Tag: Stefan de Vrij

Stefan de Vrij: Master!

Il Miglior difensore della Serie A

Not Bonucci, Chiellini, De Ligt or even Koullibali… It’s Stefan de Vrij who wears that title proudly: best defender of the Serie A. A kid from Holland. Mr Masterclass. An interview.

What is that badge on your jersey?

“It’s the emblem stating I am the best defender in the Serie A. The best player Paulo Dybala, the top scorer Immobile, the best keeper Szczesny and best midfielder Alejandro Gomez also have one on their jerseys.”

So who determines who is the best?

“The Lega Serie A, basically. Based on your stats and performances. It’s a great honour and testament to the level I have reached.”

You are the best in Serie A. We have Virgil, the best in the Premier League. Mathijs de Ligt is becoming a solid force at Juve. What happened to a country which traditionally is known for top forwards?

“And don’t forget Nathan Ake, and his move to City. We did have top notch defenders in the past. People here still remember Ruud Krol and Michel van de Korput. And with players like Jaap Stam and Frank de Boer, the people in Italy don’t think we lack good defenders. But through the years, I do believe we value defenders more in Holland, now.”

You have been powering for six years now?

“Yes I have been Italianised, and not just as a player. I just adore this country, the culture, the history, the people, the food… And the way how calcio is lived. Striker are saints in this country, like anywhere, but a controlling midfielder like Marten de Roon or a central defender like me will also receive a lot of respect.”

You started at Lazio. What did the coaches back then tried to do with you when you arrived?

“I didn’t need to unlearn things, or something. But the coaches did think it was very odd that I didn’t know certain defensive principles. In Italy, we always talk about two situations: palla libre (the free ball) and palla coperta, which literally means “the covered ball”. Italian defenders know exactly what to do in what situation. “Don’t you know these principles?” they’d ask me, and I was….”Well, yes, but we never did any practices with that.””

What is the difference?

“Ok, the ball is the starting point. Is the ball free (palla libre) to play forward? If yes, how do you position? Are you fit and ready to block the deep ball. How do you position vis a vis the other defenders? And when the ball is with the opponent? Palla coperta. We want to push up to keep the lines compact. Where do we pressure, how do we pressure and when do we start it? Do we press in every zone? Which zone do we start the press? When do we drop, when do push up? It’s always a combi of: 1. the ball and 2. the position of my team mates and 3. the space we need to defend vs defending vs an individual opponent.

You saw Holland – Italy, the match under Lodeweges which we lost? I was injured at home and watching the game and there was this recognisable moment. I think it was Memphis on the ball in a 3 versus 2 situation. Memphis was waiting, hoping for one of the defenders to step in, so he could pass to a free man or take the player on. But both Bonucci and Chiellini didn’t bite. They didn’t step in, but dropped back, both of them. They protected the space, the centre of the field and their goal, basically. They forced Memphis to play wide. That is ok. You can’t score from there, is there thinking. And Memphis was also allowed to shoot at goal. A low percentage effort, as they rely on their goalie to stop that shot. Doing it like this, the midfielders had time to come back in position and help out. So what do they defend? Not Memphis. But the ball and the space. It’s like calculating the odds. Where is the risk to concede highest? Indeed, straight in front of the goal, alone in front of the goalie. Everything else is hard. The centre of the pitch is sacred in Italy and you hardly see Italian defenders push up. The central defenders will stay where they are. The full backs have to fend for themselves, just like the goalie. But they will go for: ball, position, space, opponent… In that order.”

How do you train this?

“It’s different here. In Italy we train on pressuring and defending with an orientation on ball and man. In Holland we used to train on positioning and basic techniques. The pass, the first touch, playing onto the right foot, the proper weight on the ball, etc. Not tactical, but more technical. And initially a lot of physical stuff, without the ball. That is tough, we would go into the mountains, but that is where your foundation is laid and you really reap the benefits later. That isn’t even that tough, it’s the tactical sessions that are tough. And every coach I worked with, from Pioli to Spalletti to Conte now at Inter: they put their whole soul into it. We spent hours on hours on tactics. We spent hours on the pitch in a 10 v 10 match. The opponent has the ball and we train where and when to pressure. Constantly in different zones, constantly repeating and focusing on the distances between players. What do the midfielders do when the forwards start the press. How do we as defenders position ourselves. And then suddenly, Conte throws a second ball into the mix, just when we move forward to attack. If we did the job well, we are ready for that situation and deal with it. If not, it’s a goal for the opponent.”

