Eredivisie Revelations 7 & 6 – Kamohelo Mokotjo and Jasper Cillessen
Over the next few days, BeNeFoot will countdown the top 10 revelations to come through in the Eredivisie this season. We look at the brightest players who have emerged and impressed fans and pundits alike with an excellent 2013-14 season.
Numbers 10, 9 and 8 were unveiled yesterday and today we continue the countdown with numbers 7 and 6:
7. Kamohelo Mokotjo (PEC Zwolle) – By Peter McVitie
Having played in the Eredivisie for Feyenoord in each of the prior three seasons, it might appear peculiar to consider Kamohelo Mokotjo a revelation in the Dutch league this term.
However, the 23-year-old has been such an illustrious, consistent and top notch performer for PEC Zwolle since his summer move that he simply has to be declared as such.
The Overijssel club enjoyed an excellent first season back in the Eredivisie in 2012-13 but, despite losing their coach and a few key players, they improved even further this season, capping it off with an unbelievable 5-1 over Frank de Boer’s Ajax in the KNVB Beker final.Coach Ron Jans has taken the team a step further since taking over from Art Langeler in the summer, with Mateusz Klich, Ryan Thomas, Guyon Fernandez and Mustafa Saymak all having good seasons for the team in blue and white.
Central to everything Zwolle have done well this year, though, is Mokotjo.
The South African midfielder played 35 matches in the Eredivisie over the course of three years in the Feyenoord first-team.
Clearly a talented player, he was never really able to impose himself upon the team and cement a place as a regular starter due to Jordy Clasie’s stranglehold on the central midfield position. Seeking better first-team opportunities, the midfielder opted to leave De Kuip, joining the Blauwvingers in the summer, joining on a three year deal.
The former SuperSport United player slotted perfectly into Zwolle’s midfield and began pulling the strings with his accurate and intelligent passing, setting the tempo of the games and playing a huge role in most of the side’s attacks.
In the cup final mauling of Ajax, he completely outshone his counterpart Daley Blind, who won the Eredivisie player of the year award at the end of the campaign. Throughout the meeting in De Kuip, Mokotjo was quicker, more aware and vital in his side’s electrifying display.
As well adding a lot to Zwolle’s attacks, the 5’7” player has put in his fair share of defensive work for his team this season, having kept up a 91% tackle success rate and made 60 interceptions this term.
Although the 2013-14 campaign has been Mokotjo’s first as a regular starter at senior level, he has played like a seasoned veteran at times and has grabbed the chance of first-team football with both hands and it has benefited him and his team immensely.
The midfielder will play in the Europa League next season after the side’s cup victory and, if they are to improve even further in 2014-15, he will be absolutely critical for the team.
After his progress was stinted through a lack of first team opportunities in Rotterdam, he is finally getting his time to shine in Zwolle.
6. Jasper Cillessen (Ajax) – By Michiel Jongsma
In the world of the Eredivisie, forking out €4 million for a player is quite a huge call to make. When that call surrounds a goalkeeper, it becomes a lot more signifcant and brave. When you factor in that the other goalkeeper still has the confidence of the reigning manager, it’s even greater.
When Jasper Cillessen, a talented goalkeeper of N.E.C, was brought in at Ajax, the overall opinion was that this would either mean the end of Vermeer or Ajax had invested a lot of money for something they really didn’t need. On hindsight, the latter was very much the truth for the first couple of seasons, while the former is the outcome of the third season.
Cillessen was basically the exclusive Cup keeper for Ajax when he joined, but in that role he excelled. While Vermeer was a standout in 2011-12 and 2012-13, his form faded away quickly at the start of the season next and it was here where Cillessen seized his chance. Curiously, the Groesbeek-born man was on the brink of leaving Ajax for Roda JC on loan only a couple of months
earlier, with only a signature separating Cillessen from a permanent move. But things went in a completely different way. Lined up as a starter for the first time after a calamitous error from Vermeer saw the floodgates open in a 4-0 loss at PSV, Cillessen went on to keep seven clean sheets in his next eleven league outings, conceding only four in the process. Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal had already identified the talent of Cillessen earlier, but felt he was now given the excuse to turn the then 24-year-old Dutchman into his first choice keeper for Oranje.
As the season progressed, the need for excuses became less and less. The new first choice keeper was hugely important in Ajax’s title surge and stepped up whenever it was needed, putting in fine performances against PSV, Feyenoord and Vitesse. With Cillessen as their main goalkeeper, Ajax lost only one of their 24 Eredivisie matches resulting in a fourth consecutive league title. For Cillessen, the season isn’t quite over yet, as he seems the number one candidate for the number one jersey during the World Cup in Brazil.
It is the burden of every Dutch goalkeeper of this and the last generation to be named as Edwin van der Sar’s natural successor, but it appears that in Jasper Cillessen one is finally found. Similarly to the current marketing director of Ajax, Cillessen lacks flair on the pitch but he more than makes up for it on the field. Blessed with incredible reflexes, confidence to attack every ball entering the box and good with both feet, it is only a matter of time before big European clubs see Cillessen as the answer whenever goalkeeping questions are raised.
*All stats courtesy of Opta