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Jordy Clasie – The midfield Napoleon who could answer Manchester United’s problems

With an average height that is greater than any other nation, the Dutch are well and truly the tallest people in the world.

That is reflected in the Eredivisie and it is so at Feyenoord. The Dutch powerhouse is full of lanky players. Erwin Mulder is 6’3”, Bruno Martins Indi, Daryl Janmaat and Lex Immers are 6’1”, Stefan de Vrij and Sven van Beek are 6’2” while Graziano Pelle stands at 6’4”.

However, even in this Land of the Giants, the phrase “good things come in small packages” still holds weight, and it has never been more accurate than in the case of one incredibly short player who sticks out more often than many others.

At this giant club with giant players, giant personalities and, importantly, giant expectations, it’s 5’6” central midfielder Jordy Clasie who has risen above it all.

Clasie might be short, but he possesses an incredible hunger for the ball and a desire to win it. A warrior. He pounces on a loose ball and makes it his and his team’s. From then on, anything can happen. An intelligent player with the technical ability and passing

The Dutch Xavi

The Dutch Xavi

range and accuracy to put it into work.

Is it any wonder he has been referred to as ‘the Dutch Xavi’?

The pocket-sized Netherlands international has spent his whole footballing-life proving that height doesn’t matter in football when you can offer so much more and have the skills to make size and muscle irrelevant.

Every week in the Eredivisie for Jordy Clasie isn’t so much David vs Goliath, it’s more Jiminy Cricket vs the Kraken.

With his ability to combat the big beasts he is faced with week-in-week-out, Clasie, ready to dispel the myth that size conquers all in England, could be the answer to many of Manchester United’s problems.

The void in United’s midfield has been evident for some time. Sir Alex Ferguson failed to address it, David Moyes tried to heave Marouane Fellaini, the big man with the big hair and the big price tag, into it, but still the gap remains.

The Old Trafford side missed a trick in not chasing up PSV star Kevin Strootman last summer and have come to regret it. A wonderfully gifted player, he would have slotted in there perfectly and had a big effect with his skill and athleticism. The 24-year-old opted to join Roma for around €20 million and has been a great addition to the team, but the injury he picked up earlier this year will keep him out of action until at least October.

With Louis van Gaal coming in as the new manager, the speculation is growing that Strootman could join him. However, bringing him to Manchester won’t be an easy job. He has only been at Roma for one season and his importance to the Italian side means the transfer fee will have to be significantly bigger than the €20m they paid. Furthermore, his injury could complicate things further.

Van Gaal, then, might be forced to turn to other options, and it’s here he might find that Clasie, that wee demon, is a perfect fit for that hole in the Red Devils’ midfield.

Clasie is one of the most talented midfielders in the league and is proof that a young player can benefit greatly from staying in the Eredivisie for an extra year or two instead of leaving at the age of 20, but it hasn’t always been easy for him.

The Haarlem-born midfielder had a hard time coming through the Feyenoord youth system, having been dismissed as a player with no future as he was simply too small and weak.

He ploughed through it though, developing his skill, technique and passing accuracy in a bid to compensate for his small stature. Impressing his coaches along the way, Clasie eventually earned a professional contract before spending a season on loan at Eredivisie side Excelsior.

Upon his return from his loan spell, he was thrust straight into the Feyenoord first-team and slotted in perfectly. The youngster played a critical role for Ronald Koeman’s side as they finished in second place – a massive improvement on the previous season’s 10th place finish.

His second season with the Rotterdammers saw his reputation grow even further as he improved in almost every aspect of his game.

In addition to his two goals and eight assists from the deep midfield role, Clasie won 59% of his duels, a remarkable number given his height. Apart from that, he wowed the crowds with his excellent passing and impressed as he fulfilled more than his share of defensive duties.

He is an all-round remarkable midfielder.

Not bad for a kid who was judged too small to make it in professional football, is it?

Is Clasie the answer for United?

Is Clasie the answer for United?

His performances were so bright that teams across Europe began to pay attention. Fiorentina jumped in first, offering over €5 million for him during the season. Feyenoord, though, weren’t going to let one of the brightest stars of a young team leave for such a paltry fee and dismissed it.

As uncertainty grew around the futures of him, Martins Indi and De Vrij, Koeman was in danger of losing three key assets. He convinced them, though, to stay for at least another season and thus the three contract extensions were signed.

All three 22-year-olds have benefited from the extra year in the Eredivisie – a renowned training league. They have all developed with another excellent season in first-team football and will play in the World Cup for Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands team.

 

The 2013-14 season was much the same for Clasie. Feyenoord were rather unlucky to lose out on the league and Clasie’s influence was just as big.

He became even more involved, upping his passing game in both volume and quality. Not only did he have more influence on the attacking side of things, he proved that defensively, he wasn’t someone to mess with, topping most of Feyenoord’s defensive charts.

In general, though, Clasie has taken a big step forward. He has improved in many ways, become more eager – more of a warrior.

Over the last two years he has developed an incredible knack of winning the ball and instigating an attack for his team in one smooth movement. Turning defense into attack in a nanosecond. It’s invaluable, impressive and lovely to see.

After another runner-up spot, finishing four points behind Ajax (to whom they lost twice), Koeman decided to leave Feyenoord. As he made his farewell speech in front of the raucous De Kuip crowd, the camera panned across the boys in the red and white jerseys, who stood in the middle of the park. It stopped on the face of the 22-year-old Clasie, who was caught wiping tears from his face. Devastated at seeing a coach, who had given him so much and helped him blossom as a player, leave. Later, Clasie appeared in front of the Fox Sports cameras, showered and in his suit, looking up so high you got the idea his interviewer might have been about 8’6”, he was asked the question about Koeman’s departure. As he answered, there was a croak in his voice. This kid was devastated. Clasie resembled a nine-year-old whose parents had just taken away his favourite toy. It was hard to believe we were looking at a professional footballer with an extremely promising career.

In a way, though, it sums Clasie up.  Deceptive. A small, young guy with a baby-face, he looks shy and sweet, almost like you could push him over with ease. But he’s the opposite. He’s strong, hard to knock down and a quick and smooth player.

Koeman’s departure and his own development has paved the way for Clasie to move on to a much bigger team and he has the ability to settle in at any league he wants.

As he plays in the Eredivisie, many might see it as a risk for him to jump into the centre of United’s midfield. However, the hardened, defiant, deceptively small midfielder will be ready to prove the rest of the world wrong, just like he did the Feyenoord youth coaches.




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