Would swapping Courtois for Costa work for either Atletico or Chelsea?

Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Swapping Thibaut Courtois for Diego Costa is a fun idea, but likely makes little sense for anyone but the press

The Daily Mail are reporting today that Chelsea have an agreement in place with Atletico that will send Diego Costa to Stamford Bridge during the summer transfer window. Here's some of what they had to say on the matter:

Chelsea and Atletico Madrid have agreed a sensational swap deal that could see Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge next season, according to reports in the Spanish media.

'According to reports in the Spanish media' is usually code for 'we couldn't be bothered to write an actual story, so here's some poo smeared on paper that we'll attribute to the rumor fairy'. There's little to no reason to believe this report is any different, and thus, I've already safely filed it away in the garbage bin. That said, I got to thinking about whether or not this deal would actually make sense for either party involved.

The logic behind a Thibaut Courtois/Diego Costa swap deal seems easy enough to grasp. Atletico will need to replace Courtois if he returns to Chelsea, and they'd love to simply keep Courtois. Chelsea have two excellent goalkeepers yet need a dynamic striker, and the Madrid side are probably going to lose Costa this summer anyway. This swap solves a potential issue for both sides.

For Atletico, though, this is not so simple. Thibaut Courtois is a fantastic young goalkeeper, and it's not hard to believe he'll be one of the best in the world for the next 12-15 years. The problem lies in finding a value for Courtois, as only once in history has a goalkeeper been transferred for more than the €38.5 million buyout of Diego Costa. Gianluigi Buffon once reportedly cost Juventus over €51 million, a figure which almost doubles the amount of the next highest fee for a keeper. Since the early part of the last decade though, goalkeeper valuations have dropped considerably.

What's more, only four other keepers have reportedly ever been transferred at a cost of €20 million or greater, according to transfermarkt. While Courtois is quite possibly the most valuable goalkeeper on the planet at the moment due to his age and current ability, it's still awfully difficult to make a case that he's worth anywhere near the €38.5 million that it would take to activate Costa's buyout. Chelsea would almost certainly need to include a substantial amount of cash in order to make a deal work, and that sort of negotiation would be unlikely to be resolved quickly.

For an Atletico club that's not among the elite earners in Europe, spending extravagantly on a goalkeeper makes very little sense. Very good goalkeepers are regularly available for under €10 million, and most of those players would jump at the opportunity to play for the Spanish side. Clubs like Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Manchester United can reasonably pay well above market value for an elite young goalkeeper, clubs that have to stretch their budgets in order to have any prayer of competing really can't.

For Atletico Madrid, this swap proposal only makes sense if Chelsea are giving them a large discount on Courtois.

From Chelsea's perspective, this sort of move would be entirely dependant on the valuation of Courtois. If the club like Costa and think he's the sort  of striker that can perform at an elite level for the next 4-5 years, he's most certainly worth his buyout in a market that vastly overvalues goal scoring totals. Activating the clause and simply keeping one of the games brightest young talents is a perfectly viable option, even if they intend to move Courtois in a separate transaction later on.

Because of that, Chelsea have little reason to make Courtois available in a deal to acquire the forward. Unless Costa signs a new contract which sees his buyout increased to a point where it far exceeds his value, Chelsea always have a very strong negotiating position from which to work.

For the Blues, this swap proposal only makes sense if Atletico Madrid are paying well over Chelsea's valuation of Courtois.

Just like that, we see the problems with a potential swap deal that the papers are reporting. Finding a valuation for Courtois is likely to be a tricky matter, far more so than Chelsea simply activating the buyout in Diego Costa's contract. While this isn't to say that a swap deal of some sort can't or won't be done, it's vastly more probable that any deal for Diego Costa does not involve Thibaut Courtois going the other way. This swap sells papers, but at the end of the day, that's probably all that it's good for.

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