You have all just been Hlebbed.
Now that you’ve recovered and haven’t smashed your monitor in a fit of rage, let us return to the task at hand. That’s right, it’s time for the mid-season (sort of) report on our loanees. Barcelona has been firing on all cylinders and with the form of players like Abidal, the excitement of a new signing in Afellay, and Alves’ protracted contract negotiations it is easy to forget the six players we are currently loaning out. Or perhaps you are more like me and actively try to ignore the fact that we have any players loaned out; if only I could get my hands on some Forget-Me-Nows.
Add to that that Madrid just lost… wait, Madrid just lost?!?! What’s that? They’re now 7 points behind us, and we’ve only lost 5 points so far this season?!?! It’s a good thing Pep is more grounded than I am, because I’m going out to celebrate. Ok I’m back. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the loanees. We’re going to begin our journey with the man of the hour, Alexander Hleb.
Wild Hleb can be found primarily in England and Germany. Rarely they can be found making a sojourn to Spain, although they never stay for long. A versatile creature, Hleb’s have mastered very few unique skills and are known for their ability to perform many skills well. This versatility may have been predicated on the fact that they are known to avoid aggression – they would prefer to move on to a new locale than to stay and fight for their spot. In the summer of 2008 Hleb’s were worth around 15 million Euros on the black market (any transfer between Arsenal and Barcelona), but authorities have been unable to determine a market price for a Hleb since then. Hopefully there will be breakthrough this summer, but the discovery of newer, younger creatures has sharply dampened the demand for Hleb in recent years.*
Next on the list is Martin Caceres. Caceres was originally purchased for a reported fee of 16.5 million Euros from Villareal in 2008 after performing well on loan at Recreativo Huelva. He spent his first season at Barcelona, where he had a difficult time adjusting. After a somewhat successful year on loan to Juventus he is on loan this season at Sevilla where he has made 14 appearances.
Yeah yeah, you all know the history, and you want to hear about his future. The club has expressed their interest in selling him as Sevilla has the option to purchase him at any time during the season for a measly 5 million. I sometimes look at our back line and wonder what it will look like 3 or 4 seasons in the future, but Caceres has never been part of those day dreams. While he has quality and potential, his ball control, passing, and comfort on the ball aren’t strong enough for him to fulfill Pep’s requirements for defenders. I for one hope Sevilla exercises their option to purchase at the end of the season.
Now here is a man who has entered my day dreams… when thinking about defenders in Barcelona’s future of course. Henrique is only 24 and performed well in his three years on loan. After a loan to Bayer Leverkusen where he played across the back line he was brought into the team for preseason in 2009. Unfortunately, in the match against the LA Galaxy he gave away a foul right outside the box which Beckham converted. He was loaned out to Racing Santander shortly afterward and has made 43 appearances for them.
Henrique is the one player on this list that I would like to see in the squad list next season. He may not be Barcelona quality right now, but it is hard to know what would happen if he was working along side players like Puyol, Pique, and Abidal. Not to mention that he can fill in at right or left back if absolutely necessary, and he has a lot of attributes that could make him a successful squad player. If he were to replace Milito he wouldn’t see too much game time anyways if he struggled, and if he struggles he is still a good short term solution until one of our burgeoning cantera centerbacks are ready.
Keirrison, Keirrison, Keirrison. I honestly don’t know where to start on this one as thinking about his future is like a crazy mind puzzle. Trying to understand his transfer and his future is like trying to solve Einstein’s Riddle, so let’s just start with some history. After banging in goals with the Coritiba and Palmeiras in Brazil, he joined Barcelona in 2009 for somewhere around 15 million Euros. He was one of Barcelona’s two Traffic transfers that summer, the other being Henrique. Since then he has had half season stints at Benfica and Fiorentina where despite some promising glimpses he failed to impose himself. Last summer saw him move back to Brazil on loan to Santos.
Keirrison was given a 5 year deal when he signed, so at the end of the season he will still have 3 years left on his contract. It is tempting to look to him as a backup striker solution, but his difficulty in adapting to European football is troubling. I’m concerned that at the end of the day he isn’t the type of player who will prosper in Pep’s system. Still, I’d love for him to get a chance. It would be a shame for us to sell him without before he played a single game for the club.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you the allosaurus in the room, the man who has been discussed ad nauseum on these pages, the enigmatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic!
You all know his history with the club, and we’ve all shouted ourselves hoarse about him, so I’m going to be brief. He has been performing well in Italy this season, contributing 17 goals in 25 appearances for Milan. Considering his acrimonious split from the club the best thing would be for Milan to sign him permanently at the end of the season. I keep hoping that a bidding war for him will magically pop up out of nowhere this summer like those jack in the box toys that are made to scar children for life (not that I know anything about them…).
And now take a cleansing breath before our final subject of the day.
Now this is a loan I can support. Victor Sanchez joined Barcelona at the age of 18 and worked through the C team and B team ranks to find himself in the first team. An unassuming fellow, his contributions to Barcelona’s treble season are often forgotten. Even I was surprised to see he made 12 appearances that season, including 3 appearances in Europe. However, as much as we all like to see youth players succeed in the senior ranks, there will always be players who don’t make it.
Victor Sanchez, being mature, spoke with Pep Guardiola and realized he wasn’t part of his first team plans. He spent the year “on loan”** to Xerex in 2009-2010, although his contributions weren’t enough to save them from relegation. He is off at Getafe this season, and has made 11 appearances. This in my mind is a fantastic loan. While Sanchez isn’t good enough for the team, it is heart warming to see the club giving him chances to go prove himself elsewhere without putting too much pressure on him. I hope he finds a home in another team in La Liga.
There they are, our six players on loan. I find it frustrating that between them they will have 12 years on loan at the end of this season. This speaks to the fact that we are having trouble offloading players who haven’t been up to snuff, and it appears we have no real long term plans for one or two of the players. Add to this the fact that all but one were fairly substantial purchases, and it is easy to get frustrated with the club’s loan policy.
… But then I just remember how phenomenal this Barcelona team we have the pleasure to watch is. Having a long loan list is an unfortunate byproduct of our success, but it is better to have this unfortunate side effect than to not be successful.
* This is meant to be read in David Attenborough’s voice, NOT Sigourney Weaver’s. **My understanding is that because Xerex had too many players on loan (in anticipation of being relegated again), Sanchez was actually sold to Xerex for 0 Euros, with a 0 Euro buyback clause.