Eredivisie revelations 10, 9, 8: Filip Kostic, Lucas Piazon and Joel Veltman
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.
We begin the countdown with numbers 10, 9 and 8:
10. Filip Kostic (FC Groningen) – By Michiel Jongsma
When you are brought to replace a player who delivered seven goals and 21 assists in his debut season, the latter a feat only Mesut Ozil and Lionel Messi only could top across Europe, you know there are bound to be high expectations. This was precisely the pressure bestowed upon Filip Kostic in 2012-13 when he was brought in to succeed fellow Serbian countryman Dusan Tadic at FC Groningen, however, he failed to inflict a similar degree of damage on opponents in his maiden season.Kostic, brought in at 19 years of age, came to the club as a rough diamond and, in his first year, never lived up to the hype that had surrounded him. Struggling to adapt to his new environment, not able to speak a lot of English let alone Dutch and finding a manager in Robert Maaskant who has never really been in the business of polishing rough diamonds, his game time was limited to 5 substitute performances in the league. Rumours came out about the player being not motivated and having trouble keeping his weight in check. An investment of FC Groningen of €1 million was deemed redundant within 12 months.
A year on, the contrast couldn’t be greater. Under new manager Erwin van de Looi, Kostic was given a chance in the first team and from the first time out he seemed adamant to make a spot in the first-team. With unrelenting pace, effort and a lot of flair and skill, he started to run at defences, giving a league return of nine league goals and seven assists. Kostic has turned himself from a fringe player into an instrumental figure for Groningen and it would be a surprise if the 21-year-old would grace the green shirt for another season. His ability to run at defenders and show a will to power off every player coming his way is not as much reminiscent of Tadic, but of another FC Groningen alumni in Luis Suarez, albeit on another level.
After a tough year, it appears the gem is finally unearthed and with the robust left forward constantly improving in skill, delivery and finishing, it is hard to see where his ceiling lies.
9. Lucas Piazon (Vitesse) - By Peter McVitie
From mesmerising, electrifying, clinical, fascinating and generally magnificent to dull, ineffective, sterile and extremely disappointing, Lucas Piazon’s season has been one of two extremes.
The 20-year-old Brazilian joined Vitesse on loan from Chelsea this season and immediately began to shine in the Dutch league.
The skill of this left winger is really quite impressive, but when coupled with his speed and technical ability as well as his direct style, he left fans, pundits and even opponents in awe.
Throughout the opening half of the season, Piazon was on fire. By far Vitesse’s most productive player and simply a sublime performer, he was absolutely critical as the Arnhem club looked to challenge the likes of Ajax, Feyenoord and Twente for the league title.
With 11 goals and eight assists in the first half of the season, he helped guide the club to the top of the table as they became one of the favourites to win it compared to a rather inefficient Ajax and an inconsistent Twente.
However, following the winter break, Vitesse and Piazon essentially disappeared.
The Brazilian’s last goal came in the final match of 2013, after that, not only did he fail to hit the net, he also didn’t rack up a single assist. As a result, his team also struggled as Vitesse completely capitulated in 2014, winning only three league matches.
FC Hollywood on the Rhine even ended the regular season with a seven game winless streak, as they went from title challengers with dreams of playing in the Champions League, to having to fight for a place in the Europa League through the playoffs, which they lost having succumbed to FC Groningen 5-1 on aggregate.
Throughout the second half of the season, Piazon’s performances dropped so much that he began to be substituted off in games, then he was starting from the bench and, on a couple of occasions, not emerging at all.
After such a magnificent start to life in Holland, it’s very difficult to say what the reason is behind such a dramatic drop in form. As a youngster, we can expect and forgive him for going through such periods of indifference, however this seems like much more than that.
It could be that he isn’t happy, perhaps there are personal problems, issues between him and coach Peter Bosz or his team-mates. Netherlands has a completely different culture to that of Brazil, perhaps he’s homesick. Perhaps, even, he feels his displays in the first half of the campaign showed that the Eredivisie is beneath him. However, not only does that seem to be at complete odds with his personality, giving up completely isn’t the best way to go about proving to Chelsea he’s ready for the step up.
At this point, we can only really speculate. His decline has been beyond belief, but so has that of Vitesse.
Piazon’s remarkable performances throughout the first half of the current term showed that he is a player who, if he can come back after the summer break and find his form again, has incredible potential and really can go a long way in his career. However, it seems he will have to regain his form somewhere else as another season on loan at Vitesse seems unlikely.
8. Joel Veltman (Ajax) – By Peter McVitie
As far as breakthrough seasons go, there are far as rewarding and exciting as that of Ajax defender Joel Veltman.
If landing an Eredivisie winners’ medal in his first season wasn’t good enough, the young centre-back put in some excellent displays in a tough Champions League group and even made his debut in the Netherlands national team. For a young player still developing, he has given himself quite the platform on which to build an excellent career.
While his tackling success rate this season has been underwhelming, standing at 69%, his blocking (10) and interception (51) figures are very respectable, however, Veltman is more than just a standard defender – he is very much a typical Ajax centre-back.
His strengths and importance to the Amsterdam giants stems from his technical ability and decision making on the ball.
With a passing accuracy of 89%, he is excellent at bringing the ball out from defence and instigating moves for his side. There is also a hint of Jan Vertonghen in him as he shows no fear in bombing forward himself to inject some pace into Ajax’s attacks – Vitesse’s Jan-Arie van der Heijden is the only defender who has completed more dribbles than he, although Veltman completed a higher percentage of those he attempted.
The 22-year-old is another product of the Amsterdam giants’ world famous youth academy, having been a member of the club since the age of nine. Along with current Ajax first-team players Stefano Denswil, Davy Klaassen, Lesley de Sa and Viktor Fischer, Veltman played a key role in the heart of defence as the Under 19s reached the final of the inaugural NextGen Series. After some solid displays in the competition, it seemed the youngster was destined for the first-team.
As the 2013-14 season approached and centre-back Toby Alderweireld neared the exit door of the Amsterdam ArenA, it seemed a big mistake from coach Frank de Boer that he had passed up on signing Groningen youngster Virgil van Dijk to replace the Belgium international. However, Veltman has compensated for the loss of the current Atletico Madrid player, building an excellent partnership with Niklas Moisander and, when the Finnish defender was out injured, Denswil. Strong, defiant and developing great leadership skills, he has shown throughout the campaign that he can reach great heights in his career.
His performances in his first season in the Eredivisie and the Champions League – in which Ajax narrowly missed out on reaching the second-round – earned him his debut with the Netherlands national team. A call up to Louis van Gaal’s team for the World Cup is now a possibility for the Velsen-born player as an excellent inaugural season in top level football gets even better.
However, it’s just the beginning for the defender who still has a long way to develop before he is anywhere near the finished product.
*All stats courtesy of Opta