WE ARE GOING LIVE... Tune in to HOOLIGAN HOUR on the Duquesne University Student Radio, streaming live on, every Wednesday night from 11pm to 12 am.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Inter Winners, Barca Losers in Ibra-Eto’o Swap

            Over the past week, a deal has been in the works between Inter Milan and Barcelona that would swap strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Samuel Eto’o between clubs.  Now that the players have each agreed on personal terms, it looks as if the transfer is finally complete.  Altogether, Barcelona will be sending Eto’o, Alexsander Hleb on yearlong loan, and 50 million euros to Inter in exchange for the Swedish striker’s services.  As Inter boss Jose Mourinho has said, this very well may be “the deal of the summer.”

            Mourinho is obviously ecstatic at the trade his club has just finalized.  Internazionale, desperately seeking their first ever European title, have just landed a proven Champions League goal-scorer in Eto’o, a fantastic wing player in Hleb, and enough money to buy one, even two more quality footballers.  All this gained at the small price of offloading perhaps Europe’s most overrated striker.

            Barcelona, on the other hand, must surely be second-guessing their involvement in one of the most lopsided exchanges in football this decade.  Figuring that Eto’o is of just as much, if not more worth than Ibrahimovic, naturally a swap for these two alone would have seemed fit for each club.  And, Barca most certainly could have wagered more in return for Hleb, who, while a misfit at the Camp Nou, has proved his brilliance in recent years, most notably during his time at Arsenal.  On top of this, the extra 50 million euros thrown away by the Catalonian club seems absolutely unnecessary.

            Barcelona will also have a bit of difficulty fitting Ibrahimovic into their formation.  Unlike Eto’o, who is great at getting behind the opposition’s defense off the ball, the Swedish international will act more as a target man.  It is also important to note that Ibra’s shoot-first, pass-second mentality will not be welcomed kindly by the likes of Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry.  Most importantly, if Zlatan wants success at the Camp Nou, he must abandon his Champions League struggles and find the back of the net on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

            From a footballing perspective, it will be interesting to watch both Eto’o and Ibrahimovic with their new clubs, but economically, this deal seems quite a bit odd.  Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has stated his desire to attain new, hungry personnel after winning the treble in his first year at the helm.  His wishes, though, have lead to an enormous blunder by Barcelona management.  And at the cost of the Catalonian club, Inter Milan find themselves a much improved side heading into a season in which coach Mourinho is desperate to win the Champions League title that Barcelona currently hold.


  1. While I don't disagree with Inter coming out on top of this trade, it really wasn't as lopsided as the column suggests. First off, with Real siphoning all of the "quality" players from the best clubs, they are also jacking up their transfer offers and contracts. How would 50 million euro be able to compete with the 100 million+ tag that has been put on Ronaldo (albeit, perhaps deserved), and Ribery? Inter would realistically be looking at a mid-major player, such as a Theo Walcott, for their next signing. Second, I disagree with Ibra not fitting into Barca's style of play. Barca have always been, as most Spanish clubs are, a run and gun type team. They had no need for three strikers who fit that description, especially Eto'o, who served as the poor man's Messi all last year. Ibra might fit well as a central attacking middie, feeding balls through to Henry and Messi up front. This would allow Barca enough offense to move Iniesta further back on the pitch so they wouldn't allow as many goals. (They allowed the fewest in La Liga in 08/09, but would have been good enough for 5th place in the EPL behind the top three and your beloved Fulham). But how would Eto'o fit in to Inter's style of offense? Serie A posseses a very controlled, measured style of play, not suited for a quick player such as Eto'o. The teams in that division score much fewer goals than Spanish clubs. Now Inter is without their leading assist man in Ibra, without a new winger or attacking middie to pass to Eto'o, and 50 million euro, but to buy whom? While I agree on paper the deal seems to favor Inter tremendously, it looks as if Inter went through with the deal just to get a bargain, without thinking of the style of play that they have dominated Serie A with for years. How will it play out for Inter? Unless Mourinho drastically changes something in the lineup, or signs a mid-major feeder for Eto'o, I would assume not well.

  2. Ben, I believe Inter will still challenge for the league this year. Although they lost their best offensive player, their team won't suddenly become a non-threat for another Scudetto, just like how Manchester United will still challenge for the Premire League without Ronaldo. One player does not make a team, and they were lucky enough to have the option to replace him with someone who scored 30 goals last season in Spain. As for Eto'o not fitting in with the team, it is possible, however his speed will always threaten defenders no matter what style of play. You also can't forget that he shows up on the big stage (scoring the winning goals in both of his Champions League Finals). It seems weird Barca wanted to get rid of this guy. All in all, Inter will most certainly benifit, if not with Eto'o, then with the 40-50 million euros also collected from the transaction.

  3. Oh Musk it was just a matter of time I saw your Reds loving arse on this blog. Well put, but it seems this is all speculative until we actually see Eto'o play. My only argument would be that if you put any quality striker (whether he fits the speedy profile of Eto'o, or the gawky, yet skilled Berbatov), he would have netted 30 for Barca last year. He is a great player, but with an even better team, it really doesn't matter much who is put in the position to score, so long he works well with the system.

