Ibrahim “Ibi” Afellay

Today Ibrahim Afellay was officially welcomed to FC Barcelona, and tomorrow will be presented publicly to the fans. The deal was already finalized on November 15, 2009, and honestly, I think many of us had even forgotten about him until today.  With the way this team is going at the moment, nobody can say we look like we miss much, but more on that a bit later.

Afellay was born April 2, 1986 (24 years old) in Utrecht, The Netherlands.  As his name suggests, he is of Moroccan decent, but is all in all Dutch.  Afellay joined PSV Eidenhoven at the age of 10 and made his official debut for the club in 2004 at the age of 17.   It didn’t take long for him to win over the PSV fans with glaringly obvious natural talent and an entertaining style of play.  In his 7 year career at PSV “Ibi” (as he is known in Eindhoven) scored 35 goals (with 13 as a season best) in 159 official matches, and contributed many assists.  In that time his presence was key in PSV winning 4 Eredivisie (Dutch league) titles.  He has also been a large part of the Dutch setup since his debut in 2007 and has racked up 31 international caps despite heavy competition from the likes of Robben, Van der Vaart, and Sneijder.

For those that keep an eye on global football, Afellay has been a hot name for quite some years now.  He is known for great technique and a natural flair for attacking.  He is a skillful dribbler, rather quick, and enjoys a direct game which sees him take on his man and unsettle defenders.  Over the years though, he has improved his passing ability and other areas, which has seen him used often in the middle, as opposed to his natural position on the wings.  He works hard and is strong with both feet.  He is a player that can score a nice individual goal and a few long-range shots too, which is one thing in particular I’m personally hoping he can contribute to our team.

So those are the facts, and now for a bit more debate.  His signing cannot have had too many cules jumping out of their seat, which is in no way Afellay’s fault.  We just have a really fabulous team, and honestly, I do not see Afellay being better than any of our starters.  Some have been worried the squad is slightly too light in numbers, so this signing for sure adds great quality depth wise.  Also, “Ibi” (I think this will catch on in Spain quite nicely) is very versatile.  He can take up both wings, or slot into a more central role if needed.  In games where teams are ultra defensive (i.e. most games), his ability to beat a defender and create will come in handy, and hopefully some long-range efforts too.  And also, he came pretty damn cheap.  Estimated at 3-4 million Euros, that is a bargain for his caliber and versatility in today’s football markets.  So economically, this is the opposite of monsieur Ibrahimovic.

Still I, and I’m sure many, are wondering how much he is going to play, barring Copa matches and injuries.  Guardiola is a fan of keeping a pretty consistent set of starters and I simply do not see him replacing anybody, including Pedro.  Just look at Mascherano, Argentinean captain and a defensive midfielder many consider in the top 2 or 3, he barely gets a game over the impressive Busquets and even Pep favorite Keita seems to make more sub appearances.  Even the versatile Adriano, who really was a very good player at Sevilla for many years, couldn’t even get into the Copa game midweek.  Not to mention our club’s and Pep’s strong belief in the cantera philosophy, aka Thiago and Dos Santos.  But one would assume he is going to get games over someone like Jeffren.

So that’s where we are now, and only time will tell what feats Afellay will reach at Barca.  Thus far, I must say I’m optimistic and think it’s a very solid signing.  Cruyff wrote an article a few days after it was confirmed he joined saying he felt “Ibi” has what it takes to succeed at the Camp Nou.  Now Rosell may not love Cruyff, but I take his football related comments quite seriously.  Players such as Van Bommel, former blaugrana Gabri, and Barca legend Ronald Koeman gave similar endorsements (for whatever that is worth to you).  One very clever thing Cruyff pointed out was that Afellay is 24.  He isn’t some fresh raw talent that gets thrown too early into the big time.   He’s had time and experience to mature.