And in Italy, training isn’t just on the pitch, correct?

“Indeed. We spend hours in tactical sessions as well, with video. And not just match footage. We tape all the practice sessions as well. Conte is a coach who is completely immersed in this. Our way of playing is super attacking, with 3 defenders and 4 midfielders. And we press early. When we attack, a lot of responsibility is with us, defenders. The only thing that counts, is the rest defence. We train on this till the cows come home. We press high and we press a lot, so when we lose possession we usually are with limited players behind the ball. Out task is to make sure we are not countered to smithereens.”

I sometimes miss attacking actions, because I am constantly looking around me, behind me, checking distances, etc. Those video images are a great help for me. Practice is repeating situations that you could get into on the match day. It’s repeating, repeating etc so you become naturally ready for that situation. I remember Federer hitting a crazy shot in a tennis match and when asked about it, he said: I played this shot in training 1000s of times. And that is what it is about.”

Inter played vs Fiorentina recently without you due to injury, and won 4-3. A spectacular win. And three points!

“Yes but here we say: three goals conceded at home: that is not good enough! And we were leading all the way, we were 3-2 up and still gave away a chance. That can cost you the title, or a Champions League spot!”

Antonio Conte. When we mentioned his name to your old team mate Graziano Pelle he puffed his cheeks out….

“Yes, he played under him in the NT, didn’t he? Yes it is hard work under Conte. In Italy, football is a profession. we train twice on a day and in between we have talks and video analysis. Individual, as a team or as a line. And nothing escapes him! I am working from 9 in the morning sometimes till the evening with football and Inter, but it’s fine. I love it. I do like to think about the game and this coach forces you to. He demands a lot but he gives a lot too. All Conte’s team are successful. It’s not a coincidence. I spoke about it with Lukaku recently. During Euro 2016, Belgium had the best squad in terms of quality. But they were played off the pitch by Italy. The Belgians had no response to Conte’s tactics. Romelu said “”I knew he must be a good coach, after that game.” We both know this for sure now.”

Defending is always seen as tactical, but is it also technical?

“For sure. The technique of body positioning for instance. In Italy, defending means: a pro-active stance. Always on the front foot. A bit bent forward. Ready to sprint, or jump. A defender who stands straight up, is a dead defender because you’re always too late. That too is training training training. And working in the gym to gain strength and to practice your body posture.”

So it’s not about the pass, the sliding, the header, that kind of technique?

“Sure, those are key too but you are expected to have perfected that when you come to Inter. We also analyse the opponent and when they have a typical strong header of the ball, like Luuk de Jong, we know what are options are. We then focus on avoiding having to go head to head. By making sure the cross won’t come in. And it’s not always about the duel. Sometimes it’s about the organisation around a striker, so that when he does head the ball, we are ready to grab the second ball. Or I can use my body to make it hard for him to head it. I hardly use slidings these days. I try to stay on my feet. Do you remember the penalty we conceded vs Spain at the World Cup 2014. I started my sliding with one leg, giving Diego Costa the opportunity to hit my trailing leg and go down. In Italy, you make a sliding with two legs, so you won’t give the attacker a chance to surprise you, like Costa did. We constantly discuss what the best way is to stop a certain attacker. They are getting smarter and fasten and better and we need to do the same.”

How tough is it mentally?

“That is half the job. The physical aspect is tough, but the mental aspect too: focus, concentration and discipline. Every single day. And that takes up energy as well, you are constantly analysing, processing and thinking. In Italy, every practice has a meaning, it has a place in the process of a team. Everything we do fits together like a symphony, you know? There is an idea behind it. I love that approach. It’s not for nothing that I fit really well into the Italian style of playing and I became a complete and better defender here.”

It could have been Bart Schenkeveld here at Inter?

“Haha, who knows… Yes, we were three youth players and Mario Been needed a couple of extra players for a training session in Turkey. He needed a right back. Bandjar got injured and the coach picked me over Bart. That is a bit of luck. I then demonstrated to Been I was ready for it, and the rest is history. I always lived for the sports, even in the Feyenoord youth when people doubted my potential. I always worked my ass off.”

Back in the Feyenoord days, youth coach Cor Adriaanse once said: “Stefan needs to focus on right back, because he isn’t ruthless enough for central defender.”

