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Swap deals could become ‘the new normal' as football feels the impact of the coronavirus. Even that doesn't explain the trade between Barcelona and Juventus for Arthur and Miralem Pjanić.

According to , the deal is as good as done. On the face of it, that's a strange deal to rationalise. Barça will give up a 23-year-old in Arthur to sign Pjanić, seven years his senior.

The Bianconeri have agreed a £72.5million fee for Arthur, according to Sky Sports News. However, completing the deal won't be straightforward. Last month, Arthur told the two clubs he did not want to leave Catalonia.

Another wrinkle to the deal is the valuation of Pjanić, who Barça want to sign. Juventus are demanding £63.4million. But Barcelona are not happy with that price. Understandably so.

Resale value is an important part of any negotiation. By signing a 30-year-old, Barça will never make their money back on Pjanić. On the other hand, Juventus, often lauded as kings of the transfer market, are picking up a Brazilian international with his best years ahead of him.

Why Barça want Pjanić

Strip away the economics of the deal and it begins to make more sense. Pjanić is one of the best passers of the ball in European football; tailor-made for a side like Barcelona. In Serie A this season, only three players can better Pjanić for passes per 90 (73.72), and only two for completed passes (66.11).

PlayerPasses Attempted (Per 90)Passes Completed (Per 90)
Francesco Magnanelli80.0370.35
Fabián Ruiz77.9270.48
Mário Rui76.5763.28
Miralem Pjanić73.7266.11
Kalidou Koulibaly71.7564.06

The diminutive Bosnian midfielder is the beating heart of Juventus' midfield and he would perform a similar role for Barcelona. In the graphic below we can see how the Bianconeri play through Pjanić. The more pronounced the arrow, the higher volume of passes exchanged.

Pjanić regularly receives possession from Juventus' centre-backs or full-backs before advancing the ball to more attack-minded players. Per 90, no Juve player attempts or completes more passes than Pjanić.

Arthur for Pjanić: Why, and who wins this swap deal?

The former Roma and Lyon player also takes the fourth-most touches (per 90) of his team-mates (88.95). Pjanić also ranks in the top five members of Maurizio Sarri's squad for final-third passes attempted (21.36) and completed (17.37). In short, he gets the Old Lady playing.

On top of that, the Blaugrana are on the hunt for experienced players in key positions. At least that is what Catalan daily AS reports. They claim to have seen a document which says the following –

“The requirements of the specific position must be taken into account. Perhaps not only very young players should be signed. Where a greater knowledge of the game is required, it may be interesting to sign older players and where physical performance is needed, consider younger athletes. Moreover, an experienced player may require less time to adapt to his new club and be at his peak from the moment he arrives.”

Pjanić would certainly fit the bill. But is trading a young midfielder with enormous potential the best strategy?

Why Juventus want Arthur

Arthur for Pjanić: Why, and who wins this swap deal?

Presently, there is something of a logjam in Juventus' midfield. Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot signed on free transfers last summer but have made just nine and 11 Serie A starts respectively. In fact, Ramsey is expected to leave with the Old Lady keen to get his reported £400,000-a-week wages off the books.

There's also Sami Khedira, Blaise Matuidi and Rodrigo Bentancur. To say Juve are well-stocked in midfield would be an understatement. However, according to Sky Sports News, Sarri sees Arthur is the man to build his midfield around – much like Jorginho at Napoli and Chelsea.

Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici has said publicly Arthur still has to be convinced to move to Turin. The Brazilian is believed to want to fight for his place in Catalonia – despite being offered more to play for Juve.

Arthur for Pjanić: Why, and who wins this swap deal?

Looking at the data, there's little difference between the two. Pjanić is typically deployed a little deeper than Arthur but the Barça man attempts and completes more passes (per 90). While fewer go forward, it's not hard to imagine that changing were he deployed in a deeper position.

At Barcelona, Sergio Busquets is the pivot. End of. In fact, Arthur has played just ten minutes in that role this season with the vast majority of his time (984 minutes) on the left of the midfield three. With Pjanić out the equation, Arthur could play at No.6 for Juventus.

Who gets the better deal: Barça or Juve?

It's impossible to separate the finances of this swap from the players involved. On paper, Pjanić and Arthur look like good fits for the clubs they appear bound for.

However, Barcelona's midfield is a little one-paced and one-dimensional already. Arturo Vidal appears destined to leave this summer and letting Chilean go could be an error. Vidal doesn't start every week but his tenacity and verticality are in contrast to the rest of Barça's midfield.

With Pjanić joining Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and – if he doesn't leave – Ivan Rakitić, the profile of Quique Setién's midfield options is a little similar.

Equally, something isn't right at Juventus. When Sarri succeeded Max Allegri, his mandate was to implement the so-called ‘Sarri-ball' style for which he is renowned. The Old Lady lead Serie A by four points but they lost the Coppa Italia final and are yet to convince under their new boss.

With Chelsea reluctant to let Jorginho be reunited with his mentor for the third time, Arthur might have to do. So, how similar is he to the former Napoli conductor?

Arthur for Pjanić: Why, and who wins this swap deal?

Ostensibly they perform roles. But there's enough to suggest Arthur could fulfil the Jorginho role at Juve. Taking that into account, as well as the age difference and the fact the net cost of signing Arthur would be around £9m, it seems Juventus have cracked the transfer market once more.


La Liga

Serie A