Danjuma: Van Gaal’s missing winger?

This last week, coach Ronald Koeman was in the news, as Barca Chair “finally” sacked the Dutch club legend (and in his wake: Alfred Schreuder and Henke Larsson). Also in the news, 75 year old Wim Jansen – suffering from dementia – published his biography, ans with that, some exciting stories were re-hashed in the media. Do let me know if you want me to write some stories on either topic.

For now, I wanted to focus on that other winger that impressed. I covered Noa Lang in a post, now it’s time for Arnaut Danjuma.

The 24 year old Nigerian born Dutch international – Dutch father, Nigerian mother – started his career at Top Oss but moved swiftly to PSV where he played for PSV 2 before making his move to NEC Nijmegen, where he expected a swifter break through. He managed 40 games for NEC in which he scored 12 goals and got the first attention. PSV and Feyenoord were keen to sign him but Club Brugge in Belgium was the quickest of them. He made his first Oranje appearance under Koeman in October 2018 but lost his spot when he got injured.

He went to play for EPL outfit Bournemouth in 2019 but injuries kept him sidelined more than not and Danjuma got relegated with the club in 2020. He ended up performing really well for the Cherries and scored a total of 15 goals in 47 games for them until Emry swooped him up for Villareal for close to €25K.

It does not take long, in the company of Arnaut Danjuma, to realise how highly he regards his potential. “If I need to be completely honest, and this is me being completely honest, I never thought I would play Championship in my career,” the Bournemouth forward says, “I’m used to the Champions League, not the Championship.”

Danjuma – nickname The Cobra – talks like he plays: a winger with wonderful talent and ability complemented by extreme self-confidence which sees him attempt, and often execute, the audacious.

Danjuma – who had an unthinkable tough childhood – spoke of a desire to return to Europe’s elite competition and prove he is among the world’s best players. His two appearances in the Champions League came for Belgium’s Club Brugge in the 2018 group stage, both ending in defeat to Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, whom he scored against. With Villareal, he was able to prove his mettle once again, particularly in the away match vs Man United.

Danjuma uses his past to help him perform. “When I go into a game I always get my mentality back to where I started because I don’t want to get used to being satisfied,” he says.

The story begins in Lagos, Nigeria, where he was born but Danjuma doesn’t remember much apart from his grandma’s house and regularly being late for dinner due to playing football in the streets. The true beginning came in 2001, at the age of four, when Danjuma’s parents, mum Hauwa and dad Cees, divorced in the same year they moved to Oss, in the south of Holland.

Danjuma doesn’t remember why but they ended up homeless for two weeks around a year after arriving in Europe. Along with his brother Reinier and sister Lisette, the then five-year-old and his mum would often end up sleeping in their car.

“I was a bit older, around five or six,” Danjuma says. “There was a brief period when we had no place to live, which obviously was very tough and, on the back of it, might sound weird but I’m grateful I went through it.

“For my mum, it was very difficult but she’s a very strong lady. I’ve never met anyone as strong as her, especially if you come from a different country like Nigeria to the Netherlands, don’t speak the language and are foreign. It is difficult, it’s tough. She had three children to take care of.

“It was a very difficult period for her but I always respect the way she dealt with it and she always provided for me and the whole family where she could. It really inspires me, having a mother like her, because it showed me the world is tough out there and if you want to survive you should always fight back, always take courage in changing your own destiny.”

Circumstances saw Danjuma and his siblings put into foster care. He doesn’t recall why but remembers clearly the difficulty it brought, comparing the period to time spent living on the streets. His foster family wouldn’t take him to play football, the sport he had grown to love since the age of four.

“It was tough because you’re not with your parents and you see all other kids living with their parents. It was difficult for me because the only thing I wanted to do was play football,” Danjuma says. “They weren’t willing to bring me to training so I got really annoyed by that. But my father luckily came all the way to the foster family, picked me up and took me to football, and then brought me back to them and went back to his place. I was lucky that my father still took charge of everything because otherwise it would have been very difficult for me.”

Cees remains an influential figure. They speak before every game and Danjuma describes his father as a “football fanatic”. “I’m not even exaggerating,” he says. “If he feels I have performed bad or the club is losing, he won’t sleep.”

