Stoppage Time: An even exchange of goods
Philadelphia, PA – With the election for the United States presidency around the corner, the time is now for economic plans and foreign policies to come to the forefront of our everyday conversations.
There is something to be said for a leader's ability to navigate himself within the confines of the international marketplace to orchestrate a deal that benefits both nations involved.
But whether you support Mitt Romney or Barack Obama, both presidential candidates would do well to take notes from team executives in England's Premier League and Spain's La Liga, who have exchanged player entities for the betterment of their respective sides.
Clubs from both countries have been quite active in the transfer market for several years, acquiring players to address different vacancies.
The writing was on the wall in 2010 when Barcelona plucked Javier Mascherano from the Liverpool ranks. With Sergio Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta holding down the center of midfield for the Catalans, Mascherano was always going to find playing time hard to come by. But the Argentine added value to the Spanish giants by filling in at the center of defense amid injuries to first-choice defenders Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol.
Barcelona followed the same model two years later by swooping for Arsenal's Alex Song. The Cameroonian is finding it tough to crack Barcelona's well- established stable of midfield players, but like Mascherano, he is getting on the pitch in defense with Pique and Puyol sidelined.
Real Madrid, Barcelona's chief title threat, also looked to England in the summer to solidify its midfield. Michael Essien was acquired on a loan deal from Chelsea to reunite with former Blues manager Jose Mourinho. The Ghanaian lined up as a left-back for Real Madrid at the weekend and looked quite comfortable in helping the team keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 defeat of Celta Vigo.
The Spanish league has been enhanced by Barcelona and Real Madrid adding midfield depth with players who can effectively be converted to other positions, but what has La Liga lost as a result?
Creative midfield players in Spain are a dime a dozen, as commonplace as an afternoon siesta. Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets have monopolized playing time with the massively successful Spanish national team, leaving other technically gifted players to toil in virtual anonymity in their native country.
By contrast, there has been a premium on the amount of prototypical "Number 10" players in England for years.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that Manchester City began its transformation from title pretender to contender in 2010 when it purchased David Silva from Valencia.
Chelsea followed suit by signing promising attacker Juan Mata from Valencia last summer. The 24-year-old was named Chelsea's player of the season last term, and he has added to his growing resume in the early months of this campaign by teaming up with Belgian international Eden Hazard to power the reigning European champions to a four-point lead atop the Premier League table through eight games.
And with what was perhaps the best signing of the most recent transfer window, Arsenal reinvigorated its creative juices by landing Santi Cazorla from Malaga. The exquisite passing play from the 27-year-old Spaniard has helped Gunner fans forget about the recent departures of Song, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie.
Valencia and Malaga come out of the past couple of years looking like clear losers as they failed to keep hold of such quality players, but neither side stood a legitimate chance of achieving any more than they had in recent years - Valencia's Copa del Rey triumph in 2008 is the only silverware obtained by either club over the past five seasons.
On the other side, the even exchange of creative attackers for versatile midfielders addresses needs for each club and improves their chances of advancing into the latter stages of the Champions League. The addition of Song to Barcelona and Essien to Real Madrid makes both sides much more flexible and adaptable, while Silva, Mata and Cazorla should help the English sides become more dynamic and unpredictable going forward.
Precisely what constitutes a "fair deal" in foreign relations.