Whether he going the long way from the amateurs to the pros or whether its through a headline grabbing transfer from Feyenoord to Ajax, Steven Berghuis will always go his own way, dreaming of a pro career and dreaming to reach Oranje, like his dad Frank “Pico” (ex PSV, ex-Galatasaray) did.
He made his debut in pro football in 2011, for FC Twente in a game versus Heracles. It’s no surprise that Steven got into the National Team, as that whole team consisted or would consist of internationals. A couple of names: Mihaylov (46 caps for Bulgaria), Rosales (91 caps for Venezuela), Onyewu (69 for the USA), Landzaat (39 caps), Luuk de Jong (38 caps), Nacer Chadli (66 for Belgium) and Marc Janko (70 for Austria) to name a few.
Ironically, defender Douglas didn’t get any. But he was the one Louis van Gaal pushed to get a Dutch passport and after a prolonged visa process, he did get two call ups for qualification matches with Oranje but never played a single minute for the Dutch NT.
Berghuis’ debut in Oranje
12 years later, it’s the longhaired youngster with the shiny boots who would become the most prolific international for Oranje from this particular squad. He made his debut in 2011 but there is only 4 seconds of footage of him, in which he is recognisable due to his typical little spring in his step. Assistant coach Alfred Schreuder (!) told him to go out and enjoy himself but he might not even had touched the ball, against Heracles with a young Remko Pasveer on goal.
A couple of years before his debut, he has had a sniff of pro football when WSV from his home city Apeldoorn selected him as 15 year old to play with the first team against Feyenoord in a friendly. The amateurs lost 4-1 but Berghuis gets his goal and celebrates it as if he just won the Champions League. When he made it to skipper at Feyenoord, many years later, he posted a photo from that match, standing in between Gini Wijnaldum and Slory, with goalie Henk Timmer on the right.
15 year old Berghuis against Wijnaldum
His dream to become a pro player like his dad Frank seems shattered when the Vitesse/AGOVV academy decides to cancel his spot there. He tells his coaches that he will find another way to become a pro player and goes back to his amateur club, where he would play for 2 years, until several pro clubs come knocking. He gets into the Twente first team squad via the Go Ahead Eagles academy and the rest is history. He doesn’t get much chances at Twente, where Co Adriaanse feels he is too feeble and vulnerable for the top. He makes a move on loan to VVV Venlo where he shines and gets picked up by AZ Alkmaar scouts.
Watford recognises his talent and pays good money to lure him and dad Frank (as scout) to Watford, after having impressed at AZ. He doesn’t fit in the system of Quique Sanchez Flores though, and only gets a couple of sub turns, before he is relegated to the B team, from October to April. Late in the season he gets two games and partly due to two Berghuis assists is Watford able to stay up. Flores praises Berghuis’ tenacity but the technician feels English football is probably not for him. When Feyenoord decides to get him in, on loan first, he grabs the opportunity with both hands and becomes a regular at De Kuip.
Danny Blind also recognises his talent and selects him for Oranje. Berghuis would finally eclipse dad Frank, who played 1 cap for Oranje, and gets his hare against Ireland in a friendly.
At Feyenoord, he is important in his first season, when Feyenoord wins the title. Striker Jorgensen and Dirk Kuyt are the key men but Berghuis still gets seven goals and five assists. He will grow out to Feyenoord’s main man and skipper in the seasons after. In four seasons, he will become the most valuable player with a role in 106 goals in 119 matches.
In a 2020 interview, he is asked about his stats in relation to his role as winger: “I don’t see myself as a winger. I don’t have that speed or particular dribble like Robben had. I am more a 10 playing wide. Something you see more often. Ziyech plays like that, Mahrez, Tadic. I could also play as a real 10 I think. But in modern football, a lot of the 10s are now more box to box players, with lots of movement, like Guus Til or Davy Klaassen.”
Steven and Frank Berghuis
Interestingly enough, at Ajax, Berghuis is used a lot as midfielder, and actually, a midfielder who can play at any position. Under Ten Hag he plays mostly as a 10 but under Schreuder and recently in Oranje as well, he is used as an 8 or even a 6.
This means he gets involved sooner, and has more impact on the game. His stats demonstrate this. This season, he had 91 touches in a match and 68 passes! That is the highest he had ever since returning to the Eredivisie.
In Oranje, Van Gaal used him as controlling mid and in that role he had 4 key interceptions defensively and three shots on goal and a wonderful assist.
In the National Team, he can play in any role in midfield and in a 4-3-3 he could also play as right winger. Wonderful for any coach to have such a versatile player, with a wand of a left foot. When he played his first U-19 match, he wondered if he could do better than dad Frank. With 39 caps now and a World Cup on the horizon, it seems like he has definitely made his dad proud.