Swap deals: One-time occurrence or back for good?
The January transfer window witnessed a few surprises, records broken as well as the return of the player swap deal. With Alexis Sanchez's Arsenal contract running down, Manchester United pounced. The Chilean arrived at Old Trafford in exchange for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Swaps are a rare occurrence in the Premier League. So when the Sanchez-Mkhitaryan deal went through with no transfer fee involved, questions were raised. The two players' price tag would be hefty in today's market.
Arsenal rejected Manchester City's £50 million bid for Sanchez last summer, despite the winger's contract having just a year remaining. Mkhitaryan's value would also have remained high due to joining Man United for close to £30 million only 18 months previously.
Have Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger missed out on making sizeable returns on their wantaway stars? More importantly, though, will it prove worth it?
Let's take a look at how three other swap deals panned out after catching Europe's attention.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Samuel Eto’o
This deal between Inter Milan and Barcelona in July 2009 caused a stir. Samuel Eto’o was the Catalan side’s top scorer the previous season having struck 36 times in 52 games, including El Clasico and Champions League final goals. Not only had he helped Barca claim the treble, he was considered among the world's best frontmen. Yet, Pep Guardiola wanted to trade his Cameroonian poacher for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Inter were happy to play ball. The Italian giants received a formidable goalscorer for their Swedish star, along with £35 million.
Guardiola was given his just desserts less than a year later as Eto'o contributed to Inter's own treble at Barcelona's expense. Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, lasted just one campaign at the Nou Camp before being moved on to AC Milan.
Ashley Cole - William Gallas
Both Arsenal and Chelsea had wantaway stars. Ashley Cole and William Gallas eventually got what they desired. A swap was conducted, with the Gunners paid an additional £5 million.
Although Gallas was always a good defender, he was the wrong choice to captain a young Arsenal side. Similar to today, Wenger's men required inspiration from their leader on the pitch.
Cole took time to adapt to his new surroundings at Stamford Bridge. He later earned legend status, though, winning two Premier League titles, a Champions League and four FA Cups. The Englishman's credentials as the world's standout left-back continued at Chelsea until his departure in 2014. Gallas quickly became an afterthought.
David Luiz - Nemanja Matic
Chelsea signed David Luiz twice in less than six years, spending a combined £55 million. Nemanja Matic, meanwhile, has been deemed surplus to requirements at Stamford Bridge on two occasions. The pair initially swapped clubs in 2011, with Benfica snapping up the Serbian midfielder and £20 million for the Brazilian centre back.
As Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti was the man responsible for sanctioning the deal. It proved a mistake. Matic went on to establish himself as a world-class holding midfielder while at Benfica. At the same time, Luiz's style seemed unsuited to the Premier League. The Blues had to rectify the situation. They brought the Serb back in January 2014 for £21 million.
Last summer, Antonio Conte accepted £40 million to sell Matic to a domestic rival. The metronome in the Italian's title-winning masterpiece headed to Man United.
After being shipped off to Paris Saint-Germain in summer 2014, Conte, somewhat inexplicably, gave Luiz a second chance at Chelsea. Since returning 18 months ago, the Brazilian international has suffered an indifferent spell. Difficulties with his manager, as well as Conte's decision to engage in mind games with Mourinho, have contributed to the Blues' recent struggles.
Inter Milan's record is poor when it comes to swap deals. The Nerazzurri have lost future top talents such as Fabio Cannavaro, Roberto Carlos and Clarence Seedorf. Cannavaro became one of Italy's all-time best defenders after leaving Inter.
The Sanchez-Mkhitaryan swap deal was the first between two high-profile players since 2009. Could they now occur more often? Perhaps not, yet anything is possible in the current transfer market