“But I know what he meant and I have progressed since, of course, but yes, I’m not an assassin and never will be. I am not a dirty defender. And this is why that title of Best Defender of Italy is so amazing for me. I did it all my way, and this prize is really an amazing confirmation of what I have done throughout my career.”

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Dutch football on the up and up (again)

Wow! Two clubs in the Champions League group stages! What a luxury. Well done Ajax, well done PSV! A wonderful start to the season, particularly with Salzburg missing their chance, meaning that The Netherlands have surpassed Austria (sic!) on the coefficiency list of the UEFA and if all goes well and we get more than enough points together, we could have a direct placement in the CL group stages again in the 20/21 season! Yay!

And based on the draw, I wouldn’t be surprised if we actually get quite some points. Ajax doesn’t have that big a shock. Bayern Munich is definitely too good for us now, but, we play them the second time on the last day. This could be good. Bayern will most likely be placed already and might field a B-team!

The other two opponents seem doable. Beatable.

PSV however will have a mountain to climb, but with sensational ties. Spurs, Barca, De Vrij’s Inter…. Mouthwatering. And I do think PSV could well finish third in the group and go into the Europa League after the winter break.

Bloody annoying that Feyenoord and AZ didn’t do what they could have done and pulled their weight too!

Mark van Bommel deserves praise for the way PSV plays. It’s not all silky smooth yet, in particular in the Eredivisie PSV is not on steam. PEC Zwolle played PSV off the pitch, but…PSV didn’t concede while they took their chance in the last minute of the game to seal the win. That is a quality too.

But the team impressed vs Bate Borisov. Energetic, on the front-foot, playing like a real team. With much criticized Luuk de Jong as one of the leaders, a perfect target man and he is also finding the net again!

Pereiro being found in between the lines

Gaston Pereiro was the most skilled PSV player to never fulfil his promise, for a long time. Every one can see and could see he has tremendous qualities, but will he ever be consistent? Well, under Van Bommel he is the key man. The Dreh-und-Angel punkt. The metronome. Whenever PSV has trouble finding him, like against PEC Zwolle, PSV is under par. Whenever they can find him, like vs Utrecht and Bate Borisov, PSV plays well.

PSV is getting better and better in finding the man more situation on the pitch and the new full backs, former City man Angelino and ex Heerenveen back Denzel Dumfries are perfect for Mark’s game plan. They offer energy, runs forward in the channel and most importantly, great final balls.

And with Lozano and Bergwijn, PSV can dominate games and they can play on the counter attack! Promising, indeed!

PSV in counter attacking mode

The technical management of the club is as pro-active as the players, with two key signings on the night PSV secured CL football. Mexican midfielder and bossom buddy of Lozano Guiterez was signed, while Australian international full back Aziz Behich is coming in as well.

More news this week, Koeman’s Oranje squad. It lacks Weghorst (understandable), Berghuis (lacking form) and Bergwijn (harder to understand) and it will offer a debut to Frenkie de Jong (long overdue) in Oranje. Obviously, Wesley Sneijder will be part of the squad for the Peru game, as he will be farewilled in that game and start as captain.

Koeman called Van Bommel to explain why Bergwijn was not in the squad and why Kluivert (not a starter at Roma) is. Van Bommel declined to tell the media what Koeman told him. Most likely, Koeman wasn’t impressed with Bergwijn’s first matches (he only started to fire in the last week or so). And, Bergwijn is a player who, like Memphis, loves to come into the ball and doesn’t so much go deep or in behind without. This is what Kluivert will give you. That seems reasonable. But Bergwijn will definitely get his spot in the limelight, for sure.

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Stars missing the WC: Stefan de Vrij

Around this time, there is always talk about great players who won’t be at the tournament. In this case, the likes of Frabegas, Sane, Nainggolan and others come to mind, but we will focus on the Dutch stars missing out.

The first one in the series, is Stefan de Vrij. Probably our best player with the least media exposure.

Here’s a guy who scored at a World Cup, played four seasons in the top of Italy (as a defender) and who was (is?) on many a wishlist for big clubs all across Europe.