Danjuma joined Top Oss, his first professional club, aged 11 in 2008, the same year a court ruled he could leave foster care and live with his father. Within weeks, he had joined PSV Eindhoven where he remained until 2016.

Through the years in the academy, he saw the benefits of his unthinkable upbringing by observing others. “There are a lot of players who have a lot of luxuries at a young age and it kills them,” he says. “I’ve seen so many talented players that didn’t make it in the end because of luxury. I’ve seen it with my own eyes because I went through it in the same period and didn’t have the same luxury as them, but in the end I scored my goal in the Champions League and they didn’t.”

His debut in Europe’s elite competition came elsewhere in the end. “At the time, my dream was to play first team and make my debut there but it fell apart because I got a bit impatient and didn’t think I got the respect I deserved at the club and tried my luck elsewhere,” Danjuma says.

He spent two years with NEC Nijmegen and then moved to Club Brugge in 2018 which was when Milan made a move. “Six months earlier I played in Holland so when AC Milan came through with an offer and bid I told the club straight away I want to move, I want to go to AC Milan which is a massive club, massive history, and at the time a very good step for me,” Danjuma recalls.

Danjuma’s personal ambitions mean he is determined to take Villareal back to the top in Spain, particularly with the Madrid clubs and Barca stumbling a bit. But he also has his eye on the international arena.

He made his come back in orange after three years. “I am so happy that I’m back and I knew for 100% certain that I would make it. I may have been off the radar a bit with Bournemouth so I decided to move up a notch.” Asked if he was happy to perform on the right wing for The Netherlands, as opposed to the left: “My preference is the left, I won’t lie, but if the coach want me to play on the right, I will. When Van Gaal tells me to be the goalie, I will be the goalie. But left winger has my preference.”

By now, we are all getting accustomed to the intelligence and wit of the winger. He was already known to be a walking football encyclopedia. He follows everything and even has his own data-service, which he devours week by week to learn, to develop and set new goals. He also has quick and dry wit. Asked if he new about Van Gaal lamenting that there weren’t many good wingers, he responded: “Was he lamenting? Well so was I. I was lamenting that I wasn’t called up.”

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  1. I am going to comment here on some of the stuff being discussed on the previous post.

    I think the criticism on Koeman at Barca is extremely harsh. He lost Messi late in the transfer window and that is a huge loss! Not just on the pitch, also in the dressing room. With Messi and Suarez before him, and also Alba, Fati and Dembele injured… Griezmann gone and no money whatsoever.

    Add to that a negative and overly critical and meddling president, it can never be easy. The negativity was created by the club management and their constant bickering, blaming the previous president (justified of course) and the constant threat of sacking Koeman, I think most coaches would struggle.

    It’s harsh to fire a coach due to a bad result in a game where a player missed a penalty.

    I think Barca is stupid. The whole Messi saga was a disgrace, and now sacking Koeman in an ongoing season, having to pay him 12Mio euros and having to introduce a new coach… It’s very risky and capital destroying.

    Anyway, that is my opinion.

    FdJ is now injured and I believe he has been overused by both Barca and Oranje. He’ll be back alright.

    Memphis will get enough games, I think. Aguero won’t be playing more than 20 games for Barca this season and Braithwaite and Luuk de Jong are merely pinch hitters.

  2. Intimate portrait thx.

    The continued and consistent failure of Dutch coaches in the diaspora, and outside of their comfort zones, is quite alarming. Koeman knew what he was getting into. Granted Messi left. But there was, at no point, where Barcelona showed any kind of progress and potential under him. Wonder the correlation and dynamics involved with the struggle of eredevisie “stars” and that of the coaches abroad.

  3. Re: Danjuma

    It goes without a shame that now everybody singing his tunes while at Bournemouth he was never looked at. This is sad part about Dutch football.

  4. No piroe, no party for swansea.
    Another goal and assist for Joel Piroe.

    He is now 9 goals and 3 assists in 15 games. He is likely cross 20 goals this season. They are still sitting mid table though.

    Maatssen also had a assist in coventry win.

  5. Jan, another Nice article and great to learn these stories about Danjuma and you can tell he is really a special and different player. really wish him could reach to become a top player’s level one day.

