Eredivisie Preview: Feyenoord – Financial security is close but at what price?
It’s hard to imagine that it’s only four years ago that Feyenoord lost 10-0 to PSV. A legendary defeat, but after Ronald Koeman’s appointment at the end of that season, Feyenoord have never gained less points than their Eindhoven counterparts. A huge achievement, as Koeman guided his team to 2nd, 3rd and 2nd place respectively. In a time where Feyenoord were mostly focused on recovering financially, wonderfully described by Mark Lievisse Adriaanse in this piece, and through that they have brought through some exceptional youngsters, including five internationals that featured for the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup. But as incredible as the team building of Ronald Koeman was, there was always a time coming for the squad to disband and with the departure of their manager to Southampton the exodus has begun. Daryl Janmaat has joined Newcastle United, Stefan de Vrij has left for Lazio, Bruno Martins Indi has paired up with FC Porto as the face of Feyenoord’s resurrection, a magnificent one in Graziano Pellè, has joined his former Feyenoord manager at Southampton. Feyenoord haven’t felt such an embarrassment of riches for a long while, bringing in €33 million due to the sales, but around 65% of that money has been reserved for paying off debts.
It leaves new manager Fred Rutten with one hell of a job. Rutten inherited a promising squad and a chance to qualify for Champions League football from Koeman, but before the season even started he was robbed of four of the main assets, resulting in failing on the latter as well, losing 2-5 on aggregate to Turkish side Besiktas. All that is left for Rutten is trying to re-build a squad that fell apart and reaching the Europa League group stages, something Feyenoord haven’t managed since 2008.
Fred Rutten does have a slightly dubious reputation in Dutch football. After performing miracles at FC Twente, he failed to impress at Schalke 04 and PSV, before re-building his pedigree at Vitesse. With Feyenoord, he’s facing his biggest challenge yet, as the Rotterdam fanbase is always infamously expectant. So far, he’s brought in Khalid ‘The Cannibal’ Koulahrouz to accompany him as well as former FC Twente player Luke Wilkshire, both 32. A great talent has been added with Bilal Basacikoglu from Heerenveen. The right winger, who is also comfortable on the left, lauds the exit of Wesley Verhoek and Ruben Schaken and should be able to add something to the attack. The main issue though remains replacing Graziano Pellè. Mitchell te Vrede impressed last season as a deputy but doesn’t seem the finished article yet, if ever. In Elvis Manu Feyenoord have a powerful attacker who is eager to prove himself, but it is a little known secret that Feyenoord very much would like to add a striker, with John Guidetti, Bas Dost and Duvan Zapata mooted.
While there is the money for Feyenoord to bring people in, a novelty for the Rotterdam club after three years of relying on youth, cheap transfers and absolute certainties (Pellè was signed after a 6 month loan for a rumoured 3 million euros), it is still difficult to identify the right type of acquisition. Feyenoord finally have some breathing space financially and seem reluctant to give that up in pursuit of a title. And given that Feyenoord easily boasts the second attendance in the country it isn’t hard to see why the harbour club are more focused on getting the chains of dept off rather than jumping into a new adventure at the risk of again financially ruining the club again.
In terms of fanbase Feyenoord will probably stay either first or second in the Netherlands for the next few years whatever happens, but smart transfer business, youth development and a good financial policy could see them threaten to become one of the big players in a competitive sense again as well. The talent is there, with Rick Karsdorp the new posterboy of Varkensoord after making his debut in the second leg in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas. The smart transfer business remains to be seen, while the policy on finances seem strict. Something that will benefit the club as a whole but doesn’t help Fred Rutten to achieve what Koeman has over the last few years. While success isn’t guaranteed, it will be fascinating near the Maas, as always really.
Player to watch: Tonny Trindade de Vilhena
Tonny Trindade de Vilhena, or Vilhena for friends and football commentators, made his debut age 17 for Feyenoord and instantly looked one of the best players on the pitch. It is testament to the basket-cased build central midfielder, who looks both sturdy and untouchable once he has found his groove. Still only 19, he was in Van Gaal’s thoughts for the World Cup in Brazil and it’s not hard to see why. The Netherlands are flooded with complete central midfielders at the moment in Kevin Strootman, Marco van Ginkel, Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Maher, but Tonny Vilhena is definitely one who can give the set a run for their money. Vilhena is probably at his best at the attacking midfielder position but has such a dynamo on him that he can easily play in a box-to-box role as well. Not the tallest of players, he is incredibly powerful and his technique is as good as any player, luring Aad de Mos into calling him ‘a young Edgar Davids, but better’ a season ago. In truth, the progress Vilhena has made over the last two seasons has been slightly disappointing so it is time for the youngster to finally fulfil his promise and show why he is so higly rated by many of world football’s alumni’s.
BeNeFoot Prediction: 4th place