He would be “the least likely to succeed” in Feyenoord’s year book if Feyenoord would have a year book…

While the 26 year old gets his top transfer this summer (5 seasons at Inter Milan), our memories go back to 2011, when the anger, despair and frustration seaps from the Feyenoord stands on to the pitch, where a young De Vrij makes his way to the tunnel in tears. Feyenoord loses at home 0-1 vs De Graafschap and is 14th in the Eredivisie. In a period where the club from Rotterdam gets beating after beating, it’s players like Wijnaldum, Fer and Castaignos who symbolise the hope in Rotterdam. But Stefan de Vrij is the ugly duckling. Always needing to swim upstream but drowning on that January night.

De Vrij, born ten kilometers from Rotterdam in Ouderkerk aan den IJssel (basically “Old Church on the river IJssel”). A little village. Where indeed the church rules. On Sunday, the shops are closed, no football club is in action and where Stefan de Vrij grew up a shy lad.

He makes his way to Feyenoord’s youth system. All the experts have seen it. There is a right footed defender now at Feyenoord, who will most likely make it to the first team, make it into the Dutch team and is set for greatness. But they’re not talking about De Vrij, but about the six months younger lad Jeffrey Bruma, signed from Excelsior Bruma is a city kid. Bit mouth, and always ready to win an argument with a fight. A big contrast with the village kid from Ouderkerk: shy and down to Earth.

It’s hard for Stefan. Young Jeffrey is invited to play in the older teams, in place of De Vrij. Bruma is also picked for the different rep teams of their age group, and De Vrij is not. In 2006, Chelsea shows up, with a bag of money and promises.

A young De Vrij in his typical Dutch little village….

Feyenoord is not happy, but for De Vrij, this is good news. But, he still isn’t the go to player for the central defenders role. Feyenoord also has Karim Rekik. He’s also younger than Stefan but has the personality of a leader and draws most of the attention. Luckily for De Vrij, also the attention from Manchester City. So Rekik leaves too and it’s the decisions made by others that will influence Stefan’s career. Still he is a question mark.

Feyenoord protects its big talents with early contracts. The fact that De Vrij gets his first contract when he turns 17 years old is a typical sign. Only months later, he makes his debut in the first team.

In 2014, Lazio Roma pays millions for the defender and at that time, it seems very logical. He played 150 matches for Feyenoord, played 20+ international games, won a bronze World Cup medal, but that De Vrij would become one of Europe’s top defenders…no one could know….

And Stefan now, the cosmopolitan defender in Rome, next stop Milan

In Stefan’s career, it seems the decisions by others were key for him. There were not a lot of coaches who recognised his qualities and said: right! He’s my man! Look at De Vrij’s debut season under Mario Been in 2009.

De Vrij is brought into the squad as the last player that summer. And he would finish the season as starting player. Because right back Dani Fernandez gets a serious injury. His replacement Kelvin Leerdam, gets a serious injury. His replacement Bandjar…you guessed it…gets injured. Been doesn’t get more money to sign another right back, so De Vrij gets the job.

Mario Been uses De Vrij as right back and is quite clear in the media and press conferences, that this is an emergency move. Been also states that if Bruma wouldn’t have gone to Chelsea, he would have had the spot.

De Vrij doesn’t impress as right back. But the criticism is mild, as expectations about him were never high and everyone at Feyenoord knows it’s not his spot.

He does get a chance to play centrally. For the away game vs PSV Eindhoven, Ron Vlaar is injured, so De Vrij gets the spot. Feyenoord loses that match 10-0. The biggest defeat ever and the beginning of the end for Mario Been. The match at home vs De Graafschap is the real low for De Vrij. Feyenoord falls to the 14th spot and De Vrij is crying his heart out in the dressing room. Been made a public call to his management to free up funds for defensive reinforcements. The answer is: No!

Mario Been now: “He was a very quiet and sweet lad. And he struggled against really tough strikers and quick and agile wingers. He’s not a born athlete, he is not a quick mover but when he played centrally, you could see him improve. Centrally, his build up pass and positioning became apparent as strengths. Stefan does see situations earlier than others. That is his strength. And Vlaar was a great mentor for him, he learned a lot from Ron.”

De Vrij started to work on himself, more and more. So much so that Koeman took his captains band, when he found out Stefan was in the gym without the consent of the Feyenoord medical staff. He kept on searching to better himself and develop, mentally, physically, mentally. He studied Neurolinguistic programming for instance, to focus better and even worked with renowned guru Wim Hof, the Iceman, to learn about the health benefits of ice-baths and breating techniques. And to this day, he analysis every match he plays via FaceTime with the tactical analysis company Your Tactical Analyst.

