A FIFA World Cup finalist is set to leave FC Barcelona on a free transfer this summer, and as rumour has it, they could be attracting the interest of Stoke City. No, thankfully we are not talking about Xavi Hernandez "going to the dark side", rather the subject of these reports is forgotten man, Ibrahim Afellay. The Dutchman was plucked from PSV Eindhoven in January 2011 for a measly €3 million and after a series of relatively impressive cameo performances in his debut season, Afellay's ascent to challenging for a first team berth was cruelly ended by an ACL injury at the beginning of the 2011/12 campaign.
The injury left Afellay on the sidelines for the majority of the season and he was promptly farmed out on loan in the following year to try and work his way back to fitness. His spell at FC Schalke 04 drew mixed reviews and served to only relegate Ibi further down the Barca pecking order. A second loan was arranged, this time at Olympiacos FC and while Afellay's performances have improved in Greece, he's still someway off challenging for a spot in the Barcelona squad -- a fact he himself has recognised as he announced his intention to leave the club on the expiry of his contract this summer.
A former Barcelona player, available on a free transfer; Afellay was sure to attract interest from clubs across Europe and indeed the latest news suggests that we have a front-runner for his signature: Stoke City.
Of course, the Potters have evolved since the departure of Tony Pulis and part of their recent success is owing to their wise transfer strategy, which has seen an air of quality arrive at the club in the form of former La Masia graduates, Bojan Krkic and Marc Muniesa. With Mark Hughes keen to add reinforcements on the wing, Afellay's name has supposedly climbed to the top of their target list -- and the allure of the Premier League would surely appeal to Afellay as he seeks to continue rebuilding his career.
Whatever happens, good luck Ibi, and thanks for that assist against Real Madrid!