It’s easy enough to get lost in the rumours. The current one, first reported by Dutch sports magazine Voetbal International, is that Barcelona are negotiating with PSV Eindhoven for the January signing of Ibrahim Afellay. What’s intriguing about this rumour is not the player (a solid, dependable player) or the low price (€2-4m), but rather who is behind the scenes.
You see, Afellay plays for PSV Eindhoven in the Netherlands. He’s their captain at just 24 (compared to vice-captain Orlando Engelaar who is 31) and has been considered by many to be a rising star in the world game. His agent is Rob Jansen, a Dutchman, who also happens to be the head of the European Football Agents Association. There’s an alleged long-standing friendship between Jansen and Barça president Sandro Rosell (though there’s little to no documentation of this, just repeated inferences to it in various outlets) that is supposedly making negotiations go more smoothly.
On the club side, PSV’s assistant coach is Philip Cocu, a former Barça player and supposedly a very dear friend of Pep Guardiola. Guardiola and Cocu played together from 1998 when Cocu joined the club until 2001 when Guardiola left for Brescia. Cocu played for PSV first between 1995 and 1998 and then again alongside a young kid named Ibrahim Afellay from 2004 until 2007 when Cocu left for Emirati club Al-Jazira. Perhaps they talk about players—that is, at least, the insinuation being made by media outlets when they mention the friendship—or perhaps they talk about tulips and tapas.
Former Dutch international defender Michael Reiziger also played for Barcelona while Guardiola was there and with PSV alongside Afellay. The same is true of Patrick Kluivert and if there’s any semblance of friendship between Guardiola and either Reiziger and Kluivert—and I have no way of knowing—perhaps they talk too.
El Mundo Deportivo gives itself some breathing room on the rumours, claiming that it’s all set up and ready to go, so long as Guardiola gives his okay, that he wants the player. It was Guardiola’s lack of an okay that is credited with keeping Mesut Özil away from the Camp Nou (until November 29, of course), despite it being purely conjecture. Naturally.
The talk, in the end, is a muddled rumour mill that means little. January will come in a few short weeks and the rumours will pick up accordingly, with Afellay bouncing from club to club, eventually coming to rest somewhere, perhaps even PSV.