No more Mr Nice Guy

De Vrij as the symbol of a club, almost dead. In every aspect. In a sports-sense and financially. But also the symbol of the resurrection. Ronald Koeman comes and he uses De Vrij centrally, first next to mentor Vlaar and later next to Joris Mathijsen. Koeman gives him the #3 jersey and gives him confidence. In the 2013/14 season, he plays centrally with his mate Bruno Martins Indi, a lad he played with in all his youth teams and a close friend.

Feyenoord is back at the top, and finishes just 4 points behind Ajax. De Vrij plays a strong World Cup under Van Gaal and bang: his move to Rome is there.

And now, after 4 seasons there, he will make his next step in a career propulsed forward by coincidence and circumstance. De Vrij’s character and personality pulled him through. He didn’t get swimming lessons, or training wheels, he was just pushed in and told to fake it until he made it. And he made it.

And it was Feyenoord’s bad spell that create this top defender. In any other club, De Vrij would have been replaced. Feyenoord had to use him and grew, because he was allowed to fail. He learned and developed as a result of all his mistakes.

And this made him a top defender. He’s not the strongest, not the quickest, but he reads the game ever so well, and is strong positionally. And he is able to place the ball on your necktie over 50 yards. He’s hardly ever in panic and never got a red card in his career.

This season, he also was the most scoring defender in the Serie A and was #3 in the list of top ball retainers, behind Torreira and his new colleague at Inter Skriniar.

There might be a lesson to be learned from his career trajectory. Let’s see how El Ghazi, Adam Maher, Bazoer and others go in the years to come…

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Bruno Martins Indi: No words, but deeds….

With the World Cup swiftly approaching we will take a closer look at some of the lads we expect to perform for us in Brazil but who are not that well known (yet). So less on Robben, Van Persie and Wes and more attention to the up and comers.

Although, obviously, we will keep you informed on the big guns too :-).

Feyenoord did not have a great couple of weeks with losses against Ajax for the cup, ADO for the competition and only yesterday that draw against title contender Vitesse at home.

The good news is: Ronald Koeman will not extend his deal. To me, it seems the juice is gone from that relationship, judging from the lacklustre and inconsistent results of the team. Geen Woorden Maar Daden ( “no words, but deeds”) is the motto of Feyenoord so I won’t go into the Koeman situation to much….

However, despite the lack of trophies, Koeman and his staff has managed to coach young players like Janmaat, Martins Indi, De Vrij, Clasie and most likely Boetius and Vilhena to the highest level. We will most likely see a couple of these lads in Brazil.

Focus on Bruno Martins Indi, for now.

He was very young when he once drove with Robin van Persie to the players hotel of Oranje. Bruno was looking some wisdom and advice from the experienced forward. Van Persie shrugged his shoulders with all those questions and winked and said: no words, but deeds!

It seemed an empty expression to BMI at the time, but the Portuguese born defender made that motto his.

BMI defending

Martins Indi: “It took me a while to find myself. To understand what works for me and who my true self is. I had to really decide to stick close to my essence and to who I really am. I need this to be at my optimal best. I cannot live that life of interviews and tv-shows and sponsor events etc. I do realise I have commitments and I won’t walk away from it, but if I don’t have to do something, I won’t. I need my rest, my focus, to perform well. In the beginning of my career I had six interviews per week and it would not work for me.”

Martins Indi’s career is important to him, but not the most important thing. “Not everything will be sacrificed for football. It’s very important, but more important is my growth as a human being. I want to be a good human being. I want to be there for my girlfriend Meica and my daughter Zoe. And I want to be honest and truthful. There is some dishonesty in this football life and I cannot deal with that. And I refuse to change myself. If people aren’t honest to me or people I love, I will stand up. People who deal with me get the pure me. Sometimes its better to shut up, people say, but… I can’t. I have to look at myself in the mirror, you know?”

