There’s no denying the fact that the Netherlands national team has faced a decline. Gone are the days of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, and Robin van Persie. Since their depatures, the team has struggled immensely. A once proud footballing nation has failed to qualify for the 2016 UEFA Euro Championship and the 2018 World Cup. There has been a surge of young Dutch talent, however, so which youngsters have the capability to lead the Netherlands’ revival?
Youngsters to Lead the Netherlands Revival
Matthijs de Ligt
The 18-year-old centre-back has already established himself as a regular for both Ajax and the national team. To date, de Ligt has already amassed an impressive 42 appearances in the Dutch Eredivisie. Furthermore, he was an instrumental piece in de Godenzonen’s run to the Europa League Final in 2017. Other honours include being named in the 2016-2017 Europa League team of the season, winning the Ajax Talent of the Year award in 2018 and winning the Bronze Boot in the Dutch Footballer of the Year award race this season.
De Ligt separates himself from other centre-backs with his offensive ability. Besides his goalscoring record, de Ligt has completed over 89% of his passes this season, which ranks him first above all Eredivisie defenders. He is technically gifted, but also has leadership qualities noteworthy for someone of his age. He needs to improve physically, but this will come with time. De Ligt has the size and movement necessary to succeed but must add an aspect of aggressiveness to his game.
Arsenal, Barcelona, Manchester City, and Tottenham are monitoring de Ligt’s development.
Frenkie de Jong
De Jong has yet to make an appearance for the national team, but that will change shortly. He has exploded onto the scene with his impressive versatility, being able to succeed as a holding midfielder or in the centre of defence. The promising midfielder was heavily scouted by Dutch powerhouses Ajax and PSV but ultimately moved to the capital club.
The Dutchman’s intelligence on the field is what makes him stand out. He seems to have a plan every time the ball reaches his boots, which is unforeseen in a player of his experience. This, in turn, allows him to create success for his teammates and improve Ajax’s product on the field. His intelligence can be seen through statistics – de Jong has completed 91.4% of his passes and has racked up seven assists in the Eredivisie.
De Jong’s main issue is he lacks the height that most holding midfielders or centre-backs have. To make up for this, de Jong has added an aspect of power and flair as opposed to solely craftiness. Teams that have expressed interest in de Jong include Arsenal, Chelsea, and Manchester City.
Donny van de Beek
Van de Beek is another impressive product out of Ajax. At 21-years-old, he is an integral piece of Ajax’s line up and beginning to stake his claim on the national team. The youngster positions as a central midfielder, but leans more towards attacking tendencies. His play style revolves around dictating his team’s play, and he has been hailed for this. Goal.com said van de Beek is a player with “excellent control and a great eye for a pass as he links up with the attack and is dangerous as he makes runs into the box.”
He has netted 11 goals and recorded six assists in the Eredivisie this season, showing his attacking prowess. Although van de Beek excels in creating attacks, he must learn to be more patient when doing so. His pass accuracy of 82.5% is solid but shows how he still lacks the creativity to get him to the next level. Once again, however, this should come with more experience.
Barcelona, Manchester United, and Tottenham are linked to the midfielder.
Although Ramselaar does not have a plethora of big-name clubs after his signature like the aforementioned Ajax youngsters, the creative midfielder is establishing himself as a regular for Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven. He was first called up to the national team for friendlies in 2016. All signs point to him becoming a permanent call-up.
Ramselaar is similar to van de Beek in the sense of positioning and playing style. He’s a centre midfielder, but definitely favors attacks over defending. Furthermore, he’s known for his ability to hold on to the ball, dribble around opposing players with skill, and deliver key passes. Ramselaar, however, is not ready to leave the Eredivisie. Based on his progress, though, he will be expected to play an important role in the Netherland’s UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
Bergwijn is as versatile as it gets on the attacking line. Although primarily featuring as a left winger for PSV this season, he can also be deployed on the right wing, as a second striker, or as a ‘false nine’. His versatility has allowed him to thrive this season. As a result, he has scored eight goals and created another seven this season. Although a very premature comparison, his attacking style is similar to that of former PSV star Arjen Robben. Bergwijn tends to drift inwards to the centre of the box, where he then releases a shot or plays a short pass in hopes of finding another opening.
As the Robben comparison suggests, Bergwijn is also technically talented. He has the dribbling ability necessary to beat defenders, and is also quite pacey, allowing him to thrive on the counter attack.
One constant knock on Bergwijn is his ability on the air. He’s not very tall, which is common for wingers, so he struggles during aerial duels. This will likely remain a struggle, as it has with most wingers. Everton and Tottenham are in the hunt for Bergwijn.
The last name should be familiar to most football fans. Justin is the son of Patrick Kluivert, the former Ajax and Barcelona star. He’s following in his father’s footsteps and has already become a regular for Ajax on the wing.
Kluivert excels in cutting in, but that’s not his primary focus while attacking. He’s also known for his one-on-one ability versus opposing fullbacks. As a winger should be, he’s pacey and very agile, keeping fullbacks constantly on their feet.
Like Bergwijn, Kluivert also excels in the short passing game. His success in the one-two game in the opposing box has translated very well for Ajax.
All the tools are there for Kluivert to achieve stardom. He has scored 10 goals and racked up five assists in the Eredivisie, paired up with an impressive 86.7 passing completion percentage. Once he gains more strength on the ball, Kluivert will be a nightmare for even the most elite defenders. Powerhouses like Barcelona and Manchester United are currently targeting him.
The Last Word
The Dutch still have a lot of work to do. They have made the correct decision of implementing youth into their squad, but the youngsters must now work with veterans such as Memphis Depay and Virgil van Dijk to continue to grow. The talent is there, but the players must now execute to restore pride and lead the Netherlands’ revival. There will be no excuse if the Dutch fail to qualify for another major tournament after watching the World Cup from home.