Holland's Next Top Talent

GuidoAnalyst ISeptember 24, 2008

Feel free to call me a chauvinist or a patriot, but we Dutch have produced some incredible talents the last few decades. We may live in a small country, but we've produced a number of exceptional talents.

We generally play an entertaining, aesthetic football with loads of passes and slickness but often lack the bite and the steel that decide major international championships. Still, as I said before, lots of talent down here.

Because most of you probably don't follow the domestic Dutch league, I figured it might be nice to highlight some of the up and coming Dutch starlets. Eleven of the greatest domestic talents, if you will.

11. Ismaïl Aissati

One of many Dutch/Moroccan talents to break through over the past few seasons. Aissati is a product of the PSV academy and he used to form a great duo with PSV winger Ibrahim Afellay.

He is the youngest Dutch player to ever play in the Champions League, making his debut at the tender age of seventeen in the quarterfinal match between PSV and AC Milan. Aissati was seen as a great talent and one of the most promising Dutch players for the future at that time.

Despite this status, he never managed to secure a spot in PSV's starting line-up. Fed up with waiting for a chance, he forced a transfer to Ajax this summer, hoping that new Ajax coach Marco van Basten would give him a chance.

10. Leroy Fer

A rookie midfielder from Feyenoord. He's only 18-years-old, but already holds a first team spot with one of the traditional Dutch top clubs. A skillful young player, physically strong and very determined to make it to the absolute top.

9. Diego Biseswar

Before the start of this season, people would have thought I was mad to include this winger in such a list. A product of the Feyenoord youth academy, Bisewar failed to make an impression in the Eredivisie during consecutive loan spells at Heracles Almelo and De Graafschap Doetinchem. Feyenoord re-called the young player, but he was told he was transfer listed.

No club showed any interest, so he remained at Feyenoord. This season, he was given a chance in first team due to an injury for Andwele Slory. The young winger has been one of Feyenoord's best players this season, tearing down the left wing with his powerful, penetrating runs and lovely crosses.

So far, he's racked up three goals and three assists and the season has only just started...pretty impressive, when you consider he would have been allowed to leave for a limited sum a few months earlier.

8. Siem de Jong

De Jong is another product of the famous Ajax youth academy. Despite being only 19 years of age, the attacking midfielder has already racked up nearly thirty appearances in first team, including matches in the UEFA Cup.

Ajax managers use the credo "if you are good enough, you are old enough." They don't care about age, if you perform well, you're given a spot in first team. De Jong isn't a typical Ajax player, his style of play could best be described as sober. Nothing spectacular, nothing too fancy, but he gets the job done.

7. Stefan "Stef" Nijland

The son of FC Groningen managing director Hans Nijland is, naturally, a product of the FC Groningen youth setup.

For Groningen, he played as a left winger or striker opposite Swedish goal-machine Markus Berg. He did fairly well for a 19-year-old. He lacked what the Germans call "Tor Instinkt"—a killer instinct—however.

Because he's still a young player and considered a decent talent, PSV paid over four million for the young winger. He's considered a back-up for Afellay and Amrabat and can work on converting his chances in the reserves so far. Still, he's a player to look out for in the future.

6. Jeremain Lens

Son of former professional player Sigi Lens, Jeremain was kicked out of the Ajax academy because of his mentality, or lack of. He was soon snapped up by AZ Alkmaar, who loaned him away to NEC Nijmegen.

In Nijmegen, young Lens encountered Mario Been. Been turned the inconsistent young dribbler into a prolific goalscorer. In the three months after the winter-break, Lens bagged seven goals in fourteen appearances. His unpredictable style of play made him a menace for most opponents, who could never anticipate or predict what he might do.

Inconsistency is his worst problem though, he still has quite a few off-days. Still, if he sorts out his mentality, he could be a great winger.

5. Jonathan de Guzman

Born of Canadian and Philippino parents, de Guzman could have opted to play for either nation. His older brother Julian, active for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain, is active for Canada, but Jonathan chose an international career in the orange jersey.

A product of the Feyenoord academy, the young playmaker has been touted as the next Robin van Persie. Unfortunately, he's been struggling to make his mark on the struggling Rotterdam side.

Still, his style of play has already generated foreign interest. Manchester City were linked to the young midfielder, but the Citizens refused to pay over ten million for him.

4. Nordin Amrabat

Another player who was kicked out of the Ajax academy but still made his way to the top through other clubs. Amrabat made his debut in the Eredivisie last season, for VVV Venlo.

He impressed fans and pundits with his skillful dribbles and his excellent goalscoring record. He bagged ten goals for VVV, a team that went on to be relegated last season. He was dubbed one of the revelations of last season and was snapped up by league champions PSV.

People expected the young winger to start on the bench for PSV, but an excellent pre-season campaign has seen the young Moroccan Dutchman claim a spot in first team on the right wing, where he terrifies most wing-backs with his unpredictable and penetrating runs forward.

3. Dirk Marcellis

He's the only defender in this list, as well as being one of the youngest entries. This 20-year-old centre-back plays for PSV Eindhoven.

His debut in football was a memorable one. He made his debut on Anfield, in a Champions League match. He was unfairly sent off, after a duel with Boudewijn Zenden. Because of his tenacious style of play, he still got a standing ovation from the Liverpool fans when he left the pitch. That pretty much tells you the whole story.

Marcellis is a tenacious defender, who manages to keep a cool head, despite his relatively young age. He's certain of a spot in first team at PSV and he's been rumoured to break into the national side any time soon. Dutch pundits have dubbed him the new Jaap Stam, which pretty much sums up how highly we rate this young defensive talent.

2. Piet Velthuizen

A player not active for one of the traditional top sides, the 21-year-old goalkeeper is active for Vitesse Arnhem. Velthuizen was given a chance by Vitesse when their expensive foreign goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic proved to be prone to the odd slip-up.

The young Velthuizen, 18 at the time, proved to have nerves of steel and cat-like reflexes. His amazing saves kept Vitesse in the Eredivisie and earnt him call-ups for the Dutch U-21 and the Dutch Olympic side. It also got him noticed by several bigger clubs.

PSV were looking to sign the youngster to replace Heurelho Gomes, but the eight million euro transfer-sum proved to be too much for the reigning Dutch champions. Other sides may be less hesitant to pay that much money. Apparently, Arsenal is scouting the young goalie as well.

1. Ibrahim Afellay

Technically, "Ibi", as he is lovingly referred to by his fans, is past the stage of being a real talent. The 22-year-old PSV winger has grown from a talent into a player that can decide matches in his team's favour.

He lacked efficiency and proved to be prone to injuries in the previous seasons, but this appears to be the season of his break-through, both nationally and internationally. He's always included in the national team and he's been given a free role on the left wing at PSV.

So far, he's been re-paying the investment PSV has made in him. Last season, he scored a mere three goals. This season, he already bagged three goals in a just five games.

His spectacular dribbles can carve a defence wide open. If you combine this superb technical skills with good insight and his ability to read a match and you have a potential international star.

Ibi is not a selfish player and does well in the assists ranking as well. During PSV's 3-0 hammering by Atlético Madrid in the Champions League, Afellay was one of the few players that was on par with his Spanish opponents. Rumours have it that HSV Hamburg are looking to snap up Afellay to replace Rafael van der Vaart.


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