The competitiveness of the Eredivisie has seen a number of Premier League sides – Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Newcastle United and Liverpool included – take an interest in the latest batch of midfield talent on offer in Holland.
The midfield of The Netherlands against Estonia was formed by Kevin Strootman, Swansea's Jonathan de Guzman and Wesley Sneijder. When, in the 40th minute, the latter was subbed off due to injury, national manager Louis van Gaal remained unfazed. He brought on Rafael Van der Vaart. And in the 50th minute, Van der Vaart did the job for him, scoring the 1-0 to break open the game. 40 minutes later, Estonia was beaten 3-0, with Van Der Vaart as one of the standout performers. In the meanwhile, De Guzman had been substituted off for Jordy Clasie and if Kevin Strootman had got injured, young Tonny Trindade de Vilhena would’ve made his debut. A trio of Van der Vaart, Clasie and Trindade de Vilhena would hardly have been a less talented trio then that standing on the field.
That’s fifteen. Fifteen midfielders at Van Gaal’s disposal, all talented, some proven. Not even mentioning several other former squad members, such as Mark van Bommel, Demy de Zeeuw, Theo Janssen, just to name a few. The Eredivisie is, as always, a breeding school of talents, illustrated by the fact that of the fifteen above, nine are still on Dutch shore. The options seem endless.
Especially since the talents of the lot differ. Jordy Clasie (21) has been likened to Xavi. The Feyenoord-midfielder has been developing in rapid tempo and has been instrumental steering Feyenoord into title contention both this and last season. As a deep-lying playmaker who doesn’t shun a hard tackle every now and then, he both ignites attacking play and breaks up opposition attacks. Another Arsenal target Adam Maher (19) has been compared to Iniesta and Sneijder. Since his debut for AZ last season he has been storming onto the scene, gaining admirers both off and on the pitch. A panel for Dutch magazine Nusport consisting former footballers and pundits labelled him the biggest Dutch talent in the Eredivisie. According to Ronald de Boer (67 caps), Maher is ‘head and shoulders above the rest’. And when AZ Alkmaar played Anzhi Makachkala in the Europa League-preliminaries, Samuel Eto’o was adamant to swap shirts with the talented youngster.
Then there’s Leroy Fer (23), who was Everton-bound but whose transfer fell through due to injury-concerns. He has seen himself compared to Yaya Touré and Sami Khedira. Fer is a typical marauding midfielder, a physical machine with an eye for a goal. PSV’s Kevin Strootman, who looks to have cemented his place and was captaining the side against Italy last month, is rapidly turning into a complete midfielder in the broadest sense of the term possible. He offers physicality, vision, a thunderous left foot and at only 23, he’s not near his peak yet.
His teammate Georginio Wijnaldum is 22, but is in his seventh season as a professional footballer. The dynamic number ten has thirteen league goals to his name this season and his ability to work the channels and score goals have helped PSV to great effect, and at least two Liverpool managers have sent scouts to watch him. Twenty year old Marco van Ginkel is a lengthy versatile central midfielder and his intelligent runs have made him indispensable for title-pushing Vitesse and with seven goals and eight assists to his name, he’s been quite the creative force too.
Although Lerin Duarte is rather new on the block, the Heracles Almelo midfielder has been looked after by some of the biggest clubs in the Eredivisie and he seems on his way to bigger things. An industrious midfielder from the Sparta Academy blessed with a gifted left foot, he is most likely to make a jump to a club that’ll put him in the international limelight further. Latest to the party is the young Feyenoord-midfielder Tonny Trindade de Vilhena, who has also apparently been scouted by Manchester United and Liverpool. Even though he’s only 18, he has already 26 league appearances to his name, impressing on almost every location. Even though he’s not the tallest, he is extremely powerful, has a great eye for the game, is technically proficient and rather versatile too.
All are 23 or younger and with the revived Sneijder, Van der Vaart and De Guzman currently doing well for their club sides, the competition is bigger than ever. Things will shape itself on the way to the World Cup in Brazil next year, a tournament Oranje will be unlikely to miss out on after they sustained their perfect record to half way in the group stage (5 wins out of 5) with their win against Estonia. Van Gaal can mould the midfield in any way he wants with the current crop, as they are all talented and bring different qualities to the party. People have been raving about the Spanish midfield options, but from the looks of it, ‘Going Dutch’ will be the way to go in the future.