The dark, barren days truly seems behind us now. Those days, when we couldn’t qualify for a big tournament, remember that? Now, we have some world class central defenders, exciting top notch full backs, a midfielder on the scouting list of many a big club and coming from nowhere (seemingly) some new attacking talent!
Arnaut Danjuma Groeneveld suddenly appeared. From second tier club NEC to Belgium’s top club, Club Brugge. And yesterday, he joined the Dutch national team squad in Zeist. “My nerves are holding up well. I do wish to find new challenges all the time and this is a top example. And I don’t want to just be here today as a one-day-fly. I wanted to proof myself and come back regularly.
Asked what his secret is: “I don’t have one. It’s a matter of confidence with me. I work hard every day and this is the result. People tell me things go really fast for me, but I don’t see it that way. I work hard and this is where I am at now. And it’s almost normal, you know. Ever since I was a child, I wanted this.”
“I spoke with Ruud Vormer about it of course and with Stefano Denswil and Sofyan Amrabat (all Brugge players). It’s sad Ruud had to bail with his groin injury. This is a huge honour for me and I hope I’ll get the chance to show something. These two games, vs Germany and Belgium. Amazing of course. And there are two mates of Brugge called up for the Belgium team. That is extra cool.”
Danjuma has scored 5 goals and offered 4 assists in 14 official games. He’ll meet some old friends at Oranje. “That makes life a bit easier, I know Rosario and Bergwijn from my time at PSV. It’s special for sure.”
When the 21 year old was presented at Brugge, son of a Nigerian mother and a Dutch father, the experts could see what his thing was. “A mouthy Dutch lad, who cuts inside to shoot on goal with his right. The whole Belgium competition will know this within weeks.” But like with Arjen Robben, knowing that he’ll do it and stopping him from doing it are two different things.
Club coach Leko signed Groeneveld from NEC, now called Danjuma. And after a couple of training sessions he knows enough. He’ll start Danjuma in the super cup match vs Standard Luik. He breaks open that match with an assist in the first half. Leko is convinced. Aad de Mos, ex top coach and football fanatic, watches the first match this season in the competition of Brugge. And he knows after 45 minutes. He grabs his phone and tweets: “The Dutch top clubs have been sleeping again: Groeneveld is at Brugge and is a top player!”.
After three matches in the competition, Danjuma is the most discussed player / topic. Club wins and Danjuma has to face the media again and again. Ruud Vormer looks at with approval from a distance. The blue-black jersey tightly fitting the muscles on the upper body, legs like concrete pillars and a twinkle in the eyes.
Danjuma is not keen to discuss his past. He had a life of ups and downs and one day, he’ll tell his life story. Not now. “That is too personal”. Because life in Lagos, Nigeria isn’t easy and neither is moving to Holland and being caught up in the social services system of child care. He did say something once… He was in three different host families until his dad finally got custody. He doesn’t want to say more. He used to confuse attention with affection and was hoping on positive re-affirmations. Like the 8 years at PSV, where he suffered from many injuries. Every coach could see he had talent but he needed to stay fit.
In Nijmegen, at NEC, he changed from an inconsistent talent to a man with a mission. Danjuma finds inspiration in athletes who had to fight to get to the top. Players like Zlatan or Neymar. Or Memphis. Or a boxer like Mike Tyson. “Setbacks make you stronger. Let’s just say I experienced more than most at my age. I think I built up more resistance.”
When Arnaut was Arnaut at NEC, he already told anyone who wanted to listen: I am good, I will become better, I will play for a top club and I will win trophies. Danjuma at Brugge seems to fulfil his promise. And he did play against Almere and Helmond Sport last season. This season he’ll play Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. The goal vs Atleti and more specifically Jan Oblak already went viral across the globe.
At NEC, they are looking forward to the day Brugge will sell Danjuma to a big spender, as NEC will receive a % from that future deal. They sold him for 1mio euros which enabled NEC to almost build a complete new team as a result. How was it possible that NEC got this gem?
The Dutch youth international made his way to NEC two years ago from the PSV youth to the NEC youth and in two seasons Danjuma got 14 goal and 17 assists in 46 matches. Not bad!
Danjuma: “It is not true that the Dutch top clubs were sleeping. There was interest. There was also interest from Germany, England and France, but I followed my instincts. I can’t explain what it was. Everything clicked for me here. They really wanted me, courted me. I love that. Manchester City was interested too, but I think this is the club where I can really develop and make my minutes.”
Groeneveld did have to adjust a bit. “In Holland, at NEC, it was rough at practice. We’d go in full throttle, rough tackles and very feisty. Here at Brugge, I started yelling at players at practice and Ruud Vormer had to talk to me and said “that is not how it is done here,” hahaha.”
Danjuma played for Young Oranje but was also entitled to select Nigeria. He always expressed his wish to play for Oranje and Koeman decided to not allow Nigeria a shot at the winger. “I would have considered an invite for Nigeria, I do feel the Nigerian roots. But my dream is to play for Oranje.”
NEC was able to present their 11th new player some weeks ago, thanks to the transfer sum that they banked for Arnaut Danjuma. General Manager Oversier: “I was just here, at NEC, when I saw him play and I thought “that kid will one day play for Oranje!”. He is really good eh? He’s not even that super fast, but on the ball he is explosive, threatening and able to go on the outside or inside of the opponent. And his kicking technique is out of this world. He has so much potential. You should analyse his goals, they’re all differnt. I have seen right full backs fall over, so dazed and confused from playing him, hahaha. He never made it at PSV due to his injuries, otherwise he would have played there now, for sure.”