    Meanwhile, all the fuss about Koeman and how he had been treated as scapegoat is totally unfair. No one could have turn the current situation with Barcelona and it’s very silly to fire an experienced coach as Koeman and getting a rookie unexperienced coach like Xavi on board.

    Sad to see that the Dutch coaches abroad are all struggling; whilst Erik Ten Hag is one out of them that shines. But time will tell once he goes abroad and coach one of the big clubs , then we will see if Ten Hag will reaches the level of Van Gaal and Hiddink once were at.

  6. Ronald koeman also suffred from stubonr syndrome…you dont need Messi,Suarez to play attractive football Ask Hansiflick,Julian nigelsmaan,jurgan klopp and Eric tenhaag if u have any doubt..Also you dont need big money to build a strong club Lecester and Ajax…example..
    why the hell he permitted to sign Luuk De jong????Why the hell he signed Depay instead of a defender???
    barca needed a central defender and they never tried for it…At least he could have get Ibrhima konate from leipzig…with a lesser rate…
    There was no improvement on feild at barca under koeman.barca academy had no shortage of talent..PeP gaurdiyola toook over from Raijkard and sold ronaldhino,Deco etc….and Pepe took barca to next level…he is doing same at barca…
    stubornness and dutch coaches are not seperable….After LVG who????Eric ten haag would be costly..Arnie slot??? …

    1. Aguero, Depay, Garcia all came on free transfers. Luuk de Jong came on loan.

      Barcelona are a billion dollars in debt (not a hyperbole) the only signings they could make were free ones.

  7. Watched the replay of Milan 2-1 Roma. How on earth karsdorp is not in the NT squad is just disgusting.Even though Milan was a better team and totally outclassed the Roma midfield, it was on karsdorp’s flank where everything was lively and was the best attacking outlet for Roma. The two goals Milan scored indirectly resulted from his play but still he put up a top notch performance. It was his tackle on theo Hernandez just outside of the box which resulted in the first goal from Ibrahimvoic free kick. The second goal was again a counter attack by Milan which saw Ibrahimvoic brought down in the box resulting in a PK. Just prior to this phase, karsdorp had made a good run and his cross in the box resulted in Milan disposossing Abraham and launching a reverse counter attack and though karsdorp tried his best to cover up by closing off theo Hernandez but was beaten off by his quick pace. He was already on a yellow and couldnt do much. Hernandez then set up Ibrahimvoic with a through ball which resulted in PK after he was brought down in the box.

    Apart from this, He was constently a threat with his bursting runs and crosses in the box. The Roma forwards simply couldnt finish off. The Milan defense were on to them like bees around the hives.Even in the midfield Kessie was beast. Roma simply outclassed and only after Milan was reduced to ten men after Hernandez red card that Roma gained control and had a late consolation goal through El sharawaay.

  8. @Wilson

    Re: In between I came to find out that its Danny Blind who drafts up the squad list for van gaal to consider and make adjustments if any.

    I hope your statement is just tongue in cheek. But if not, I’m not surprised and will even be less surprised if the cartel finds a way for Blind to succeed LVG. You know, he is agreeable and has to be duly rewarded.

  9. Nice article Jan! Reading this story remind me of how important to have a supportive figure in the family. Not every players will know how to focus on football like Messi or Ronaldo. Ihattaren’s form dipped a lot after his father passed away. He is gonna waste his career for going to night club and missing training.

  10. Regarding Koeman, I think it is a lose-lose situation. He quit Netherlands job to join the disaster named Barca. It is a loss for Netherlands because they replaced him with someone who is not capable. It is also a loss for him because he was on the way up. If he have stayed at Netherlands, he could have led them to semi-final and have multiple decent options. But he decided to go for a job that the working condition was so bad. In a way, he does not respect himself because he agreed to those conditions. People are pulling the rug out under him and he compromised. He called Suarez to let him know he was not in the plan and then he got noone in exchange. He got LDJ to replace Messi and Griezmann, why did he even consider that? He could have got no one and put the blame entirely on Barca’s board but he compromised.

