The European seasons of 2019/20 are amping up, winding down, done and dusted in varying degrees. There’s lots and nothing left to play for depending on your persuasions. Yet, there is one common theme for every team right now, preparations for a post-COVID transfer window are well under way. 

Reports are that money will be scarce, but who really knows? I won’t pretend to know what the impact will be. But I will muse on something that the NBA and Panini sticker fan in me has always wanted to ponder: ‘What if football trades were commonplace?’

Last week saw two European heavyweights in Barcelona and Juventus swapping midfield maestros Arthur and Pjanic (plus some pocket money). This could well be the route clubs need to go down to ensure squads are still refreshed in spite of all the question marks about finances. And it kind of makes sense. 

*DISCLAIMER KLAXON* These aren’t based on any rumours or inside knowledge of transfers that may happen. You have merely taken a step with me onboard the ‘Imagine If Express’. Buckle up.

Pierre Emerick Aubameyang FOR Antoine Griezmann

To say that things aren’t going well for Barcelona or Arsenal at the minute would be like saying it was a bad idea to open the beaches on Amity Island. Big changes are sure to be coming for both clubs. Why not start by saving a bit of money and trading your striker?

I don’t know why, but it isn’t working for Griezmann at Barcelona. The former Atleti star, World Cup winner and Euros top scorer star has never been duller. Evidence of this can be seen in the recent games against Atletico Madrid, in which he came on for four minutes and Bilbao where, with twenty five minutes left and the score 0-0, Griezmann was substituted for La Masia darling Ansu Fati. Even more damning was that this sparked a positive uptick in performance and Barca got the 1-0 win. Griezmann’s stuttering season in a nutshell. 

Aubameyang, by contrast, has been relentless for Arsenal. A lone indicator of World Class talent in a desperately average squad in dire need of a refresh. But, his contract runs out at the end of next season. Going out on a limb, Arsenal are not knocking Liverpool off the perch next season. They might not even catch Burnley at this rate! Rebuild is the order of the day. 

What a way to reinvigorate the fan base. A true marquee name who is two years younger than Auba. At Arsenal, Griezmann can get back to playing in his natural central position of shadow or secondary striker. He thrived playing with Giroud, Torres, Costa or as the lone central striker. France even dropped Ousmane Dembele for Giroud just to get the most out of him. Call me nuts, I just don’t see Barca dropping Messi or Suarez to accommodate him.

Aubameyang’s numbers are incredible. He has 49 Premier League goals in 75 appearances. That’s a goals per 90 ratio of 0.76. Better than anyone not named Salah or Agüero. Add to that, Aubameyang is arguably more effective playing on the left than centrally and is inarguably far more accustomed to doing this compared to Griezmann.

Granted, he is 31 and out of contract so this doesn’t represent a perfectly fair swap. But, in terms of on the field roles and team needs, I would love to see this happen. Not to mention that Barcelona are criminally wasting Messi’s final prime years. This cannot be allowed. I wouldn’t stand for Robert De Niro starring in a Richard Curtis film and I won’t stand for this!

Shkodran Mustafi FOR A Floating Plaster Found In A Public Swimming Pool.

Seems about right.

Axel Witsel FOR Tanguy Ndombele

Sorry Spurs fans. The complete midfielder that everyone wants to work out is already fed up with Mourinho. At both Lyon and Spurs, he has shown his true quality. Ball carries, duels, recoveries, long shots – Ndombele fitted perfectly…into Poch’s Spurs. One can only assume by the Mourinho appointment that Tottenham are now desperate for immediate success. Enter Witsel, stage left.

Witsel is a lovely player. Composed, intelligent, physical, dynamic and combative. He is exactly what Jose Mourinho covets in a central midfielder. Witsel averages 1.1 interceptions a game, wins 53.3% of duels and a very impressive 74.3% of aerial duels. Proving he is capable of protecting the backline. His best skill, however,  is his ball retention and pass completion. This season he ranks first in the Bundesliga at 95% pass completion. A physical presence, experienced at 31 and capable of dictating tempo and finding teammates consistently – where does Mourinho sign? He’ll even throw in four goals and five assists.

If the plan is to try and win now for Spurs, Witsel could be an ideal fit.

Looking in the other direction, I won’t pretend that I haven’t thought of this deal because the idea of Pochettino at Dortmund would be as beautiful as chocolate and peanut butter. Ndombele’s attributes in an already uber talented Dortmund team would be just as tasty.

Dortmund ended up failing quite miserably to catch Bayern on what started off as a bit of an off-year for the perennial champions. They clearly need some changes in order to be more successful next year. They also need to capitalise on the young, yet considerable talent in their midst. At 23, Ndombele is coming into his prime and could grow with the core. Delaney, Dahoud, and Can all offer dynamism and combativeness in the middle for Dortmund. Ndombele can carry the ball majestically and make intelligent, crucial plays whilst doing a lot of what Witsel already does for the team. A look at KP90 figures evidences my thinking.

Do I expect any of these deals to happen? No. Has it been fun to hypothesise and pretend. YES! 

Like Gene Wilder sang in such a mesmerising way: “There is no life I know, to compare with pure imagination”.

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