Soul-searching Marco van Ginkel returns home to go forward
Marco, oh Marco.
The memory of the baby-faced midfielder marauding across the pitch in the proud yellow and black of Vitesse remains fresh from just over three years ago. Even at 21 years old, Van Ginkel came across as a player mature beyond his years – he was extremely well-rounded in his skills and drove the team along, as perhaps the most crucial component of a midfield which included Theo Janssen and Davy Propper and excelled in the 2012-13 season.
The three years since Amersfoort-born ‘Wulfert Cornelius’ picked up his Johan Cruyff Award for the best young talent in the Netherlands, have been anything but smooth-sailing. The horrific anterior cruciate ligament tear sustained a mere 100-minutes or so into his Chelsea career kept him out for six entire months, by which time Nemanja Matic had established himself in the team, while Cesc Fábregas was on his way. To allow Van Ginkel to get games under his belt, he was loaned out to AC Milan, where he again encountered a few injury before finding his feet in the second half of the season. But ultimately it was deemed insufficient to warrant a spot in the Chelsea first team and the loan roulette ensued, with the wheel leading to Stoke. A few early outings aside, Van Ginkel found himself stripped of playing opportunities as signings like Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan Krkic were preferred in midfield, alongside the likes of Glenn Whelan and Charlie Adam. The record signing of Gianelli Imbula was the final nail in the coffin and Van Ginkel’s loan was cancelled.
Back at Chelsea, even with the departure of Ramires, competition for midfield places is high and Van Ginkel would have probably found himself even below Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
Late at night on 1st of February, hours before the January window was to close, Eindhoven Dagblad’s journalist Rik Elfrink first reported that PSV were working on a deal for Van Ginkel and just as the deadline loomed, confirmation arrived. A half-season-long loan only, but easily the pick of the January movements in the Netherlands.
For Van Ginkel, PSV represents the perfect springboard for his career, which has been too much of a stop-start ride since he left these shores. Just ask the likes of Luuk de Jong or Andres Guardado, both of whom endured mediocre, stagnating spells in their career before making the move to Eindhoven in 2014 and re-discovering their form and magic that made them highly touted at the start of their respective careers. Even Jeffrey Bruma, for that matter, who since moving to PSV from an ill-fated Chelsea spell, has restored his reputation, got his career back on track and earned call-ups to the national team, serves as a good example.
Of course, the step-down in the quality of opposition is a factor but the environment at PSV lends itself more to nurturing a player’s confidence and nursing it back to optimum. With leaders like the aforementioned De Jong and Guardado, as well as the guidance of coach Phillip Cocu, Van Ginkel is bound to be in good hands in Eindhoven.
With fixtures coming thick and fast in the Champions League, the KNVB Beker and the league for PSV, this is an extremely shrewd piece of business by the defending champions, especially with Guardado (who has been consistently sensational this season) facing ‘several’ weeks out due to a hamstring injury. The vague nature of the PSV statement means it is possible the mercurial Mexican could miss both legs of the Champions League tie with Atletico Madrid and in this situation, there are few players PSV could have acquired that would have been a better replacement than Van Ginkel.
A Netherlands international himself, the now 23-year-old could slot in directly into Guardado’s central midfield position, which is quite similar to the role he played at Vitesse, as a box-to-box shuttler, influencing the play at both ends of the pitch. With the defensive protection offered by Hendrix, Van Ginkel will certainly enjoy going on his well-timed runs into the box and getting into good goalscoring positions. Guardado has notched up his fair share of assists this season and Van Ginkel, who is an excellent passer in his own regard, could be expected to deliver the same kind of penetrating passes that offer PSV an attacking nous from midfield.
Van Ginkel has the engine and tenacity to take on defensive responsibilities and tie up loose ends in and around midfield. Reunited with his old buddy, Davy Pröpper in midfield, who is dating Van Ginkel’s sister, he is not likely to take especially long to settle down and find his rhythm on pitch with his PSV teammates.
Once Guardado returns, with Van Ginkel on the books, there is a great deal of flexibility in midfield for Cocu to tinker with. For example, if PSV advance further in the Champions League and require a slightly more defensive outlook, a midfield of Van Ginkel-Hendrix-Guardado should be very solid without compromising on creativity. Alternatively, if Cocu wants to add to the attacking drive of his midfield, he could play Pröpper in front of Guardado and Van Ginkel, who can definitely hold fort together – keeping in mind that Guardado did play a restrained, defensive midfield role for most of last season.
As such, Van Ginkel’s arrival seems like a win-win situation for both parties involved. He is afforded an opportunity to revel in the thick of games at a more comfortable level while PSV ensure that their squad depth remains by far the most impressive in the league and no doubt strengthens their credentials to defend the league title. After three tumultuous years of trying to repeatedly find his feet in different environments at different clubs, Marco now takes a step back home, into the known so as to propel himself forward into his still promising future.
Will that be at Chelsea, under the new manager, or at PSV, who may bid to make his stay permanent? Regardless, for now, one hopes the next 6 months are good to this very likeable young man.