Why Swap Deals Can Help Football Recover From the Coronavirus & Improve the Transfer Window

Transfers are nothing short of ridiculous.

When Trevor Francis became the first £1m player when he swapped Birmingham for Nottingham Forest in 1979, that was considered an astonishing amount of money. But at least that was a figure you could comprehend.

You’d have thought the transfer window had reached peak barmy in 2011 when Liverpool paid Newcastle £35m for Andy Carroll, paving the way for Chelsea to pay £50m for Fernando Torres – in turn making the £22m Manchester City splashed out on Joleon Lescott 18 months earlier look like loose change.

Chelsea’s Italian Manager Carlo Ancelott

But the extortionate, eye watering, incomprehensible transfer fees kept on coming. Back in the day when clubs paid through the nose for someone, at least they were fairly certain they’d see a return on their investment. But four out of the top seven most expensive signings in the last three years have largely underwhelmed; Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembele Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann.

Imagine paying in the region of £100m for a player and feeling short changed.

It’s no secret transfers have become unfathomable sums of money since the inception of the Premier League, and they have showed no signs of slowing down.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has begun to have a telling impact on football finances, with the loss of match day income and the threat of losing broadcast revenue should seasons not be completed – as has already been the case in France. Clubs have already begun furloughing staff and deferring wages in order to reduce their losses.

This financial strain could see the way football clubs do business completely change.

Already, there has been a huge amount of speculation floating around regarding potential swap deals taking place over the summer.

Miralem Pjanic has reportedly agreed personal terms with Barcelona over a proposed swap deal from Juventus, which could see Arthur Melo, Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal move in the opposite direction.

Likewise, Manchester City and Barcelona have reportedly been in talks over a proposed right back exchange, with Nelson Semedo swapping Camp Nou for the Etihad and Joao Cancelo vice versa.

If financial juggernauts Barcelona are considering swap deals instead of big money moves, it is undoubtably something those further down the footballing ladder should be contemplating.

This could see the football market transform into one not dissimilar to the NBA, where trade deals are all the range. Or your old primary school playground, where Match Attax swaps were rife.

The upcoming transfer window will likely already trigger a decrease in inflation, as certain clubs will be forced to sell their assets at discounted prices in order to balance the books. With swap deals encouraging decreased spending, this will further help to reduce the inflated transfer market – and help to gradually bring an end to the extortionate transfer fees that have plagued the game.

Not only would swap deals be a healthy addition to help lower transfer inflation, they would also be a fascinating spectator sport in themselves.

When a transfer is done today, the fees are so staggering it is difficult to judge whether or not it is actually a good deal.

Borussia Dortmund v Sport-Club Freiburg – Bundesliga

Is Manchester United buying Jadon Sancho for £100m smart business? I don’t know, you are literally paying a nine figure amount for a human, that will never seem like money well spent.

But by swapping one player for another, it is considerably easier to assess who has done the better business, and who has mugged themselves off by trading a shiny for a bog standard regular player.

The negotiation side of things would be intriguing too. Like a task on the Apprentice.

Teams desperately offering to throw in a fringe player, an academy product, the kit man, anyone just to get a deal over the line.

We could even have Lord Sugar presenting transfer deadline day on Sky Sports instead of Jim White. The ultimate swap deal that nobody was asking for.

Financially sound, innovative and entertaining. Swap deals have the potential to enable football to adapt to the financial challenges of the coronavirus, while simultaneously lightening up the transfer window.