AC Milan and Juventus struck one of football’s biggest player swaps on Thursday as Leonardo Bonucci returned to the Bianconeri with Gonzalo Higuain and Mattia Caldara heading in the other direction.
Related: Why the Bonucci-Higuain-Caldara deal makes sense for Milan and Juventus
In light of the transfer which has shaken Serie A, theScore looks at six other blockbuster swap deals European football has seen since the turn of the century.
2002 – Clarence Seedorf for Francesco Coco
Netherlands legend Seedorf was already a double Champions League winner by the time he left Inter, having won with Ajax and Real Madrid in the 1990s. In his first season after moving across the city to Milan, the midfielder became the first man to win the competition with three different clubs. He would add an incredible fourth European title in 2007, and went on to play 431 times with the Rossoneri.
The man who went the other way in the cross-city deal, Coco, was touted as the next Paolo Maldini. Don’t remember him despite that billing? That’s because the injury-blighted left-back played just 26 league games in five years for Inter before retiring at the age of 30 to pursue an acting career.
2006 – Ashley Cole for William Gallas + reported £5M
Perhaps the most controversial trade in Premier League history had its roots in a classic “tapping up” scandal. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho met with the England left-back in 2005 to discuss a potential move without the knowledge of Cole’s then-club Arsenal. Mourinho, Cole, and Chelsea were all fined, but a year later, the move happened anyway as the Roman Abramovich-bankrolled Blues blew the Gunners’ extension offer out the water. The whole debacle was notoriously acrimonious, but it was worth it for Chelsea – “Cashley” played nearly 350 times for the club, winning eight major trophies.
Gallas, a problematic figure himself, was named Arsenal captain in 2007. His time at the Emirates was marked by questionable incidents, though, most notably his decision to give a public interview in which he criticized the club’s younger players. While Cole polished his Chelsea silverware, Gallas won nothing in four years at Arsenal before jumping ship to hated rival Tottenham Hotspur.
2009 – Diego Milito + Thiago Motta for Genoa players + cash
Under Mourinho, Inter had already won a fourth successive Serie A before they broke open European football in the course of two transfers. Firstly, in May, they acquired Genoa’s star pair Milito and Motta in a move which saw a young Bonucci join a trio of other Inter prospects in moving to Liguria.
Both signings scored in the early-season Milan derby, and Milito finished his debut San Siro season with 30 goals in all competitions. Six of those came in the Champions League, including a brace in the final as Inter became European champions for the first time in 45 years. As a result, the striker was named both Serie A and UEFA Footballer of the Year. Meanwhile, the four players moving the other way made a combined total of 10 league appearances for Genoa. Regardless of Bonucci’s eventual success at Juventus, this was a masterstroke from Inter.
2009 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Samuel Eto’o + reported £35M
Upon Milito’s arrival, it seemed he would be battling Ibrahimovic for the target man role in attack, but that all changed two months later as Mourinho sent the Swede to Barcelona. It was a hugely bold move – Ibrahimovic had been Inter’s top scorer for three seasons on the bounce, winning the Capocannoniere in his final campaign – but one that further solidified Mourinho’s reputation.
In return, Inter received a reported £35-million fee and Cameroon striker Eto’o from Catalonia. In hindsight, just Eto’o might have been enough. He stayed at Inter for just two years, but scored 53 goals in 102 games and became the first player ever to win the treble of league, cup, and Champions League in consecutive seasons with different teams. Eto’o and Milito scored 128 goals in 273 appearances between the two for Inter.
2011 – David Luiz for Nemanja Matic + reported £20M
Chelsea ditched an unknown prospect named Nemanja in their pursuit to sign Luiz from Benfica back in 2011, paying £20 million on top of the Serbian’s value for the Brazilian. Sideshow Bob became a cult hero at Stamford Bridge and played the full 120 minutes in the final as the Blues won the 2012 Champions League. He became the world’s most expensive defender when he left for PSG in 2015 for £50 million before returning in 2016 for a lower fee.
Matic would also rejoin, although Chelsea had to fork out £21 million in 2015 to bring him back. At Benfica, he impressed after finding his true calling as a holding midfielder. Matic returned, won the Premier League twice, and was later flogged to Manchester United for a reported £40 million.
2018 – Alexis Sanchez for Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Perhaps the biggest deal of the January window last season saw United and Arsenal do business. Sanchez’s months of poor attitude eventually won him the move he desired, while Mkhitaryan, misused by Mourinho, headed for the Emirates.
Just six months in, it’s hard to fully assess the merits of the deal. Mkhitaryan has three goals and six assists in 17 games for the Gunners, while Sanchez has three and five in 18, but this remains a transfer which can benefit both sides – and both players – in the long term. With Sanchez’s often-surly demeanor, if Mkhitaryan can thrive under Unai Emery’s style, he and the Gunners will likely consider themselves the true victors.