Long term or loan deal? The Eredivisie as the new European reserve league
This week, renowned – and usually well informed – Dutch weekly Voetbal International reported on their website that PSV Eindhoven are in talks with Manchester City about a partnership.
A partnership? Well, that might not be the right word to describe it, seeing as the nature of this collaboration seems to be rather one-sided. What City are after, if Voetbal International is to be believed, is simply a club to whom they can loan players. Nothing is definitive yet, Voetbal International stresses, but it does look highly likely that this summer will see some of City’s reserve players make the move to Eindhoven on loan, with Dutch defender Karim Rekik being one of the obvious candidates.
What PSV might gain with this deal seems obvious. John Guidetti – who scored 20 goals for Feyenoord in the 2011/2012 season – proved that even if a City reserve is nowhere near a spot in the first team in Manchester, he can still set the Eredivisie on fire. What Manchester City might gain seems obvious as well: the Eredivisie is of a higher level than the English U21 Premier League, if only because in the Dutch league winning games and trophies is of tangible importance. Playing there will grant their youngsters much needed experience; some extra playing time that might give them that final push needed before they’re ready to make their Premier League debut. And the player? Well, at least for Guidetti it holds true that even if his career fails at City, there will surely be other clubs interested in his services. Albeit in a small way, he’s proved himself on a national stage.
The fact that, of all places, it’s the Eredivisie that City seem to be interested in does not come out of the blue. In fact, it might be part of a trend. Ajax, for example, seem to have their sights set on multiple Barcelona youngsters, Marc Muniesa being one of them. Indeed, shortly after signing Barcelona player Isaac Cuenca on loan in February 2013, Ajax’ director of football Marc Overmars told Voetbal International: ‘Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova advised him to go to Ajax. That’s a very positive sign. We’re going to try to build on this. If things go right for all parties involved, we hope to sign more Barca players of this calibre in the future’. Meanwhile, Vitesse have obvious ties with Chelsea, with Czech defender Tomáš Kalas, Dutch left back Patrick van Aanholt and French playmaker Gaël Kakuta all currently on loan from London and rumours of a mysterious connection between Vitesse chairman Merab Jordania and Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich.
However exciting these developments may seem at first hand, Eredivisie sides should note that there might be some drawbacks involved as well. For one thing, these partnerships – that seem to be structural in all but name – might stifle the development of young Dutch players. If big European clubs are looking at Eredivisie sides like Vitesse, Ajax and PSV to grant their not-quite-there-yet youngsters some experience, what will these Dutch sides do with their own youngsters in need of playing time? Logic would seem to suggest that they could look at a league of even lower calibre than the Eredivisie, but seeing as that dynamic could potentially go on forever, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Especially for Ajax and their world famous youth academy, this is something to consider. After the arrival of Cuenca, for example, homegrown Jody Lukoki barely got any playing time.
For PSV, things are slightly different: The Eindhoven club has seemingly given up on their youth set up entirely, motivating the highly rated youngster Riechedly Bazoer to make the controversial move from Eindhoven to Amsterdam back in november 2012. This lack of regard for homegrown players is worrying in a sense, because in the long run, the alternative that PSV seem to have come up with – a ‘partnership’ with a club like Manchester City – might not be quite as beneficiary as having a good youth set up. After a year or more of service, a player loaned from City will return to Manchester free of charge. There will be no transfer sum, and PSV will be left empty handed. At least homegrown players can be sold and leave the club with money to further invest; be it in facilities, transfers, or an even better youth set up.
Indeed, the partnerships Ajax and PSV seem to be developing with European powerhouses like Barcelona and Manchester City might only be beneficiary in the short term. Players like Cuenca and Rekik are likely to make any Eredivisie side better, much like Guidetti with Feyenoord. In the longer term, however, they won’t be of any use, thus the short-term gains are the opposite of the long-term structural success Ajax and PSV should be trying to bring about.
With this in mind, Vitesse – a side that only became a potential title contender in need of raw talent after Jordania’s takeover in 2010 – might actually be the one to have the last laugh. For them, short term succes could function as a stepping stone to further development – as long as they’re to invest and not become loan-addicts. Ajax and PSV are beyond that stage altogether, and for them, the bad might outweigh the good in the long term, however exciting it is for us to see young talents like Rekik and Cuenca in the Eredivisie.
This article is written by Elko Born, an Amsterdam-based writer and self-pronounced football hipster. Apart from contributing to Benefoot.net, Elko has contributed to In Bed With Maradona and The False Nine among others. You can find him on Twitter too.