    As for his performance at Barca, I don’t think it was bad but it was not good either. He did alright given what he had. But he also made several mistakes. He froze multiple fringe players and could not motivate them to perform. This is a pattern with Dutch coach that we see so far, they fixed their mind on a set of players and do not consider others. Pedri, FDJ and Messi were not given rest because he could not rotate players like Trincao and Pjanic effectively.

    For Barca, I hope Depay and FDJ get out of there fast. This is a disaster. The club is badly managed, the president is a snake, the team is divided, the fans are delusional. I don’t think FDJ developed the last few years. In a way, he slightly regressed.

    And the legendary LDJ is being kicked out by Barca. He missed open goals after open goals. But he still got called up to the national team. Is he a pinch hitter, what can he hit? He missed everything. He had his time, he won Europe League. Now he is not that player anymore. Sevilla moved on, Barca will move on. Only at NT team that he still get picked. Do the scouts of Netherlands work at all?

  11. @Wilson, that is a good article on Danny Blind, thank you. Enjoyed it. But, honestly, I didn’t see the part from where you drew “its Danny Blind who drafts up the squad list for van gaal to consider and make adjustments if any.” Maybe I’m missing? Can you point me to which subheading in the article it is under?

    1. “According to Yvon Blind, her husband immediately started making lists and watching matches of players and opponents after the call from the KNVB”. This was just me hunting for source when I first learnt about it

      But then it was in a press conference where he said he makes the choices from the list presented to him. This was if im not wrong in the press conference where he talked about jut and jul.

      1. Wilson you are making something out of nothing again. You read one sentence and create a whole conspiracy theory about it.

        This is what happens at the KNVB: there are scouts and the KNVB has a list of 100+ players (in and outside of Holland) who should be considered of a potential call up. That list has been in use since Van Basten. it is being worked on, usually by the assistant coach (Lodeweges was involved, Cocky was the assistant of Van Marwijk who covered this) and Blind is universally seen in Holland as a great scout for talent and a walking database of Dutch players. It is only logical that Danny would be in charge of the list. But it’s not a list of names. It’s a database with stats, with strengths, weaknesses, etc. Louis has developed a job description for all his positions and he then matches the roles with the players and in combi with Blind, Fraser and potentially more scouts, he then selects his squad.

        Don’t stir the hornets nest for nothing man. Constantly trying to create controversy eh?

        1. Its utter stupidity that for every qualifiers they will scout over 100 players, makes no sense.

          My arguement is in line with karsdorp’s ommossion. I have said this a hundred times performace should speaks its volume and not what sonebody did last year or previous year.

          Karsdorp deserves a call up and its clear he is been overlooked for reasons only Van gaal and Blind knows.

          1. “Blind is universally seen in Holland as a great scout for talent and a walking database of Dutch players”

            Seriously, I never knew this. The dutch football is all about those who rub each others balls. Thats how it works, those that dont are trashed out.

            With people like him in the back ground NT will always continue to stumble.

    2. I don’t see the problem with the process actually. I have problem with how some players are picked but not about the process. Blind is assistant coach so he should be responsible to narrow the down the list and then Van Gaal made the final decision. Likewise, Blind need to rely on some other scouts to trim down the bigger list.

  12. karsdorp case is bit unlucky as well…Dumfries is workhorse with hardfeet and some how delivers for NT…Jurien Timber is a monster,what a world class guy..amazing…then you have dextrous footed immensly talented Rensch….thats luxuary when it comes ton RB…i prefer top see Rench,and karsdop as RB…timber as back up….
    But what the hell.Owen winjdal is back…the guys cannot cross or pass…lacks vision..poor defending….He has no place at NT..

    1. Timber is not a RB but can play there. Like I said performance should speak its volume and not what somebody did one or two years ago. Did you watch the Norway game?
      It aint gonna work. Well vs weak/ average teams off course but not with big guns.

      Your dextrous footed rensch is a bench player.do you understand what does this means? Frimpong is way talented then him and has also been in good form for leverkusen but he will never get the same benefit of doubt like Rensch. This is how the system and jury works in dutch football. The lines drawn are different for different players.

      1. @Wilson, Re: Frimpong. I’m sure you’ve seen Leverkusen more than I have (only a couple of games this year), so please comment. No doubting Frimpong’s offensive abilities; he and the right winger (can’t remember his name) usually look dangerous in tandem. But to me, the defensive side of his game needs some work. Am I wrong? He has started for the current U21 team, so he is being seen.