The way his former club sent him off in a great tribute against Roda on the 20th also gives us insight into his character.  He walked onto the pitch for his last time as PSV captain and the fans gave him the loudest of receptions and wished him only success and luck in this new part of his career, which is a refreshing change from most football transfers.  Today in his interviews Afellay did the usual “this is a dream come true”, and “I’m at the best club in the world”, but the most realistic thing he said was “I’m very happy, but also a bit nervous”.  And I’d say that’s the right attitude to have, he should be ecstatic at joining us, but the fact he is nervous alludes to his understanding that his place in this team is far from secured and he is going to have to work very hard both physically and mentally if he wants to truly be part of this historic Barca side.

I truly wish him the best of luck and am excited to see what the future holds.

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10 Responses to Ibrahim “Ibi” Afellay

  1. Nice work BBoy.

    My personal opinion is that we got him for a steal. I see him adding depth and versatility to the midfield…basically, another clone of Keita (but better in a lot of ways).

    This can only be a good thing. He’ll be like Guily was…but a much more refined version. I’m happy about this signing – great price for a superb player…even if he never breaks into the starting 11 on a permanent basis.

    BC Darren

  2. Caleb says:

    At the very least he’ll make other players fight to keep their places in the team. That’s what usually makes a really great team right? A lot of great players keeping other good players on the bench.

  3. barcacentralroger says:

    Nice article BB! Having based my assessment entirely on YouTube clips, as I posted in the earlier Bilbao write up, I like the fact that he is good on both feet and particularly like his shots from distance, something we have lacked, if only in preference to short play. I like the idea of him taking shots early, or acting as the “man over” five yards back from the area when that bus is parked.

  4. FCB-Parbo says:

    I’m looking forward to his long-range shots. That’s what the team lacks. A good addition I think.

    Off topic, but a nice article.


  5. holland says:

    @FCB-Parbo ,
    Nice link . You can see the utter frustration on Cristiano Ronaldo’s face in that picture . As if he is saying to himself , ” How do I compete with this guy ? ”
    Messi has OUTCLASSED C.Ronaldo every time they faced each other : 6 times in all .

  6. barcacentralroger says:

    A nice little clip with Affelay’s first attempts at the new language and then some nice footwork.

    • blaugranaboy says:

      Ha, roger got to posting a similar link by a bit. not a great reception for him, hope he wasnt too bummed about it, it had to be somewhat expected though. he isnt a big name, and most ppl in spain prob know really little about him.

      he may have gotten thousands of less people at his camp nou kick around, but im very sure he is going to be more useful than both henry and zlatan. so hopefully he just keeps calm and pep helps him transition well. all reports label him a very good person and willing to listen and learn. that is going to be vital for him.

  7. bc9jaCulé says:

    The competition {to play} just got stiffer. I guess this is exactly what the squad needs so as to keep on keepin’ on. And I must say it is a warm gesture towards reinforcin our arsenal of soccer gladiators [more so @ such a low price]. @ least even the bench players will have to ‘EARN’ their seats. Albeit Ibi might not be a regular starter, I have no doubt as to his adaptability and what he can achieve with this gr8 club.

    This is a good one Rosell & Pep!

    Welcome Ibi!!

    Forca El Barca!!!

  8. holland says:

    Affelay should be a useful player to strengthen our relatively small squad . In addition to what was mentioned earlier he is a very unselfish player . He is a good ball crosser with both feet and despite his size he can be very agressive and fearless . While Iniesta is a master of dribbling and trickery Affelay tends to run heads on at opponents with tremendous pace .
    It is obvious that he is NOT going to be in the starting line up any time soon . Not many players can start for Barça but Affelay should have many chances as a sub, in case of injuries / suspensions or in Copa matches .
    Affelay was the go to man at PSV so he had to do a lot of shooting from outside but at Barça he will probably have to make some adjustments and concentrate more on bringing the ball up , crosses and passes . It would not be a bad idea for him to supply some long distance shooting from time to time especially against those who choose to park the bus ( ie, Real Madrid , EPL and Serie A CL opponents ) .
    Although Affelay is a talented player with many upsides and good character I do not expect him to score a lot of goals or be a key factor in games but he will contribute his share nevertheless .

  9. Very interested to see how Afellay plays out in Barça’s scheme. It all depends on him, I think, given how ideal his physical talents are for the club. Here’s hoping he meshes in no time with the lads and finds his comfort zone on the pitch.

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