Not all loans are created equally, and some can be more of a hindrance than they are intended to be. Would some of the proposed Whitecaps loan moves help or hurt the club?
So it’s understandable that a few members of the Vancouver Whitecaps squad will no doubt be agitating for loan moves when the European transfer window opens up on January 1.
There are many reasons for a player seeking a loan move in Europe. For young players, it could be a chance to learn a new style of football – perhaps play at a higher level, if you listen to some of the North American-soccer-hating barstoolers – the same sort of rocket scientists who drooled at the prospect of the Whitecaps signing players from the “far superior to MLS” English Championship, and nodded approvingly as one local newspaper columnist referred to Barry Robson’s left foot as “World Class.”
Maybe if we could send those folks to Europe on a “loan deal” with a one-way ticket, being a supporter of Canadian soccer would be filled with a few less cringeworthy moments, eh?
Excuse the digression – an eggnog too many – where were we? Ah yes, loans. For a young player, a loan deal is a fantastic thing. For the player, he learns a new system, perhaps a new culture, and will return to his club with more experience – of some sort or another. Alternatively, if that player plays in a higher profile league and does well – he could get that dream move to an elite European league, and the bigger bucks that go along with it.
And if that second scenario comes to pass, his club will receive a nice little transfer sum, and everyone goes away happy.
Then there are international training stints – a player goes to another club, and works with them in training, picking up a few pointers and improving his game. Brad Knighton’s plan to train with a European team during the break falls into this category – on the surface of things Knighton isn’t likely to be snatched up, but he will stay sharp and get top-level coaching during the break. Again, another scenario without much in the way of a downside.
But then there is a third scenario, and one without much upside from a club perspective. A situation in which a highly paid, older player, goes to a European club and puts more miles on the body when some might suggest it’s better for them to simply recharge.
Staying sharp is all well and fine, but is it necessary for players on the wrong side of 30 on big wages (by MLS standards) to risk it and potentially put the clubs that pay them in potentially awkward situations?
Imagine, if, for example, Andy O’Brien did go on loan to Ipswich Town, which has been floated as a possibility in British tabloids, and got hurt.
He was perhaps the best Whitecaps player down the stretch, and arguably put in the finest performance by any Vancouver player in the club’s opening round playoff defeat to the LA Galaxy.
O’Brien isn’t going to be sold back to England, he reached match sharpness quite rapidly despite being off for essentially a year in the lead up to his MLS move, so that isn’t really a factor, and there’s little to be gained in terms of a new experience.
The former Irish international isn’t going to become a better player as a result of a month or two in England. The same could be said of Kenny Miller, who has talked regularly of seeking out a loan move during the MLS offseason – the stakes are high for the Whitecaps, but where is the upside?
If Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie allows O’Brien and Miller to have a little jaunt in Europe after leaving Russell Teibert to rot on the bench for a year rather than loan him out to an NASL outfit in a key development year for the player, it will be the perfect example of a club allowing the loan system to use it, rather than using the system for the benefit of the club.