        Agree that Karsdorp should be in. But I don’t dismiss Rensch as a player, now or for the future; good all around skills, and I think defending is a strong suit for him.

        1. Thats why I said performance should speak its volume. I also think Rensch has good qualities but karsdorp is way ahead of him for now. This is exactly what I have put up before how they are weighing which player gets the nod. You look at Danjuma case, the jury said he needs to perform consistently till november to get a callup, here you have karsdorp who has experience and has been performing consistently but gets overlooked to somebody who has got the tag of being talented. How many talented dutch players are out there. Like I said different lines are drawn for different players and its all about the people who draw it.

          I used Frimpong merely as an example to compare them side by side given the talent argument. Both are talented, one sits on the bench, the other is active in top league and performing exceptionally well. Still the bench player gets the call up to NT and the other ends up at JO. You dont have to be a genuis here to see whats happening here. Rensch has looked average as well in JO. You could also bring Ki Jana also in the picture. He also sits on the bench at Wolves but has always given a solid performance when ever he starts or comes off the bench for Wolves.

          Frimpong defensively does get bullied out at times but he uses his speed to his advantage as well while defending. You will hardly see players out running him on the flanks. They all end up cutting inside.

          Even Dumfries during Sparta days was scouted because of offensive play. He still is defensively average.

  13. Watched Young boys 0-2 Villarreal. Danjuma scoring the winner in the 89th minute. Young boys were good too and had some good chances but couldnt find the back of the net.

    Danjuma was quiet overall, had few good runs otherwise was on hand to poke the winner.

  14. Watched Man United-Atalanta. Impressed with Koop and his passing range. Hope to see LVG give him a full game at least after we qualify(since he couldn’t do that even against Gibraltar). Was very steady especially in the first half and bossed the game playing the deep FDJ role. Play him now LVG and see what you really got in your hands. Don’t wait till an emergency situation against Portugal.

    De Roon played a better game than the first leg. I will keep him around to see out games. Nothing concrete moving forward though.

  15. Ajax wins 3-1. (Dortmund was on 10 men from the 30 minute mark on.) They clinch a spot in the playoff round, and only need a draw in one of their last 2 matches to win the group.

    1. Watched the second half. Dortmund sat deep and were hoping to catch Ajax on counter. Didnt happen. Tatical wise Rose got it right this time but one men down for 60- 70 minutes is gruesome in the game of football. Atletico madrid went through the same plight vs liverpool losing 2-0.

      Ajax like I have said, any team that can close them on the flanks will find in easy to brush them aside. Tadic amd Antony are the taticans of the team and the rest are like pawns. Once they stretch the defence, the midfield move foward to occupying the holes created. Klaassen etc and are decsive.

  16. Watched the replay of the City and brugge. Lang started on the right in a two man upfront but couldnt pull much strings like he normally does. Cancelo had a good check on him everytime he received the ball. Gave him no space to move.

    City simply were too good for them. Brugge did have some good phases but never looked like threatening them apart from the deflected stone’s goal.

  17. Huge win for Ajax who need only 1 point to clinch top spot. Looking at the other groups, the only second place teams I would be worried about for them would be Chelsea/Juve, PSG/City and Atletico. So a good chance of a good draw.

    PSV doing PSV things, struggling in Europe. Will need a result against Sociedad to give themselves a chance.

    Feyenoord and AZ are both a point away from clinching qualification and both should go through as winners I imagine.

    Vitesse put up a good fight against Tottenham and could’ve stolen a point. They’ll need to win out to qualify which might be too much.

  18. Re Karsdorp

    The day Dumfries will unavaliable for an important clash, thats when the jury will hit by the reality check button.

    Timber and Berghuis combo has already produced question marks but yet they cointnue to build the team around them.

  19. Maybe someone can pose the Karsdorp question to Van Gaal in the coming press conference. Just like what was asked for Danjuma last internationals conference…interested to know why Karsdorp continues to be overlooked.

    1. Re:…interested to know why Karsdorp continues to be overlooked.

      Because it’s Oranje. There has to be a blatant abnormality in players selection. Never mind common sense… the jury possesses the third eye.

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