had a prolific first season at Camp Nou, but wasn't willing to play out wide to accommodate Lionel Messi and left not long after. Meanwhile, Eto'o ended up having a fantastic two seasons in Italy, scoring 53 goals in just 102 games and leading the Nerazzurri to six trophies.

Winner: Inter