The Loan Report: Season in Review – Spain

With the 2013-14 season now pretty much over, it’s time to take a look back over a record-breaking campaign on the loan front. Today, we look at the Chelsea’s prospects in Spain.


[table class=”table table-striped”]
Thibaut Courtois,Atlético Madrid,55,0,0
Marko Marin,Sevilla,31,2,6
Oriol Romeu,Valencia,18,0,0
Ulises Dávila,Córdoba,31,5,n/a
Jhon Pirez,Leganés,17,1,0

The Story?

Courtois pieced together what would almost go down as the storybook year. Already a Copa del Rey, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Super Cup winner, he and Atlético had their eyes set on much bigger prizes in his third year in Madrid. Diego Simeone’s team remarkably ended the hegemony of Barcelona and Real Madrid by claiming a first league title in eighteen years, and they were but one minute away from becoming Champions of Europe. That dream was ultimately shattered by Sergio Ramos and a rampant Real Madrid in extra time but the bigger picture was clear; Courtois and Atléti were very much deserving of their place amongst the elite.

The big Belgian racked up his 100th career clean sheet during the course of 13-14 as well as his 50th in Spain, and duly claimed the Zamora Trophy for the fewest goals conceded in La Liga. His sturdy backstopping for his national team meanwhile provided the foundation for the Red Devils to qualify for a first World Cup in twelve years and along the way in this most spectacular of campaigns he even managed to knock parent club Chelsea out of the Champions League with a typically near-unbeatable display at Stamford Bridge.

Marin started like a house on fire in Seville, grabbing two goals in a Europa League qualifier against Slask Wroclaw. Little did anyone know then that those goals would signal the start of a run all the way to the Final in Turin, but the little German missed much of the middle of the season with a long injury layoff. It was all rather disappointing because when he was on the pitch he looked pretty handy and regularly played a part in Sevilla’s best attacking moments, either providing assists directly himself or with ‘pre-assists’.

Romeu took saw his season impacted by injury, with the opening weeks slow going due to his ongoing rehab from ACL surgery last spring and a two-month period in 2014 out of the team with a different knee issue. He was therefore rarely able to get himself into the team but did at least enjoy a run when Valencia changed manager as Juan Antonio Pizzi was keen to get a look at the former Barcelona midfielder.

Uli Dávila’s second consecutive loan to a Segunda team didn’t really add to his development and despite Córdoba being of a grander stature than Sabadell, he didn’t really perform any better than he did whilst with the Catalan outfit. He went until just before Christmas without scoring and then grabbed a hat-trick, but was most often seen in and out of the side and struggling to hold down a consistent place.

Jhon Pírez does actually exist and having spent last year on loan with Leganés in Spain’s third tier returned there for 2013-14. He managed to score on the opening weekend and played more than he has in any of his recent injury-hit seasons but did manage to find himself hurt for large portions of yet another season, a sad but wholly predictable outcome.

What’s Next?

Most signs point towards Courtois finally rocking up in SW6 and beginning his Chelsea career properly. Petr Cech’s shoulder injury will be rehabilitated over the summer break and although he should be fit to take part in pre-season to some degree, there are naturally some doubts as to how long it’ll take for him to return to his best. Courtois, the World Cup notwithstanding, could seize the moment and embed himself firmly in Jose Mourinho’s plans, with the obvious alternative being a fourth year at Atléti. That would seem almost counter-productive at this stage though, with little left to achieve and a successful team almost certainly about to be broken up by Europe’s richer clubs; Chelsea most certainly included.

Marin has made it clear that he would prefer to stay in Seville given the option and whilst chatter of returning to London has picked up recently, it’s not going to happen. He’ll sign for a Europa League level team this summer.

Romeu’s loan to Valencia has the option to be turned into a permanent deal but despite it looking rather likely early in the season, it would come as a surprise were that to wind up happening. A return to Spain on a full-time basis is however the likeliest outcome.

Dávila and Pírez will both also be allowed to depart should the right opportunity arise; the former could head back to Mexico and former club Guadalajara, whilst Pírez will have options back in Uruguay and maybe even still in Spain’s lower tiers. They both have some league action left ahead though, with La Segunda and below playing well into June.