Recently, there was this annual riot on the players tunnel again, when PSV came to Rotterdam. With a lead role for Mathijsen and a fleeting cameo for Martins Indi. “I simply walk on and don’t interfere. You shouldn’t do silly things. There’s cameras everywhere. And it’s more about letting steam off to me. It’s yelling and screaming but nothing really happens. But before you know it, the ref gives you a yellow and I simply don’t want to collect cards.”Feyenoord is desperate for a trophy and some players believe this is the year could be the year. Bruno nods. “I do think we are now at the level where we can or could play for the title. But every time someone says it, we disappoint on the pitch. I don’t know what it is. I think we still don’t experience the feeling that we MUST win. It’s still a little bit too easy at times. The loss against Ajax for the Cup is unfortunate. It was a close game. We could have won that. Losing against Ajax is always possible. But losing against RKC, ADO Den Haag….aaargh…that is so frustrating…”What is it? “I think it’s just a couple of players not delivering their 100%. If you have 11 players playing top, we cannot be beaten by any team in Holland. Sure, if we play Real Madrid or Chelsea….but not against Vitesse or PSV or RKC. However, if 4 players only play at 90%, for whatever reason, we become vulnerable. And we do try to manage that process and sometimes harsh words are said. You cannot walk off the field with that “oh well, this can happen every now and then…”. It’s a matter of quality, at the end of the day. And I think we have the quality so I believe we need to deliver. If players don’t, I will call them on it. Just like they should with me, when I don’t play at my usual level. But we are improving on that aspect. I just hope it’s enough.”


Martins Indi’s career went fast. “I was a bit naive in my early days. Remember the 10-0 loss in Eindhoven? I was still a kid. We’re 5-0 down and with 10 men and I still wanted to play nice build up from the back. What was I thinking?? I didn’t realise what pro football meant. I was a somewhat overawed Rotterdam street kid playing in the Feyenoord 1 team… It felt great. But it didn’t get me anywhere.”

When he made some changes in his mentality and decided to treat every ball and opportunity as a do-or-die event, Louis van Gaal picked him as the Oranje defender he is today.

“I didn’t expect that call up, but I did know that it would be a logical step at some stage. I played in the Oranje youth with some of the lads that did make the step up already. So you know that if all would go well, it would happen one day. But with the lack of defenders and Van Gaal’s urge to use young fresh players and my good spell at Feyenoord it happened. I didn’t expect to play so much, but that first game I played was like a dream come true. And Mr Van Gaal is the type of coach I love to work with. Not because he is good or tactically strong or all that jazz. But because he is honest and direct. That is worth a lot for me.”

What does BMI bring to a team? “I think I can do most things well. I am fairly quick, I am not afraid in the duels, I can head a ball well. My passing is ok, my distance strike is ok. I’m quite all round as a defender. My weakness still is reading the game. Tactically, I still need to experience more situations. Play in different, demanding circumstances. Play big games, you know. What I believe is my biggest strength is my mentality. My will to win and my ability to instil that mentality in my team mates. I love good football and I enjoy teams like Arsenal and Barca. But I also thoroughly enjoyed the way Inter Milan with Sneijder played Barca. Or the way Chelsea won their CL. Or the way Italy and Portugal can kill games off. I have a lot of respect for that and I want Holland and Feyenoord to be able to win ugly too.”

Martins Indi’s name is going around in the media linking him to EPL clubs like Arsenal and Everton while Seedorf apparently has his eye on him for AC Milan. The Feyenoord man is not fussed. “These are the things I keep far away from me. It would affect me and my family otherwise. I have a couple of statements I can make. For starters, leaving Feyenoord before the World Cup was never an option for me. Secondly, I really enjoy playing for Feyenoord and don’t have to go anywhere. Thirdly, as with any player, I do like to get the best out of my career so a transfer at a certain time will definitely be on the cards. But when, where, how….we’ll see. I am not involved in that at the moment. My agent will take care of it. These clubs you mention are all great clubs. And as I am now with a great club too, I won’t settle for less.”


The World Cup is approaching. There was some debate about BMIs partner Stefan de Vrij and as a result their partnership in orange. “I did spend some time on it as it annoyed me. Not so much for me. I mean, may the best player play you know? It’s not about me, but about Oranje. But I did feel the criticism on Stefan was absurd. Like any player, he has his strong and weaker points. He’s young, he still has a way to go and develop. But suddenly, he wasn’t good enough anymore? Ridiculous. The problem with defenders is, that whenever a goal is conceded, defenders don’t look good. But it’s often times also the way the forwards or midfielders drop the ball, so to speak. And then defenders get under pressure. But I do think Stefan is coming out of this much stronger. I think Mr Van Gaal can rely on him being totally ready for the World Cup.”

And what about Martins Indi? “You know what, I let it go. I know Mr Van Gaal will pick the best option for the team. I simply have to talk with my feet every game we play. If that results in me being the best option: great! If not, I will support who ever plays there.”Bookmark and Share