For quite sometime youngsters of both Barça and Real Madrid have been sent out on loan to seek game time. Gaining experience in some of the top sides across Europe, these players tailor themselves to the requirements of their parent clubs. The ardent fans are always keeping an eye on the loaned players’ progress. But who is benefitting from the loan policy?
The loan system helps to prepare future stars while simultaneously filtering the cream. In addition to sending players on one or two-year loans, the parent clubs can also install clauses on playing time. However, these parent clubs need to assert a clear sense of responsibility for the player they are loaning out to ensure his development isn’t hampered.
Spain’s two big giants, Barcelona and Real Madrid, have taken significantly different approaches in their loan system, having both multiple examples of footballers who have been benefitted from it, and others who haven’t. But, overall, whose use of loans is being more productive?
Barcelona’s players on loan
Phillipe Coutinho | Bayern Munich
Emerson | Real Betis
Carles Aleñá | Real Betis
Rafinha Alcântara | Celta de Vigo
Marc Cucurella | Getafe CF
Jean-Clair Todibo | Schalke 04
Moussa Wagué | OGC Nice
Juan Miranda | Schalke 04
Oriol Busquets | FC Twente
Real Madrid’s players on loan
Achraf Hakimi | Borussia Dortmund
Martin Ødegaard | Real Sociedad
Dani Ceballos | Arsenal
Sergio Reguilón | Sevilla
Álvaro Odriozola | Bayern Munich
Takefusa Kubo | RCD Mallorca
Óscar Rodriguez | CD Leganés
Jesús Vallejo | Granada CF
Borja Mayoral | Levante UD
Andriy Lunin | Real Oviedo
Alberto Soro | Real Zaragoza
Jorge de Frutos | Rayo Vallecano
Luca Zidane | Racing Santander
Javi Sánchez | Real Valladolid
Evidently, Los Blancos have used the loaning system to its full capacity. By loaning an entire first team’s worth of players, they have ensured that no prospect suffers due to lack of match-time.
The azulgranas, on the other hand, have stuck to loaning out a selected number of players. They have even loaned players from those positions where there is a clear lack of dimension, like right-back or defence in general.
Real Madrid’s loan army
There’s no denying that most of Real Madrid’s players on loan are having a fruitful time at their clubs. Achraf Hakimi is tearing up the Bundesliga. The Morrocan right-back has established himself as one of the best in his position. He will reportedly return to the Santiago Bernabéu next season and give Dani Carvajal a run for his money for the starting position.
Real Sociedad, Real Madrid and Martin Ødegaard have all been benefitted by the Norwegian’s loan to the txuri-urdin side | Photo by Imago
Another footballer who has shown massive development is Martin Ødegaard. Since he is at a fellow La Liga club, Real Madrid have kept a close eye on his progress. The Norwegian has gone through a step-by-step loan process. Spending a few years at the Eredivisie before his current spell at Real Sociedad has helped him in gradually transitioning through the intensities.
In addition to Ødegaard, Sergio Reguilón has also displayed his qualities at fellow Spanish outfit Sevilla. While Dani Ceballos’ spell at Arsenal has been hampered by injuries, the Gunners’ enthusiasts are excited to see what he can provide them when the season restarts. Wonderkid Takefusa Kubo is getting regular minutes at Mallorca, often showing a maturity that is beyond his age. Though his spot in Los Blancos’ senior side isn’t immediate, it certainly is guaranteed in the future.
Confusion and chaos for the Catalans
Unlike their rivals, Barcelona hasn’t made the most of the loaning policy. Partly because of the board’s complacency in finding the right profiles, partly because of the squad being imbalanced. There is a clear shortage of options in defensive positions, while there is an excess of midfielders. In the attacking department, there aren’t enough wingers. Quique Setién has only been able to select a number of quality players at his disposal.
Furthermore, the reputed La Masía academy has also seen a sharp decline. Rather for the lack of quality, the problem has been that the existing one has not been properly exploited. Gems have sometimes been sold without even giving them a proper chance, while others have been sent to the wrong destination. There is a clear lack of vision and ambition that has hindered the flow of talent that was once not an issue for them.
The contrast in care
As we all know, not every loan spell is beneficial for a player. Sometimes, a player who is loaned out isn’t given enough game time to develop his skills. He might not be a part of the manager’s plans or is actually not even considered as a priority at all. A reason for this could be the manager’s opinion of the player not being a long-term solution for his team. After all, if he shines at the club he is loaned to, there is a great chance of the parent club choosing to incorporate him into the first team. Although rare, this mentality has surfaced on a few occasions.
It is during such situations that the parent club must step in, and do the needful to help their player out. Real Madrid has done the right thing by helping Andriy Lunin switch from Real Valladolid to Real Oviedo due to the lack of playing time. They have also moved Jesús Vallejo from Wolverhampton Wanderers to Granada. Sometimes the profile of the club to which a player is loaned to might not match the levels of development required. It is the responsibility of the parent club to vouch for their player.