  4. Dear Ben,

    1. Real spending money doesn't mean other clubs have to also. A swap between Eto'o and Ibra would have been reasonable. To compare Eto'o to Theo Walcott is absurd.
    2. The Spanish League is not run-and-gun. The EPL is. The Spanish League is certainly faster than Italy, but does involve a great bit of technical play. It's almost like a mix between the EPL and Serie A.
    3. Ibra can play as a central striker and a central striker only. He could never fit in an attacking midfielder role. All his assists with Inter were a result of him bringing down long balls with his enormous frame and laying off to a nearby teammate.
    4. Barca's 4-3-3 formation saw Eto'o, Henry, and Messi exceed the century mark in goals only 3/4 of the way through the season last year. Those 100+ goals won them the Spanish treble. To suggest that a formation with three forwards was not necessary, it a bit irrational.
    5. Eto'o was not Messi's poor boy last year. He was La Liga's second leading scorer with 30 goals.
    6. There are PLENTY of players for Inter to buy with 50 million euros. Just because a player's name is not Ronaldo, Kaka, or Benzema does not mean he is of no quality. Think about all the misfits Real now have to offload to support their spending spree. Now that I mention that, you can survey the transfer news links I have provided above and read that Inter is poised to buy Wesley Sneijder and perhaps Rafael Van der Vaart from Real, two terrific attacking players.
    6. Eto'o will do just fine at Inter. The club have signed him because unlike Zlatan, he can score in the Champions League. They want that trophy more than anything these days.

  5. And not just any striker would have scored 30 goals with Barcelona last year! Not just any striker would have tooled on Vidic in the Champions League final either!

    Yo Musk, good to have you.

  6. Did you ever see You Don't Mess With the Zohan? Do you remember the scene where Rob Schneider negotiates with John Turturro? (Here it is, in case you don't remember) Well, let's imagine that Barcelona is Rob Schneider, and Inter are John Turturro, and that's basically what this deal plays out like.

    Barcelona have been desperate to get rid of Eto'o since last season, when Pep said the Cameroonian didn't "fit into his plans." When a satisfactory deal didn't come along, however, los culés caved and kept him for another year. Throughout the season he showed why Pep didn't have him "in his plans": he has the attitude of a 5-year-old. The entire year, Barça tried to get him to renew his contract. Eto'o played a game of "I will renew... later" all season long. This frustrating situation, combined with Eto'o's negative influence in the locker room (he blatantly refused to play as Pep instructed at one point) were too much for Barcelona to handle.

    But was it an overreaction to send him off in such a style? In Ibrahimovic they get a forward who, from everything I've heard (I don't watch much Serie A) and seen (on YouTube), has a lethal shot and a heavenly touch on the ball, but let's not forget he was also giving Inter tifosi a headache with his attitude around the end of the season as well.

    Have Barcelona traded one enfant terrible (plus something around €45mil) for another? Were they so desperate to get rid of him that they, like Rob Schneider in Zohan, forgot how to negotiate (or do they just not know how to negotiate in the first place [that's just my Madridista bias speaking])?

    For now, at least in my mind, Inter are the winners.

  7. Oh no, a Real Madrid fan... haha.

    But yes, both Ibra and Eto'o were unhappy at their old clubs. Eto'o was a baby at Barca, but I'll take a bad attitude in exchange for 30 league goals any day. I think when Barca couldn't sell him last year, he wanted to stay one more year, play well, and "stick it to" Pep, then leave.

    As for Zlatan, he does quite well in Serie A. But if you ask me, it's a much inferior league in comparison to La Liga. I can't stress enough how much he sucks in Champions League, though. The only part of the net he hits is the side.

  8. 1. I wasn't comparing Theo Walcott to Eto'o; I was comparing the 50 million euro pricetag to a tag that would be put on Walcott.

    2. If you think that La Liga is less run-and-gun than the EPL, then I question the fact that you've watched any football, especially El Clasico at the Bernabeu, where Barca defeated Real Madrid 6-2 and NO defense was played. Practically every goal came from a ball going over the top to a striker (Messi, Eto'o, Henry).

    3. If Zlaten were so one-dimensional, then he would not be worth Eto'o + 50 million euro to Barcelona. I mean, their management may have poorer judgement than EPL clubs, but they haven't reached Perez status (I joke, Diego).

    4. As I stated before, Zlaten could play the central attacking midfielding position (we will never agree on this, Dodds), so that the team can concentrate on letting in fewer goals rather than scoring more. It's a simple concept - you can't lose if they can't score.

    5. If stats meant everything, then Nicholas Anelka would be the best striker in the EPL. If you will defend this point, we need to talk.

    6. I don't disagree with this point in principle, but to compete with Real or Barca on the European scale, Inter will need some HUGE signings. They just gave up their best scorer in Europe for a hope that Eto'o will fit into their system just as well, score just as many goals in a very different, tentative system, and perhaps a mid-major player. Doesn't seem like the recipe for success that they were first hoping for in this signing. But hey, if it works then I think you can tell me that you told me so. We shall see. I think this answers your "6B" also.

  9. 1. Theo Walcott is worth nothing close to 50 million euros. That's crazy.

    2. La Liga is certainly very fast paced, but is quite technical, too. I did watch the 6-2 game between Barca and Real, but believe it or not, there are 18 other teams in La Liga aside from those two. Try watching a game between two mid-table teams.

    3. Zlatan is one-dimensional. In the article I'm arguing that he is not worth 50 million euro.

    4. This argument is absurd. I don't even know where to begin. If anyone of their forwards is an attacking midfielder, it is Messi. Zlatan loves to shoot. He could never fit this role.

    5. Stats don't mean everything, especially in football. But 30 goals is 30 goals.

    6. Atleast you're conceding with me a little here. One thing you have wrong though is that Ibra is not Inter's best scorer in Europe. I can't help but laugh watching him in Champions League because he's so bad.

    I think this debate needs to be ended. It's driving me nuts.