Barcelona Transfer News: Afellay and Cuenca Staying Adds Great Depth to Squad
Having endured the majority of their Barcelona careers as options in reserve, both Ibrahim Afellay and Isaac Cuenca may have been likely to head elsewhere this summer, either on loan or as permanent deals.
However, as the club’s official website announced on transfer deadline day, the pair have been handed the squad numbers 19 and 23, respectively, as they make their way back to Barca’s first-team squad.
Last term, Afellay spent the season farmed out to Schalke while Cuenca headed to Ajax in the second half of the campaign.
Both forwards saw their seasons interrupted by injury and are currently unavailable to play. The Spaniard Cuenca is carrying a knee injury while the Dutch international Afellay is coping with a muscle tear, scheduled to be returning in December.
Barcastuff tweeted the comments of club sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, regarding the role that injury played in the players' stay:
Zubizarreta (sports director): "An exit Afellay and Cuenca was difficult because they are recovering, it's now up to the coach." #fcblive— barcastuff (@barcastuff) September 3, 2013
While these aggravations undoubtedly played their hand in the two wide men sticking around at the Camp Nou for the coming months, La Blaugrana should be glad to have two assets in their ranks still with a lot to prove.
Afellay, though 27 years of age now, has seen a large portion of his Spanish tenure interrupted by injury, never quite making the impact on the Barca squad that some might have thought possible.
What's the best option for Afellay and Cuenca this season?
In Germany last season with Schalke, he managed to scored four goals and make two assists in just 11 starts across all competitions, maintaining his place in Louis van Gaal’s Dutch squad until sustaining his injury.
Afellay’s international pedigree is evidence of just how the winger can be a force when fitted to the right model, although that’s failed to happen at Barca just yet.
Cuenca’s contributions in Holland weren’t quite as impressive, as the 22-year-old pitched in with just the one assist across three Eredivisie appearances.
As the younger of the two—and a homegrown player, to boot—Cuenca would presumably have much more of a lifeline at his parent club. In just 11 La Liga starts, the youngster has popped up with five assists and two goals, as well as some impressive performances in the Copa del Rey.
With the likes of Pedro, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez, Cesc Fabregas and even Dani Alves and Jordi Alba ahead of them, it’s a long queue for either player to land a place on Gerardo Martino’s wings when they recover from injury.
However, the promise of some involvement in the cup tournaments as well as the odd outing against some weaker opposition should provide an opening for two players who haven’t been able to catch a break in some time.
At the very least, Afellay and Cuenca can raise their profile and value before their contracts expire in 2015, giving Barcelona the chance to perhaps cash in on one or both of the injury-prone attackers.
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