As the summer transfer window approaches, the major football clubs all over Europe find themselves in the gossip columns more and more often, with star names linked with multimillion-dollar moves from one team to the next.
But what if European teams had to conduct their transfers in a different way; perhaps in the manner of trades made by MLS teams in the United States?
The likes of Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao, Napoli's Edinson Cavani and Tottenham's Gareth Bale have all been linked with transfers this coming summer worth between $40 million and $70 million—phenomenal amounts of money to be changing hands for a single player. Indeed, most top-flight clubs around the continent would be able to construct most of a first XI with $70 million to spend.
Having clubs in Europe operate their transfers in a direct, player-for-player trade format instead of shelling out huge sums of money would certainly make for interesting bouts of negotiations.
For starters, there is the small matter to consider that both teams involved would have to want one player from the opposite side.
So Real Madrid want to sign a big-name player from Italy? OK, but they'll have to give up one (or more?) of their own stars in return. It sounds complex—compared to the current method of throwing money at any player deemed good enough—but it would certainly give managers a new challenge in structuring their teams and also perhaps prevent the biggest clubs from hoarding squads full of the very best players.
Real Madrid and Juventus: A Possible Summer Trade
Taking a look at some of the very latest transfer rumours, it is quickly apparent that there may indeed be some likelihood of such trades taking place this summer.
Gonzalo Higuain appears to be a man in demand. The Real Madrid striker not really playing at his best level this season and has found himself in and out of the team, in competition with Karim Benzema. The Argentine forward has been linked with a record transfer to Arsenal in the summer (via The Telegraph), while Serie A side Juventus are already deep in discussions with the Spanish side over his transfer (Marca).
For sure, there is an element of possibility for a trade deal arranged by either club.
Should Juve be in the running, it is already suggested that Real could be offered Stephan Lichtsteiner in the deal as a part exchange, according to AS.
The right-back would not be valued as highly as the striker, so in the context of this article, Juve might need to part ways with an additional player. With several forwards already on their books, it could be that the likes of Mirko Vucinic would be of interest to Real.
Market value of course isn't the only factor to take into account; the potential and promise of a player, his age and position would all be considered to judge his "trade value" rather than his transfer value.
Cavani-Dzeko: Straight Swap Trade?
Two of Europe's biggest strikers—Edin Dzeko of Manchester City and Edinson Cavani of Napoli—could also be involved in a direct trade transfer this summer. These are prolific scorers, as evidenced by their combined 43 league goals this season.
Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis confirmed that he has been in contact with City over the possible transfers of both players, according to Goal.com.
Would the two cancel each other out in terms of value? Probably not right now. Dzeko cost a huge sum of money (around £24 million) when he joined City, but it's possible his value has fallen somewhat after he was unable to hold down a first-team spot over the past couple of seasons.
Cavani, on the other hand, is one of the most in-form and in-demand strikers in Europe.
Napoli would almost certainly feel they would need some other form of recompense if a Dzeko-Cavani deal were to take place.
Would it be a promising youngster like Micah Richards? Or would season-long loan of a fringe player like Scott Sinclair suffice? There are many possibilities without resorting to monetary transactions, and Napoli would arguably hold the upper hand with City clearly wanting to add Cavani to their ranks.
Two Potential Trades within Europe
Looking further afield, there are two more examples we can look to as trades which would suit all parties this summer.
Manchester United's Brazilian midfielder Anderson has failed to shine on a regular basis in his time at Old Trafford, especially during the past couple of seasons, when he has totalled only 27 league appearances.
They say you should never go back, but perhaps Anderson would benefit from such an occasion. A return to former club FC Porto would see him in familiar surroundings.
Considering he has changed his role in the team since he was last there, he could be the perfect replacement for the league champions if they sell Joao Moutinho. That indeed seems possible, as recent rumours from Mirror Football claim PSG, Monaco and Spurs are all interested in the 26-year-old midfielder.
With Anderson moving from United to Porto, the obvious switch in the opposite direction would be Colombian attacker James Rodriguez, a prodigious talent who can operate either from the left flank or central in advanced midfield roles.
Elsewhere in England, Arsenal could also make use of a trade system. Maxime Gonalons is said to be a target of the Gunners (via Mirror Football), and the Emirates club have a few players who might be of interest to Lyon.
Defender Thomas Vermaelen might have played his final game for Arsenal, and he would be a reasonable option to swap. But with some of the Gunners' other rumoured targets being of the attacking variety, the best option might be to swap underwhelming striker Olivier Giroud for Gonalons.
Likelihood and Potential Use of Trade Transfers
Of course, the market value of players throughout Europe is so subjective and at times skewed, it would make a move toward player trades both intensely difficult and extremely appealing in different situations.
Outside of the biggest teams—or those with enormous spending power—the option to trade one player for another would at the very least be something to consider, especially if a range of alternatives could be included to bump up the value of the trade if the players involved were not deemed to be equal.
On one hand, it is extremely exciting and satisfying for fans to see their club sign proven quality for tens of millions of dollars. However, the risk and financial ruin that several clubs have gone through—due at least in part to unsuccessful transfer dealings—would be significantly reduced.
As for this summer...
If the transfer rumours are to be believed, there is at least a chance that one or two player trades could take place, although money might also be involved in part.
It could only take one single successful trade though, well-publicised and between big-name clubs, to make trade transfers the next fashionable method of switching players between teams, following loans, co-ownerships, third-party ownerships and many other strange transfer dealings.
Watch this space for the first one to take place this summer.