Firstly, let me point out that this is no way a jibe at what is an incredibly progressive and admirable Stoke side, but a query into the ability of their latest great signing, who at a stage, was supposed to be one of the best young midfielders in the world - Ibrahim Afellay.
Yesterday Stoke confirmed what can be seen as a bit of a coup as Ibrahim Afellay was released from Barcelona and Mark Hughes eagerly snapped up the one time hot prospect, but it takes no time to wonder, how Afellay, now 29 managed to free fall from a position of exceptional promise.
His real ability shone through at the club that has nurtured so many world beating Dutch players, and PSV Eindhoven appeared to have another gem on their hands in the form of Afellay who broke into the team at the age of 17 and establishing himself as a first team regular a year later.
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Johann Cruijff Award
He was mostly deployed on the wings, due to his pace and trickery and was soon getting a name for himself as a bit of a play-maker winning the league in 06/07 and capping it with the very very prestigious honour of Johann Cruijff Award for most promising young player in Netherlands.
Things weren't always so easy for Afellay though and injuries marred what should have been a brilliant young talent. However the 50 time capped Dutchman soon adapted to new injuries and versatility showed how he could play in the defensive midfield position, so much so that it stripped captaincy of Timmy Simmons and secured Afellay a big move to Barcelona. The move he was always supposed to make.
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Joining for a shrewd 3 million many wondered where ANOTHER midfielder was going to fit in again at the Camp Nou. Injuries once again were his greatest obstacle and although he managed to squeeze in 28 games in his first season a hamstring injury sidelined Afellay in his second once again and the most competitive midfield in the world forced him out on loan for the first time in his career.
Shalke were the first to try out what was beginning to look like a fallen star and he made the 2012/13 season start in Germany.
Having begun promisingly Afellay's weaknesses came back to the forefront of his game with a muscle problem bringing a premature end to his Shalke season in November, having scored 4 goals it was a major blow to the players morale.
Citing problems with the Shalke medical staff, Afellay never settled in Germany and returned to his parent club in January seeing out the rest of the season on the medical table. Another loan followed at Greek Champions Olympiacos on another season long deal and outlined what was surely the end of Afellay's times at the Catalan club that was supposed to make his career.
Redemption at Stoke
Now age the edge where others are defining their career, 29-year-old Afellay has a chance of redemption. For forgiveness of himself for what was to be such a promising talent.
And it may turn out to be a masterstroke by both parties. Securing what was clearly a starlet on a free transfer is a no risk opportunity for Mark Hughes, and the manager has worked wonders turning Stoke into the side they are and a dynamic, creative mind such as Ibrahim Afellay can add so much more to the side.
Keeping up with the physicality of the Premier League is sure to be a challenge for Afellay, but with so much promise and clear ability, Afellay has a chance to banish all the demons that have haunted him since his Barcelona move and it may turn out to be the revitalization of one of world footballs former wonder-kids.
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