It’s your time now!
As we close to the end of the year, a year in which the drab and disgraced Dutch National Team straightened the back and rose, like a Phoenix from the ashes. With victories over the newly crowned World Champs, the former world champs and good results and performances overall vs the likes of Belgium and Portugal.
And the result: group winner in the Nations League and a big jump on the FIFA ranking.
Most importantly: the fans love the team again and the team loves playing for Holland again.
And boy, did we see tremendous development in our player? I mean, Denzel Dumfries?? Pablo Rosario?? Marten de Roon? Tonny Vilhena? Ryan Babel?
Time to pick the best international of the year… I’ll help you with some insights, but the vote is all yours. I’ll give you until December 1, and then we’ll announce the winner here, with a cool interview/article on the winner.
Virgil van Dijk, our captain, deserves the first mention. What to say… His year was tremendous. The big money move to Liverpool. The winner in his debut vs arch enemy Everton. His stats are terrific. In Oranje, he developed into a great leader and skipper, with the deciding goal in the final minutes vs Germany. Does it get better than that?
Virgil is a true natural leader. The way he handles his team mates, the way he covered up the young ball girl when he noticed she was shivering in the cold, the warm manner in which he consoled the ref after the Germany game, when Virgil learned the poor dude lost his mum (and got notified of that fact during the half time break). Virgil… pure class!
Memphis Depay is in the key age group for top notch peformances, and it shows. The former Sparta talent is a changed man. From arrogant, self-centered, headstrong wannabe winger in Manchester, he grew into a lethal striker in Lyon. With stats that are only topped by Messi and C Ronaldo. Better stats than Neymar and Mbappe, to name other forwards in France. The loner, who clashed with the likes of Sneijder and Van Persie is now a team player. One of the leaders on and off the pitch. Ever since he found God, Memphis is a better human being, more humble, active with his foundations for the lesser fortunate ones and on the pitch he is unstoppable.
He creates goals, he scores them, has a sensational corner kick delivery, hustles and hassles defenders, keeps three markers busy while working for the team and stretching the play. He’s clearly in a positive mindset, as he coaches, encourages and directs the play from the front.
Every “Best Player” award should go to a forward. A player who makes a difference. A player that draws people to the stadium. Cantona, Ginola, Ibrahimovic, C Ronaldo, Ozil, Ribery, Rooney… Memphis falls in that category and I personally don’t care what hat he wears or what colour leather seats are in his Bentley.
Frenkie de Jong is probably a solid candidate as well, even though he only played 4 caps for Oranje. His talent was spotted many years back and both Willem II and Ajax decided to bring this kid slowly. He was 20 years old when he made his first foray into Ajax 1. As opposed to the likes of Seedorf, Kluivert Sr and Jr and many others who got their first games at 16 or 17 years old. But once Frenkie made his mark on the first team, everyone could see his tremendous potential. So much so, that Frenkie is already the new footballing leader (playmaker) of Oranje. Everything goes via him. And he is already seen as unmissable. And its expected he’ll make a massive jump from Ajax to a world class team in the summer (Man City, Barca, Bayern, Real Madrid, Chelsea….).
Gini Wijnaldum has also made a sensational growth, finally, to establish his position in Oranje. Making his debut more than 10 years ago (!) at 16, in Feyenoord’s first team as a #10. Used as winger at PSV. Signed by Newcastle as box-to-box midfielder and in 2014 suddenly part of the Oranje midfield that got bronze in Brazil under Van Gaal. Van Gaal apparently was reluctant to use Wijnaldum as controlling mid, believing the always smiling Georginhio would be able to play there, but he managed and even scored vs Brazil in the losers final. Klopp signed him at Liverpool and immediately told him he signed him for the controlling mid role. Today, Liverpool uses him on any spot in midfield. Despite all the new midfield signings, Wijnaldum – when fit – plays. In Oranje, Frenkie de Jong’s game allows Gini to play further upfield and be more decisive for Oranje, scoring important goals.
Mathijs de Ligt is considered one of the best central backs in Europe and like Frenkie, appears on all the scouting lists. The grounded Dutch lad, called “Dickie” as he used to be a tad overweight in the Ajax youth (in Dutch, the word for fat is “dik” so he was called Dickie), is only 19 years old but plays like a 26 year old. Composed, focused, and utterly complete. Fast enough, strong, fierceful header of the ball, able to dribble infield (Dickie used to be a midfielder) and with a good long pass as well. De Ligt will go places. He’ll be the Oranje centre back for at least another 10 to 12 years (if he remains fit). And we’ll see him playing for one of the top teams in the world for sure (Bayern, Barca, Real Madrid).
Ryan Babel‘s story is the come back story of the decade (in Oranje). He broke through in Ajax as a winger, but was considered an ideal player for a 4-4-2, a system Ajax back then simply didn’t want to play. Babel made his name in Young Oranje, under Foppe de Haan and impressed with his physique, his “hip” shot and his speed and power. Ajax was happy to let him go for a decent offer as he didn’t fit the bill in Ajax’ 4-3-3. By then Marco van Basten brought him into Oranje where Babel scored in his debut game. San Marco called him “the next Thierry Henry”. His big money move to Liverpool got waylaid as he tore his ankle ligaments right before the Euros2008 and was ruled for a spell, which forced Liverpool to sign alternatives and Babel got behind in the pecking order (behind Dirk Kuyt, amongst others). Bert van Marwijk kept faith in Babel and used him extensively after the 2008Euros. Kenny Dalglish, manager at Liverpool, decided to bring Luis Suarez to the club and let Babel go. The dark days followed, with a stint at Hoffenheim which didn’t work out. He went back to Ajax to rejuvenate his career, but ended up in the Turkish competition and not much later choose the money of the UAE league. He ended up playing for the reserves there and was relieved to be able to return to Turkey via Deportivo La Coruna. Now he’s at Besiktas where his good form got him a spot in Advocaat’s Oranje back in 2017. The explosive winger from yesteryear is now a mature team player, playing as a wingback. He clearly acts as mentor for the younger lads (on the pitch and potentially in the music studio as well) and his workrate and tactical smarts have brought him lots of kudos from all Oranje fans and pundits.
Other candidates? Jasper Cillesen? Top goalie on the Barca bench, but usually strong when relied upon. Both in Spain as in Oranje. Although the two German goals last time around did seem stoppable… Or Daley Blind? Mr Reliable? Good touch. Superb vision. Excellent passing. Pleasant positive personality. But vulnerable in defence? Just not tall enough? Just not quick enough? Quincy Promes than? Scoring goals like there is no tomorrow for Spartak, but always a question mark in Oranje (and Sevilla). Despite all this, his success in Moscow was always as a number 9, so maybe Promes should be seen as the understudy for Memphis?