Eto’o for Ibrahimovic in Barca-Inter swap deal
BARCELONA: Barcelona has reportedly agreed to pay Inter Milan euro40 million ($56 million) for striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a deal that will also send striker Samuel Eto'o and midfielder Aleksandr Hleb to the Serie A club.
According to reports in the Spanish media on Friday the deal was agreed during a dinner meeting between Barcelona president Joan Laporta and Inter president Massimo Moratti in Milan on Thursday night.
Sweden striker Ibrahimovic is Barcelona's first marquee signing since Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the treble last season.
Belarus midfielder Hleb will head to the San Siro on loan for the upcoming campaign.
Moratti said that the impromptu meeting with Laporta - and Barcelona sporting director Txiki Beguiristain - was originally intended to tie up left back Maxwell's euro4.5 million ($6.4 million) transfer to Barcelona and complete Hleb's move.
"We obviously talked about other things because for them it was interesting to know something about Ibrahimovic," Moratti said.
"We also spoke about Eto'o to understand if it's possible to do a deal with these two players. If an operation of this kind was carried out, it would regard both players." Eto'o had already rejected a lucrative offer from Manchester City this summer. The Cameroon striker instead opted to stay and let his contract run out so he could leave the Camp Nou without a transfer fee at the end of next season despite Barcelona offering a two-year extension to his current deal.
Barcelona agreed to extend the 28-year-old Eto'o's vacation time as it sought a replacement. Valencia's David Villa was linked with a potential move but Barcelona was unwilling to meet Valencia's euro50 million ($71 million) asking price for the Spain striker.
Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan was also thought to be a target.
Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola originally wanted to sell the volatile Eto'o last summer after saying the three-time Africa footballer of the year would not factor into the club's plans.
But Eto'o - who won three league championships, two European Cups and one Copa del Rey title in five seasons at the Catalan club - won Guardiola over with 34 goals in 50 appearances last season, including the winner in the Champions League final victory over Manchester United. That victory allowed Barcelona to become only the fifth European team to win the treble.
The 27-year-old Ibrahimovic, who led Serie A with 25 goals last season, guided Inter to three straight Serie A league titles since a euro12 million ($17 million) move from Juventus in 2006. The former Ajax player has scored 21 goals in 58 appearances for Sweden.
Hleb played a minor role in Barcelona's success last season, often coming on as a substitute to make 34 appearances in his first season after a transfer from Arsenal.