Ibrahim Afellay is a January bargain for Barcelona

By Simon Jalie
ibrahim affellay
(Photo: Paul Blank)

ibrahim affellay

PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona confirmed this week that they have struck a deal which will see Holland international Ibrahim Afellay join the Catalan giants in January for a reported fee of €3m.

The deal is an absolute bargain for a player of his undoubted quality. Afellay has been one of the brightest young stars in the Eredivisie for several seasons, winning the prestigious Johan Cruijff Young Player of the Year award in 2007.

Now, at 24 years old, the time has come for him to fly the nest and seek to develop his prodigious talent abroad in one of the top European leagues.

The Utrecht-born attacking midfielder was a supporting member of the Dutch squad that got to the World Cup final in South Africa and, although he was confined to substitute appearances and did not appear after the second round win over Paraguay, he had a positive impact coming off the bench when given the opportunity by Bert van Marwijk.

With over 150 games under his belt for PSV and having already accummulated 30 caps for his country, Afellay has the experience both at domestic and international level to compete for a starting role in Pep Guardiola’s team but, given the competition in his favoured position, is he likely to get the chance to blossom at the Camp Nou?

Afellay is an attacking midfielder/winger with pace and trickery whose role in Guardiola’s Barcelona team is most likely to be in one of the high wide positions of the 4-3-3 formation.

With David Villa and Lionel Messi clearly automatic first choices in the offensive line, Pedro Rodriguez looks like the most likely candidate to provide immediate competiton. Afellay has been likened to Andres Iniesta in his playing style but he is unlikely to play as deep for Barcelona as Iniesta does in the midfield three next to Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets or Javier Mascherano.

As far as Guardiola is concerned, the signing appears to be an excellent one. He is getting one of Europe’s best young players for a paltry sum and he will provide vital cover at the end of a long season in which injuries could become an issue.

Barca still have one of -if not -the best starting elevens in Europe but, with only 19 players registered with the first team squad, any injuries could hit them hard. Afellay could potentially cover the absence of Villa, Pedro, Messi or Iniesta, which is crucial given that the current attacking reserves amount to youngsters Bojan Krkic, Jeffren Suarez and, behind them, an even younger crop from Barcelona B.

At the same time, the Dutchman has not just come to provide back-up on the comfortable Barcelona bench. The hope is that, over the next few seasons, he will develop into a world beater and the antecedents are very encouraging.

Afellay is the seventh player to sign for Barcelona from PSV Eindhoven and he has some gargantuan boots to fill.

Players who have joined Barcelona from PSV Eindhoven:

Ronald Koeman (1989)
Revered figure in Barcelona folklore after scoring the winning goal in the 1992 European Cup final.

Romario (1993)
One of the all-time greats who scored over a 1000 goals in his career including 32 in one season for Barcelona. Only surpassed by…

Ronaldo (1996)
Arguably the greatest out and out centre forward of all time, certainly of the modern era. The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner scored 47 goals in 49 appearances in his one and only season at the Camp Nou.

Philip Cocu (1998)
This long-serving defensive midfielder holds the Barcelona appearance record for a foreign player having made 292 outings between 1998 and 2004.

Boudewijn Zenden (1998)
Perhaps the least successful of the PSV recruits but still holds the distinction of having ousted Barca legend Sergi from the team while playing out of position at left back.

Mark van Bommel (2005)
Served at Barcelona for just one season but perfectly complemented the technical talent elsewhere in the team with his role as the midfield hardman, helping the club to a La Liga and Champions League double in 2005-6.

Read more on Spanish football at Simon Jalie’s La Liga Blog

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