Despite currently having only five Bundesliga appearances, Barcelona did not want to finalise Juan Miranda’s loan at Schalke in winter | Photo by Imago
Unfortunately, in Barcelona’s case, there isn’t much concern shown over their loaned players. Juan Miranda is unable to get enough playing time at Schalke, and the Catalan outfit hasn’t taken any action on this. The 20-year-old left-back is a promising prospect who has the potential to solve the blaugranas‘ full-back problems one day. Nevertheless, there is no way he can harvest time on polishing his expertise without getting enough first-team action.
Real Madrid has ensured to put in a minimum amount of minutes clause in their player’s contracts, thereby warranting the loanee’s playing time. Barça should look to impose similar strategies if they have any intentions of benefitting from the loaning policy. With the high-profile loan of Philippe Coutinho to Bayern Munich not materialising into a permanent move, Setién will have an extra creative option to make use of. He has even expressed his desire to work with the Brazilian.
❛ I’m counting on him being here at the start of next season. I don’t know what he wants to do. Perhaps I have to speak to him and ask him. He is a great player, without a doubt ❜
on Philippe Coutinho
That said, if Coutinho is back, it will be more because of his own talent than because of an evolution in the Bundesliga. Bayern displayed a similar approach with Real Madrid’s James Rodríguez, who is now struggling at the Spanish capital. Thus, it is clear that loans must be done for prospects, and high-profile loans should be avoided at all costs. The purpose of a loan is and will always be for harnessing development, and in this battle of loan–stars, Real Madrid takes the undisputed win.
Trincão, Griezmann or Dembélé: Who should start for Barcelona?
From having to field center-mids such as Arturo Vidal on the flanks to now owning the likes of Dembélé, Trincão and Griezmann, it’s probably safe to assume that Barcelona’s wing play finally seems to have adequate profiles, individuals worthy of starting out wide. But, while healthy competition is always welcomed at the club, it’s apparent that Koeman must quickly find his “go-to player” and analyse whom he must bet on to consistently start games. With Barça successfully concluding their pre-season and looking ever so dominant in the opening game of La Liga, let’s take a look at what each player brings to the table.
Currently, it looks as if Antoine Griezmann has been reserved as a starter, which doesn’t come as a surprise given his immense status and the weightage his name carries in the squad list. However, Ronald Koeman’s intricate 4-2-3-1 system hasn’t truly allowed the Frenchman to fully express himself yet. Against Villarreal and even in the matches Antoine previously featured in, Griezmann was deprived of a fixated role and alternating occasionally with Messi as a direct number 9 or as a somewhat number 10 often left the right-hand side vulnerable, where Sergi Roberto would be tasked to produce most of the output upfield. Although Griezmann was seen making some well-timed runs, his link-up play was far from satisfactory, and as Messi would occupy the number 9 role, the former Atletico man would fail to operate effectively behind Leo or out wide.
In Barcelona’s La Liga opener, the left flank ticked every box the club seemed to have left unanswered and neglected last season. Jordi Alba’s runs from deep, Coutinho’s additional support as a mediapunta, and Ansu Fati’s exhilarating flare on the touchline proved too much to handle for Emery’s side since diverging attention from even a single player would lead to the visitors getting battered in the final third. Even so, while the Catalans eliminated their narrow and horizontal football to a somewhat acceptable extent, Ronald has only managed to refurbish one side of the pitch, with Griezmann and Messi’s natural tendency to operate centrally leaving the right flank vacant.
Therefore, to truly make the most of Barça’s offensive yield, it is vital to rely on natural wingers such as Trincão or Dembélé, players that can be considered ruthless on the counter and unforgiving in transitions. Whilst both players may eventually qualify as classic wingers, these two individuals propound different options, proving to be ideal in their respective departments. For example, in contrast to Dembouz, Trincão is likely to excel far more against a team with a low-block, given he is an exceedingly refined dribbler and considerably polished in his movement on/off the ball. Dembélé, on the other hand, could bring maximum results against a team with a higher line or a side that prefers to apply a suffocating press, mainly due to the fact that the winger is a space dominant player, and his unparalleled pace and chaotic style of play tends to add a sense of unpredictability on the flanks. Nonetheless, despite the slight differences in gameplay, they are ideal contenders to start for Barça, and must be prioritized in line-ups.
Spectators saw Lionel Messi function as a pure false 9 in the closing minutes of the game against Elche a few days ago as the Argentine partnered up with the likes of Dembélé and Trincão on each side of the pitch. Although Ansu Fati is probable to own the left flank for the upcoming games, it was refreshing to witness the Blaugranas look so imposing with two explosive wingers by Lionel’s side. As it turns out, Koeman’s experiment worked out even against the Yellow Submarine with him applying the same method in the second half. Barça saw their most promising football after proceedings just as Griezmann came off the bench for Trincão, who went on to form a trio with Lionel and Ousmane. Such flare and aggression was not seen previously considering most of Barça’s harvest came solely from the left-hand side of the field.
At this very moment, Barcelona has ample options to choose from, but for the newly adopted 4-2-3-1 formation to continue working at the highest level, it’s important to make the most of such diverse profiles in the squad. Ronald Koeman still has a backlog of work to do and must completely eliminate Barcelona’s horizontal structure if the club truly intends to compete in Europe. With Ousmane and Fransico looking immensely promising in their recent outings, the Dutch coach should take the bold decision of starting either one of them and pursue enhancing the front four’s capabilities.