Nuri Sahin and the Impact of the Season-Long Loan Deal in the EPL
The optimism made sense. The Turkish midfielder has the technical alacrity new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers relishes in a player, and it's easy to see Sahin slotting into the center of the park alongside the likes of Steven Gerrard and Joe Allen, both starters in the Reds' first two Premier League games this season.
The news that Lucas Leiva could be facing up to two months on the sideline with a thigh injury—from a neutral standpoint, I can't help but feel for the guy suffering a debilitating knock this soon after returning from the ACL tear suffered early on last season—only ratchets up Sahin's importance to the Kop cause.
At 23, he is hardly the sort of player one is accustomed to seeing go out on loan, but it is precisely that fact that makes Sahin's move so enthralling. He is continuing a trend that seems to be developing in recent seasons—one that appears to be changing how the loan move is used.
After making a high-profile switch to Real Madrid from Borussia Dortmund following the 2010-11 season, one in which he'd been the 2010-11 German Player of the Season, Sahin found the going rather tough, and ended up appearing in just four league games after regaining fitness in November.
Thus, he decided to use a "year abroad" to bolster his footballing skill in the hopes of making himself a more attractive commodity for Madrid boss Jose Mourinho, with the hopes that he would become a more integral part of the Madrid machinations next season.
Sahin said that Mourinho encouraged his move. The Portuguese manager has remained a staunch advocate of the English game since leaving Chelsea a month into the 2007-08 season, and will have realized that dealing with its pace on a weekly basis could only help his player improve.
The chance to play under Brendan Rodgers, whom Mourinho knew from his time managing Chelsea, was an added benefit.
"To be honest, I hadn't thought of playing for Liverpool before talking to Brendan Rodgers, as we didn't have any previous contact," Sahin said. "But just after the first conversation, I felt impressed.
"He told me how he wants to play football and what his objectives with Liverpool are. From that moment, I started thinking I could make that step."
Where does the Loan Move Go From Here?
No longer simply an asset used by managers to get promising youngsters game time, usually at a lower level of competition, Premier League teams with designs on top-four finishes are realizing that the right loan deal can have a huge impact on their season.
Everton had sent for another Madrid player, Royston Drenthe, last season. While the pacy left-footer failed to make his mark on the side, the arrival of Denis Stracqualursi met more success. Stracqualursi made 27 appearances for the Toffees, and scored three goals on the way to enjoying a seventh-place league finish.
But Everton boss David Moyes wasn't the only manager who saw the potential impact a key loan signing could have on a high finish.
It's hard to underscore the pivotal role Emmanuel Adebayor played for Tottenham last season, where he was on loan from Manchester City (after taking another sejour with Real Madrid the season before).
So good was Adebayor at center forward that new manager Andre Villas-Boas made it one of his first big bits of business to meet his contractual demands and buy him on a permanent basis.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, rumored to be in the running for Sahin as recently as last week, adds him name to the bunch, having brought in Yossi Benayoun in 2011-12.
Yossi Benayoun had been one of a bevy of last-minute buys by Wenger during the 2011 summer transfer window, and while the Chelsea winger didn't see too many games to start the season, by the time the run-in had come 'round he was as key a component as any player in an Arsenal shirt, starting the last six games of the campaign and scoring in the final two.
Benayoun's experience in the EPL obviously made him an attractive option (he'd played in it since the 2005-06 season, when he joined West Ham United from Racing Santander), and Wenger decided to make him the first loan arrival since Julio Baptista, who coincidentally joined from Real Madrid in August 2006, with Jose Antonio Reyes going the other way.
The jury's obviously still out as to whether Sahin can effectively make the switch and adapt to the rigorous pace of the Premier League, but the fact that he plays midfield could help him adapt more quickly than, say, Baptista, who was something of a bust.
Wenger told Arsenal's official website that midfielders as a general rule adapt far quicker to the game in England than their attacking counterparts, with the sheer volume of touches that arrive in the center of the park allowing them to get a much better feel.
Sahin's status as a centrally-inclined midfielder should behoove his introduction to the furious fight of the EPL, and his technical proficiency should fit right in to Rodgers's style of play.
The question that pertains to him, then, is a bigger one. Sahin is unlikely to stay on past this season—he's said he plans to head back to Madrid and fight for a spot in the first-team—but if he enjoys a successful spell, more top Premiership clubs might cast a keener eye toward making similar arrangements.
Because if Sahin proves a crucial cog in an Anfield engine that roars, say, to another European spot next season, it's easy to say that the loan deal was worth it.
How Will Fair Play Affect This?
With UEFA's Financial Fair Play regulations set to take effect in the coming seasons, exorbitant transfer deals for top players may be going the way of history.
At least, potentially in the way we've come to know them. What could become most popular about the season-long loan deal is, perhaps, that it could provide teams with a perfect scouting report for a player they're keen to sign.
Spending a hefty sum to bring in a player who turns out to be a bust, or simply doesn't gel with the side, would become far more crippling under the new financial regulations, one would think.
So why not use a loan deal to get an audition before exercising a built-in option to buy the player on a permanent basis?
There's the case of the club lending the player being a bit reticent to oblige, but since every team will be affected by the restrictions, one would think we might begin to see the sorts of collaborations implied in the new partnership struck up by Tottenham and Real Madrid in the Luka Modric sale.
If a player isn't getting minutes at his club to start with, either, why not allow him the chance to go elsewhere. If he proves his mettle with a new side in a new league, that side will be chomping at the bit to pay for his permanent transfer.
Therefore, loan deals for out-of-favor players, or ones simply looking for more game time, could become far more popular.
There's always the argument that in, say, Sahin's case using him to achieve a goal this season and then seeing him go the next would be a fruitless endeavor. After all, the side will have grown accustomed to his exploits, and could suffer without them in the ensuing one.
But if the player finds success at his new environment, it would follow that he might like to stay there.
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