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A Barcelona exit and a new challenge awaits Ibrahim Afellay

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver the course of Barcelona’s recent history, the famous Catalan club has been positively impacted by a number of distinguished figures from the Netherlands.

The Camp Nou side’s current ethos can be accredited to Johan Cruyff to some degree, while a host of Holland internationals have starred in the famous Blaugrana jersey.

However, one Oranje international that has failed to live up to the superstar billing of many of his compatriots has been Ibrahim Afellay, who looks set to end a four-and-a-half year affiliation with the Spanish club this summer.

An expiring contract with the current La Liga leaders gives the 29-year-old a chance to explore new options, with a host of suitors surely waiting in the wings to sign the experienced winger on a free transfer.

Although Afellay has a number of positive memories of his time at Camp Nou, the midfielder will more than likely be happy to end this spell of his career and look for a new challenge.

Billed as the next great flying Dutch attacker, the wideman came through the ranks at PSV Eindhoven and starred consistently at the Eredivisie club.

Afellay spurned plenty of opportunities to move overseas as he thrived in his homeland, winning four Eredivisie titles in the process.

The move to Barcelona in January 2011 was seen as the step to take the frighteningly quick winger to the next level and superstardom – but this simply did not materialise for the star.

Injuries have certainly taken their toll in recent campaigns, while competing for a place in the illustrious Catalan forward line is a battle that not many players are good enough to win.

Ibrahim AfellayAfellay’s best period at Camp Nou was in his first six months with the club, as he played a part in Barcelona winning both La Liga and the Champions League under Pep Guardiola in a memorable campaign.

The Netherlands international started seven league games, while also featured in Europe in a number of high-profile fixtures, including as a late substitute in the Champions League final victory over Manchester United.

However, it has all went decidedly sideways since for Afellay, who found himself on the fringes the following season at Barcelona and has suffered debilitating injury setbacks, preventing him from building up any momentum or consistency.

The Dutchman spent 2012-13 on loan Schalke with limited success, while his best football in recent memory has come this term while on a temporary deal with Olympiakos.

A consistent run of games in the Greek side’s starting XI has seen Afellay as a success at the Athens-based club and also sparked a recall to the Dutch national set-up.

A substitute appearance in Netherlands’ recent 2-0 friendly win over Spain gave the veteran his 49th international cap, with every chance that the winger can be involved next summer at Euro 2016 – provided a stuttering Dutch side make the competition.

The promise was there for Afellay to follow in the footsteps of someone like Marc Overmars for club and country, but it simply has not worked out for the 29-year-old.

Having proven his ability and fitness at Olympiakos this season, Afellay could well be a shrewd acquisition this summer for a major club, but the player must consider his next move very carefully.

A return to likely Eredivisie champions PSV could well be a safe option, while sides in England and Spain will surely have one eye on the attacker.

Although Afellay’s career has a feeling of just what might have been about it, the electrifying winger has an excellent opportunity to reintroduce himself to world football’s elite in the next 12-18 months.

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