Europe will be watching: PSV’s overflow of talent
If there’s one club that has seen a lot of mutations, it’s PSV. Talents have gone while others have come in. It’s safe to say that the Eindhoven faithful will be anxious to see what team PSV will be fielding this year. According to Enzio Bakker though, there’s no need to worry. He gives us an insight in the talent available next season in the Philips Stadion.
It will get awfully crowded in Eindhoven Airport next season. The small and peaceful airport will be crammed with men in long raincoats, scribbling in notebooks and hurrying to taxis. Taxis which will take them to the Philips Stadion, PSV’s home ground, where they will need an extra set of eyes to keep track of all the talented prospects hopping around the pitch. Or they will be lurking down the sidelines of De Herdgang, PSV’s training facility in the middle of the woods, taking notes like maniacs in order to analyse all the promising youngsters training under the wings of former Dutch star Phillip Cocu. Cocu himself will also have a hard time choosing between some of the biggest Dutch talents, available to him in part due to the transfers made this summer. Or is it a luxury to have so many options available? Time will tell, but before it will, let me help the scouts (and maybe Cocu!) by giving an overview of the players they will want to watch closely.
Perhaps the most interesting player at PSV and the entire Eredivisie, is Jeffrey Bruma. The 21-year-old has been regarded in the past as the new Jaap Stam, but after breaking through the ranks at Chelsea, who bought him from Feyenoord in 2007, Bruma has stagnated. Being captain of the Dutch Under-21 squad earlier this year, he was left at home for the European Under-21 Championships in Israel earlier this summer because of his ill form at Hamburger SV. Hamburg was already a step down for Bruma, with PSV he has now made another step down, to the Eredivisie which he so hopefully left six years ago to become a star in England. He will want to avoid making another step down, so this season will be crunch time for Bruma.
Will he be able to turn the tide? At Hamburg, where he entered two years ago as part of Frank Arnesen’s grand plan to renovate the defense of the German club, he had long streaks in which he played, and streaks in which he fell out of grace. It’s normal for the form of such a young defender to fluctuate, especially in a tough league like the Bundesliga. Jaap Stam only left PSV for Manchester United when he was 26-years-old. Bruma himself says he has learned and matured a lot in Hamburg. That will be needed, as PSV is also transforming its defensive centre, which proved very vulnerable last season. Bruma will not only need to get his own game going, but must also provide leadership. At his tender age, it will be a tough task. Again, it’s crunch time for Bruma.
Karim Rekik – alongside young left back Jetro Willems – might be the one needing Bruma’s leadership, if Cocu decides to pick him over Marcelo and Timothy Derijck, last season’s much criticized centre duo. The 18-year-old Rekik, who also has a past at Feyenoord, joins PSV on loan from Manchester City. As numerous young Dutch talents who left for bigger leagues are dubbed as failures, with Bruma as the most famous example, Rekik will be eager to prove that it is possible to have a breakthrough in England. To do so, he has now chosen to first start learning in the Eredivisie, a choice that Bruma perhaps should have made three years ago. PSV provides Rekik the opportunity to grow and make a name for himself, and maybe prove that he should be the one to be compared to Jaap Stam.
Like Bruma, PSV brought in another player who is looking for redemption, albeit on a smaller scale. Florian Jozefzoon failed to impress at Ajax following his debut in 2010, but has caught the attention of the bigger Dutch clubs last season as he impressed at RKC Waalwijk. A fast and tricky right winger, he has been bought to enhance Cocu’s options, but he will be fighting to become the number one option and show he is good enough to play in the top of the Eredivisie. So will goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet, 22-years-old just like Jozefzoon, who also came in from RKC. PSV loaned him to the Waalwijk club in the last two seasons and he excelled, making him perhaps the most highly regarded Dutch goalkeeping talent. He will be facing tough competition however, as Polish Przemyslaw Tytón is trying to restore his status as the number one in goal.
As Zoet will compete with Tytón, Jozefzoon will do so with Luciano Narsingh. Also 22-years-old, Narsingh has spent last season mostly on the bench in the Philips Stadium. He came in last summer as Holland’s most talented right winger, but couldn’t impress coach Dick Advocaat. As Jozefzoon and Narsingh fight to replace Jeremain Lens, who departed for Dynamo Kyiv, Narsingh seems to have the upper hand because of his bigger reputation and experience in the Dutch national team. But he missed the second half of last season with a serious knee injury, which is still keeping him sidelined. Another option for Cocu on the right is Georginio Wijnaldum, the skilled midfielder who shone in that position at the Under-21 Euros, but he might also get a chance in his favoured centre of midfield.
Wijnaldum, another player originally from Feyenoord’s academy, has had trouble adjusting at PSV, which he joined in 2011 for a fee of €5 million. But recently, he has shown signs that he might go on to fulfill his potential. The question is, in which position? Used many a time as a right winger, he has always expressed his desire to play in the centre, as an attacking midfielder. But that spot seems to have already been given away to Adam Maher, PSV’s most spectacular signing this summer. With €8 million it came at a cost, but Cocu hopes he will prove his weight worth in gold. The 19-year-old midfielder, combining a superb ball control with good passing and a confident attitude, can play in both attacking and more defensive roles and has already been one of the best players of the league in the past two years. In an AZ side that struggled last season, he was still shining and helped his team win the Cup by beating PSV 2-1 in the final.
With all this talent brought in, the guys in the raincoats carrying their notebooks might easily forget the homegrown players of PSV, which are perhaps the most talented of them all. Memphis Depay, 19, has already been a secret weapon as a left winger on a number of occasions, with his speed, dribbling class and ability to create goals out of nothing. His buddy Jürgen Locadia, of the same age, plays as a striker, and his reputation as a youth player precedes him. Called ‘The Messi of Monday’, for the huge amount of goals he scored in PSV’s youth matches on Monday, he might get the chance to be a regular starter. He only has to compete with 24-year-old Slovakian striker Tim Matavz, once bought for €7 million as a talented and feared goalscorer, but he has never really impressed, even though he scored 40 goals in 80 matches so far. And then there is Zakaria Bakkali – only 17, but already being compared to the likes of Neymar, Ronaldo and even Pelé. There just doesn’t come an end to the sheer young talent in PSV’s ranks.
PSV’s overflow of talent gives the club a good prospect for the future, with soon-to-be-stars and soon-to-be-goldmines already in the squad. Scouts from all over Europe will come to see this team play, harboring some of the biggest talents of the Netherlands. But it will be interesting to see how all these young guys will fare without an experienced leader and even – now that Strootman looks set to leave – without an inexperienced leader. So, men in raincoats, grab your notebook and buy a ticket to Eindhoven Airport, because PSV will be home to one of the most intriguing developments in European football this season.
Enzio Bakker is an ‘aspiring journalist’, who used to write for Goal.com and Spunk and now tries to merge the talents he has shown on those website in the posts for his Dutch blog ‘Buitenkant Voet’. Being a writer with a strong opinion, he has the words to back them up. If you (dis)agree, discuss it with him on Twitter: @EnzioBakker .