Barca bank on Ibrahimovic value

BARCELONA: To land the free-scoring Sweden international from Inter Milan, Barcelona have parted with not only with Eto'o, but also Alexander Hleb on a season-long loan, and the small matter of 46million euros (£39.5million).

On the face of it, this seems a bizarre deal for the Catalan club to strike.

The statistics reveal that Eto'o has a phenomenal goal return for Barcelona, scoring 108 times in 145 games. In all competitions last season he notched 39 in 49 matches.

Ibrahimovic is also coming off the back of a prolific campaign, with 28 in 38 games domestically - a return which won him Serie A's Footballer or the Year award.

So not much to separate them in terms of goals, then, while in terms of age, the two are separated by a matter of months.

Given all that, the deal understandably has many people scratching their heads. How can this really be good business for Barcelona?

Like any industry, football is ruled by the economic determinants of supply and demand.

Barca were keen to offload Eto'o and to land Ibrahimovic.

Inter were desperate to keep Ibrahimovic, and reportedly slapped a 70million euro price tag on him to ward off potential suitors earlier this summer.

Eto'o had only one year left on his Barcelona contract, and will almost certainly miss six weeks of the upcoming season when he takes part in the African Nations Cup with Cameroon.

Furthermore, there was not much love lost between him and Barca coach Pep Guardiola, who initially deemed Eto'o surplus to requirements last summer before changing his mind and seeing the player sparkle during the treble-winning 2008/09 campaign.

"I feel that it is best for the club and the team," said Guardiola of his decision to allow Eto'o to leave the Catalan giants this summer.

"It's a question of feelings. I am not here to change anyone's character, but I can decide on which players I want to count on for the season."

Clearly, even if Eto'o had stuck around at the Nou Camp, it would have been against Guardiola's wishes, and he would almost certainly have left on a free in 12 months.

In completing the deal Barcelona admitted they valued Eto'o at around 20million euros so together with the 46million euros lump sum, this more or less covers Inter's 70million euros valuation of Ibrahimovic.

The deal also starts to make more sense when the relative strengths of the players are taken into account.

It seems likely that Ibrahimovic will be playing at a higher level for longer as his game is more skill-based than that of Eto'o, who relies more on pace.

Eto'o also has a poorer track record of injuries, while Ibrahimovic will make Barcelona a greater threat at dead-ball situations, both with his free-kicks and ability in the air.

Guardiola will hope that with Lionel Messi playing behind a big striker, he will be able to take a more central role and become an even greater goal-threat himself.

On the flip side of the coin, what can Eto'o hope to achieve at Inter?

Without the extraordinary creative talents of Messi and Xavi and the industry of Andres Iniesta around him, Eto'o may struggle to replicate last season's exploits.

Perhaps, after all, this deal is not quite as crazy as it might appear on first glance.

Without a doubt Eto'o will remain a serious danger in front of goal and, with Hleb and the money into the bargain, it represents a great piece of business for the Italian champions.

But it is far from a poor deal for Barca - assuming Guardiola can successfully weave the creative talent of Ibrahimovic into his side.

Otherwise, the man who swept all before him last season could pay the price for changing his all-conquering side - and at such massive cost.