Dutch players rumored to Manchester United? Where do we even start..
Wesley Sneijder. Arjen Robben. Kevin Strootman. Bruno Martins Indi. The list of potential Dutch recruits rumoured to make their way to Old Trafford seems to grow with each day. We know Louis Van Gaal loves his Dutch players and will bring some with him as he rebuilds Manchester United.
Those are some great names. And could have an impact with Van Gaal and Robin Van Persie. But, the one under-the-radar Dutch player Van Gaal should immediately acquire, starts on his Dutch national team: Daley Blind.
The son of former Dutch great Danny Blind, hasn’t always been successful. He was playing out of position and prone to mistakes, which killed his confidence. It wasn’t until he united with now current Ajax Amsterdam manager Frank De Boer that started to resurrect his career in the Dutch Eredivisie.
After a roller coaster start to his professional career, the last 18 months have been so perfect it seems it could only be straight from a Hollywood movie.
De Boer has installed back the totaalvoetbal (Total football) style of play with Ajax, a system that Van Gaal lives and dies with and also runs with the Dutch national team. In totaalvoetbal, a player who moves out of his position is replaced by another from his team, thus retaining the team’s intended organisational structure. The system, created by the Dutch in the 1960s, has been modernised by Van Gaal and others, is designed to keep a fluid flow, where no outfield player is fixed in a nominal role. Anyone can successively play as an attacker, a midfielder or defender.
For totaalvoetbal to be successful, the team needs to have quick pace, versatile, and disciplined players. In Ajax, for example, Blind is the anchor man. And he has put up very impressive numbers. He was among the league leaders with 72.1 passes per game. Also contributed 2.6 tackles and 2.7 interceptions per game. Blind dictates the tempo. He helped Ajax to 86.8% pass accuracy and a 62.9% ball possession, both league leaders.
He has the necessary pace and intelligence to cover multiple spots on the field. With Ajax, Blind starts as the central defensive midfielder. He often operates as a single-minded man-marker, designed to shadow the opponents top play-maker. On the national team, Blind plays left wing back, where he often interchanges between defense and midfield. With his high-football IQ and pace, he has become the architect of the Dutch attack. Through two World Cup games, Blind has a team high, an incredible 91.8% pass accuracy, and is also second on the team averaging 42.5 passes per game. He also leads the team with 3.5 tackles per game. Blind is also tied with 3 assists so far at the World Cup, including the cross that led to the flying header goal by Van Persie in Netherlands 5-1 victory over defending champion Spain. His superior play has some even calling Blind as the “Dutch Lahm”.
For his achievements this past season, Blind was voted as the 2014 Dutch player of the year.
Blind is not a “Lahm”, atleast not yet. But he reminds me of another late bloomer. Polish international Lukasz Piszczek, who started his career bouncing back and forth between midfield and striker with various clubs, including Hertha Berlin, until landing with Borussia Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp, who transformed him to a right back. In a style more suited towards his strength, he’s become one of the best at his position. The development of Piszczek has helped Dortmund reach the Champions League final and win multiple league titles.
Besides being the starting left wing back under Van Gaal, the connections between the two don’t end there. Daley’s father, Danny, was the sweeper and captain of Van Gaal’s 1995 Ajax team that won the Champions League. Danny is also currently Van Gaal’s assistant coach.