As Barcelona and Real Madrid make their plays for Neymar with offers that include key players going back to PSG, take a look at some of the most high-profile player swaps in recent history.

By 90Min
August 22, 2019

Barcelona has its reasons, and it appears to be doing everything it can to secure the return of Neymar. That includes a number of reported swap deals with PSG, with the players rumored to be included spanning from Ousmane Dembele to Ivan Rakitic to Nelson Semedo and beyond. Philippe Coutinho, prior to moving to Bayern Munich on loan, had also been touted as a possible makeweight. 

Real Madrid, too, is said to be making a play for Neymar, with an audacious reported offer of Gareth Bale, James Rodriguez, Keylor Navas and cash evidently not something PSG is interested in receiving in return.

Player swaps have varied degrees of success through recent history, and here are six of the most high-profile swaps–and which team came off better in the long run for it.


William Gallas for Ashley Cole

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Gallas was a good servant for Arsenal, but the center back was no way near achieving the levels of success enjoyed by Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge following their switch in 2006.

Chelsea acquired arguably the world's greatest left back for the modest price of £5m and a defender who was threatening to score own goals; it should be pretty easy to see which club got the worse end of the stick here.

Cole was an integral part of a side that won four FA Cups, the 2013 Europa League, one League Cup and a Champions League title, while also ending Manchester United's run of three successive top-flight triumphs. 

In comparison, Gallas' finest achievement in north London was finishing third.

Winner: Chelsea


Fabian Carini for Fabio Cannavaro

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Carini spent his time at Juventus as understudy to Gianluigi Buffon, with the Uruguayan failing to make an appearance for the Bianconeri in Serie A before being shipped out on loan to Standard Liege for two years.

Nevertheless, Inter viewed him as equal in value to Cannavaro, with the Nerazzurri nonchalantly agreeing to a trade. The latter went on to play in all but two of Juve's league fixtures in the two seasons that followed, with the club collecting the Scudetto in both.

The Calciopoli scandal saw the Old Lady stripped of both titles and relegated to Serie B - Cannavaro deciding to leave as a result - but that wouldn't stop Cannavaro captaining Italy to victory at the 2006 World Cup.

Winner: Juventus


Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto'o

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There can be zero doubts that Inter were the main beneficiaries of this controversial transfer in 2009 after they sent Barcelona tumbling out of the Champions League in Eto'o's first campaign at the San Siro.

The Cameroonian didn't manage to get on the scoresheet in either leg of their semifinal encounter, but that is also true of Ibrahimovic. Fortunately for Eto'o, he ended the season as ruler of Europe, while the Swede ended it in a fit of rage.

Zlatan was unable to cope with the Lionel Messi love-fest at the Nou Camp - as well as Pep Guardiola's infamous intensity - and left Catalonia after just 13 months. It's ludicrous that Barcelona let go of a first-rate finisher and £59m for a year of tantrums and poor form from Ibrahimovic.

Winner: Inter


David Luiz for Nemanja Matic

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On the face of it, this was terrible business from Roman Abramovich. He forked out £20m to bring in David Luiz during the winter of 2011, with Matic also joining Benfica to sweeten the deal.

Then again, Luiz was in the starting lineup for what remains the Blues' finest hour: their penalty-shootout victory over Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final. The defender was likewise selected to play against - of all teams - Benfica as they won the Europa League the following season.

So, it seems the Portuguese outfit fared better in terms of financial rewards, whilst Chelsea enjoyed on-field glory. They both have reasons to be cheerful.

Winner: Everyone


Ricardo Quaresma for Deco

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Quaresma is the king of flattering to deceive. A virtuoso talent who never entirely fulfilled his potential, the forward will likely look back on his career and wonder what could have been.

Eager to be rid of him after a number of altercations, Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard must have been counting his lucky stars when Porto bid €15m and the highly-rated Deco to bring him to the Estádio do Dragão in 2004.

During Quaresma's troublesome time in Spain, his counterpart was busy earning himself a continental crown with Jose Mourinho. Deco would earn another Champions League medal with La Blaugrana, among numerous other honors. 

Winner: Barcelona


Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Alexis Sanchez

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Alexis rakes in at least £350,000-a-week at Old Trafford, though that figure is normally bolstered by a further £150,000 in add-ons, but he has not done a thing since signing to command such an astronomical wage?

The Chilean has an absolutely dire strike rate of one goal every nine matches for United, a ratio that is eclipsed by makeweight Mkhitaryan, who scores once in every six. 

It's a tragedy and a comedy wrapped into one big tale of decline and disgrace. The Red Devils tried so desperately to get one up on neighbors Manchester City and they've only succeeded in making themselves a laughingstock.

Loser: Manchester United

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