Moving from the MLS to the big leagues of Europe is never an easy task for a footballer, but it is made all the more difficult when you are refused a work permit to ply your trade.
This is what has happened to Juan Agudelo, not once, but twice, and his dream of appearing in the Premier League appears to be over, at least for now.
The 21-year-old signed for Stoke City from New England Revolution in January, with the Potters knowing that the work permit situation was a problem. Agudelo's move was originally cancelled due to the failure of the work permit application. However, Stoke went through with the move anyway, loaning the striker out to Dutch side FC Utrecht in an attempt to retrieve the situation.
It has not been a move that has worked out well for Mark Hughes' side, with the UK Home Office turning down the second application on Friday. This has left the Welshman bemoaning the system that has seen his January signing fail to turn out in red and white.
Hughes said, per The Stoke Sentinel:
I just think that given what seems to be happening, it's very unlikely Stoke City will be going to any work permit hearings in the near future.
There would be no point, given the attitude to bringing in non-EU players if they are not £20-£25m players because it's very unlikely we would get them in. For full internationals with great potential, there is no pathway.
The Sentinel also reports that the nature of the refusal has made the matter all the more irritating for the Stoke boss, saying of Hughes: "His frustration is compounded because of a bizarre procedure which allows the panel to avoid giving an official explanation for any of its decisions."
The situation is an inopportune one for Stoke and, to an extent, Agudelo, who would have envisaged making an impact in the Premier League. However, it is by no means the end of the road for the youngster who already has 18 USA caps to his name.
Agudelo's spell in Holland with Utrecht has been a brief but successful first foray into European football. In eight starts and six substitute appearances, he has managed three goals and three assists, per ESPN FC.
He has also left the Eredivisie side having set up the first goal and then scoring the winner in their final game of the season against Vitesse. With two goals in his last two home appearances, the Utrecht faithful will be sad to see his loan spell run out.
Per Greg Seltzer for MLSsoccer.com, a number of clubs in the Dutch top flight are interested in the services of Agudelo. He has proven his ability to find the back of the net at that level, and as a 21-year-old on a free transfer, he is an attractive proposition.
The Eredivisie may not be the same as the bright lights of the Premier League, but it is still a fantastic opportunity for the young talent to hone his career in Europe. If Agudelo can manoeuvre himself into a top-half team in the division, continuing to perform as he was with Utrecht, then a move to one of the higher profile leagues could be right around the corner.
This should see Agudelo return to the USA fold as well. He has missed out on Jurgen Klinsmann's 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup, which will have left him hurting. However, if he can make strides in the Eredivisie, then he will be back in contention; he need only look at AZ Alkmaar striker Aron Johannsson. The Alabama native has been a regular scorer in Holland this season and is set to be on the plane to Brazil.
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