Gregory van der Wiel: A wasted year with two league titles
Joining PSG on September 3rd of last year for €6m tagged as one of the most talented right-backs in Europe, Gregory van der Wiel has gradually seen his status in France diminish to the extent his spot in next year’s squad is currently in jeopardy.
Brought in as an upgrade on former Lorient full-back Christophe Jallet (29) whose arrival in Paris Saint-Germain dated back to the pre-QSI days, Van der Wiel arrived in France with a heavy reputation he failed to live up to in the following months. Initially a starter in Carlo Ancelotti’s line-up, his lack of understanding with the rest of the team led to him being a substitute for most of the season. While other summer transfers like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva cemented their spot in the starting line-up, Van der Wiel was left on the sidelines as his hesitancy both with and without the ball saw the PSG supporters show disappointment at his lack of commitment.
Blaming cultural differences between the Dutch Eredivisie, “more focused on technique”, and a Ligue 1 he deems “centered on the physical side of the game”, Van der Wiel seemed to suffer from the competition of French-born Jallet who even finished the season as PSG vice-captain. For the first time in his young career, Van der Wiel was not a definite starter and this seemed to hamper his performances on the pitch.
Hesitant in the opponent’s half, lax when it came to marking his man, Van der Wiel looked like a different player to the one which confidently played the 2010 World Cup final. Very basic skills like crossing the ball and controlling it became alien to him while his knack for dribbling his way to the opponent’s box with the same flick every time quickly became predictable. To his defence, it could be argued his adaptation in the PSG line-up was made difficult by the fact the whole team changed several times throughout the course of the season, with the remarked arrival of Lucas Moura on the right wing after the winter putting a spoke in the Dutchman’s increasing understanding with Argentina play-maker Javier Pastore, suddenly deported to the other side of the pitch.
A string of good performances in April, when the PSG schedule was compounded by Champions League appearances where Christophe Jallet was favoured leaving Van der Wiel room for manœuvre in the league, saw the Dutchman display signs of the quality which once allured Inter Milan for his services.
Aiming to build up on this progress, Van der Wiel will get the consolation of earning two league titles for his contribution to both PSG’s and Ajax Amsterdam’s campaigns (three appearances for the Dutch champions back in August). If this was a transition year as far as his progress on the pitch was concerned, it will certainly go down as a rather sweet one in his silverware books.
This article was a guest blog written by Igor Mladenovic, writer for French Football Weekly, Slavic Football Union and In Bed With Maradona among others. Igor is a keen follower of both Serbian, French and English football, a talented writer and we feel lucky he was willing to take time out to contribute to our blog. He is also on the Twitter: https://twitter.com/Mladenovic_