Young Feyenoord debutant Tonny Vilhena posing with his hero, Robin van Persie.
Louis van Gaal called Ronald Koeman last week to tell him seven players of the Feyenoord club had to report for duty against Estonia and Romania.
Jean-Paul Boetius, the young left winger, was the one not to be selected and he will fly with Young Oranje to Israel for a friendly.
Ronald Koeman was not allowed to tell the players until Friday and waited until after practice. He stood there, big smile on his face, to congratulate youngster Tonny Vilhena with his upcoming debut.
The 18 year old: “The coach congratulated me and asked me if I knew with what… I knew of course. I was hoping for this with a passion. When I heard I was in the prelim squad, Bruno and Jordi and Stefan constantly talked to me a bout it and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
The Seedorf like midfielder wanted to call him parents immediately, but Koeman was stern. The golden rule at Feyenoord: no mobile phones in the dressing room. Vilhena did learn immediately that his buddy Boetius was not yet selected. “It’s a shame that he misses out, but he is so proud of me… JP’s chance will surely come.”
Vilhena looks back on his development. “It’s going really fast. In October, I was on the stands. I wasn’t part of the match squad. I played against Willem II and scored twice. I made my debut against Croatia with Young Oranje and scored as well and three days later I played against and scored yet again. That was a top week. I got lifted up and made a big jump.”
The prospect has never spoken with Van Gaal before. He is looking forward to meeting him. “I have heard a lot from the other lads so I have an idea what to expect. But being on the same pitch with Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder…. Amazing. I will be the same Tonny on the pitch though. But off pitch, I will be a bit more humble I think, hahaha. I remember my picture being taken as an F pupil with Robin… He, Patrick Kluivert and Pierre van Hooijdonk were my heroes. I played football with a Kluivert jersey. And now I am training with him…”
Koeman understands why Van Gaal has selected Vilhena. “Tonny is only 18 years old but he is very mature on the pitch. I think he is better now than many players I have known, who had a superb career. He is pretty amazing. Boetius is also a gifted player but Van Gaal has reasons to bypass him for now. But I know from Van Gaal that it will be a matter of time for Jean Paul. If he keeps on performing as he does, he will come good.”
Boetius shrugs his shoulders. “I am happy for Tonny. And it’s cool that we have a good contingent of players from Feyenoord at Oranje. I am not disappointed. Young Oranje is good for me too. Being part of the prelim was already an honour. I played some difficult games recently, and I’m still young. I have still a lot to learn.”
Kevin Strootman is still a relatively young player. Only 23 years old he has played 17 caps and is a veteran amongst the youngsters. He also cops a lot of criticism recently, mainly due to his conduct in PSV games. “I am working hard to change my attitude.”
He smiles when he notices in the players’ hotel that the media swarm around the Feyenoord players. “Everything or everyone new is seen as positive. I had this too, when I made my debut. The first year is always relatively easy… The problem comes after it. When you get some setbacks… That is when the boys need to become men. The Feyenoord lads will experience that too.”
“I do recognise I’m different at Oranje, compared to PSV. I haven’t had major disappointments with Oranje. I do have it in my character to respond emotionally with disappointments… And at PSV I guess I’m more at home and show my emotions more freely. But not always in a good way.”
“I work hard to change it. I have spoken to Advocaat about it but also with Louis van Gaal. I don’t do myself many favours. I don’t get better when I lose myself in agitation. My peers do talk to me about it as well. But, at the same time, I am not a mean player. I don’t break legs or hit people. I’m simply reacting verbally.”
Louis van Gaal believes Kevin Strootman will be one of the players that will be able to make the step from PSV to a Champions League club without a problem. “I really love hearing this of course. I am grateful that he selected me and allowed me to make my debut as an Utrecht player… I watch the Champions League games and sometimes think “whoa, that is quite a high level” but some other games I think “hmmm…I could handle this… I do get interest from other clubs but I won’t leave PSV for just any club with deep pockets. I really want a club that appeals to me.”
Wesley Sneijder is back in the trainings camp of Oranje. “That isn’t so strange? I am fit. So I am selected. I think I’m still part of Oranje, right? Although I have to admit, I am relieved to be back.”
The playmaker missed 4 internationals as Inter pushed the former Ajax man into the youth team. As midfielder of Galatasaray, he reached the CL quarter finals and will play former club Real Madrid. “We are amongst the best eight clubs of Europe. I don’t think Galatasaray is that bad?”.
Van Gaal always kept his skipper involved. “We did speak a lot over the phone and he visited me in Istanbul. Hey, and I am still captain, right, haha? But no I won’t tell you what we discussed. We did talk about the World Cup. Because we do have the plan to go to Brazil.”
Like Sneijder, Robin van Persie can be considered to be a veteran and like Sneijder he revels in his new role as guide to the youngsters. “I love working with Van Gaal. Everything he does is thought through. He is clear in his ideas, he can explain everything. And I understand his choices. We had a good talk when we first met and I have come to known him as a friendly and even funny man. He may come across stern in the media, but when I work – in other words, play football – I look serious too, don’t I? I am not the same Robin on the pitch as I am at home on the sofa. This is one reason why I don’t like to give interviews right after a game. You are so uptight or full of tension or emotion… You don’t come across naturally. And people start to get all these ideas around you.”
Holland is the only country with Russia which hasn’t dropped points yet in the qualification series.
Van Gaal confirmed that his squad is getting to the point where they can play the sort of football he wants to see. “We are not there yet. The aim is high. I think only three teams in the world play better than us, but that is clearly where we want to be (Barcelona, Spain and Germany, is assumed). People come to the stadium to see Oranje attack and see goals. But even against Estonia it will be hard.”
Van Gaal will most likely start with Blind and Janmaat as attacking wingbacks. “That is how to take the game to them. With speed and depth on the flanks.”
Van Gaal will most likely go for creativity in midfield and De Guzman, Sneijder and Strootman will most likely start in midfield. Van Persie, Robben and Lens will lead line, with Raf van der Vaart starting on the bench.