Yesterday it was confirmed that FC Lahti will loan out their young midfield prospect Mikko Kuningas to Fluminense in order for him to play for their youth side in a couple of tournaments in Europe this summer. Lahti of course have some kind of partnership agreement with the Brazilian club, which has lead to their squad being awash with South American talent, but it’s nice to notice that it’s a two way street.
I in no way expect Kuningas to move to Fluminense permanently, or for him to extend his loan stay in a manner which would hand him playing time for their senior team, but it will be a good opportunity for him to get noticed. I assume that the youth tournaments in question are of sufficiently high calibre to be heavily scouted by clubs from all over, and if the Fluminense team on show perform well, and Kuningas manages to establish himself in that side, it’ll be a much better showcase than the Veikkausliiga.
Although this isn’t the best example of it, I think these kind of loan agreements are something that Finnish clubs should do more of. One of the major strengths of the Veikkausliiga is that it is one of the better professional leagues in Europe being played during the summer. This means that during the regular season of most leagues, Veikkausliiga players are in hibernation, whereas when most leagues spend their summer vacations, the Veikkausliiga is in full flow.
Let’s say you’re an Eredivisie side fighting against relegation and your first choice left winger goes down for the rest of the season with an ACL tear. Let’s say that you have a backup winger who can take on the role, but your youth team is short of players of the requisite maturity to take on the bench role in his place. Since the season has already started (let’s say it’s October), you can’t buy a replacement. The loan market is heavily contested, and if you’d get a club to loan you a player, it’s likely that there’s a reason for them not wanting that particular player in the first place.
Instead, if we turn to the Veikkausliiga you could have the chance to loan a player who is used to the responsibility of professional games, for whom the chance to play in a better league is a huge opportunity, whose wages are low, who probably wouldn’t complain if he started out as a backup. Or, you could loan a hot prospect with experience of professional football, someone who’s ready to take the next step, without committing to taking the player on in the long term.
For Veikkausliiga teams, this kind of agreement would put the player in a more attractive shop window without losing the player for important games during the season. If the loan is successful, the player might get sold for a decent sum (considering that selling players for money seems to be pretty rare for Finnish clubs), if it isn’t, the player comes back with more experience and a different perspective. The parent club would likely also pay the feeder a little something for the hassle, if Football Manager is to be believed.
Reversely, let’s say that the same Eredivisie side manages to avoid relegation. Their left winger recovers from his ACL injury just as the season is wrapped up. With no games left he is left to wait until the new season starts in three months until making his comeback. Instead, he could be loaned out to a Veikkausliiga side during the summer, where he could gain match fitness and get used to the tempo of playing professional football again in a less stressful environment than the domestic league. At the same time, the Eredivisie side might handpick a couple of their youth team’s most promising players and send them north for a chance to show what they’ve got against men rather than boys.
These are obviously hypothetical examples, and I’m admittedly approaching them without really paying any attention to potential pitfalls. I do however think that these types of agreements could at best be win-win and at worst be just a minor, short-term nuisance. They could be equally as productive for HJK as they could be for VPS, and likewise the parent club could be anything from Fluminense (like in the case of Lahti) or AIK (like in the case of HIFK) to a bigger club wanting an alternative for their development squad’s matches (in the words of Raphael Honigstein: ‘One influential official at a club that regularly plays in the Champions League privately believes that second teams don’t help develop young professionals at all. He calls them “talent destruction machines.”‘) or a smaller club in need of a deeper squad. The Veikkausliiga isn’t the best league in the world, but it has the advantage of being different, and should make full use of it.