For years now, Dutch football’s never ending conveyer belt of talent has been churning out high quality players that have lit up some of Europe’s top leagues.
Hamburg’s Eljero Elia is just the latest from a huge pool of talent to be given star billing and, given his recent form, is certainly living up to everyone’s high expectations. Since his big money summer move from FC Twente, the sprightly winger has widely been labelled the Bundesliga’s signing of the season. He has even used his exceptional domestic form to catapult himself into Holland Coach Bart van Marwijk’s World Cup plans. All this has been achieved in just a few short months in Germany, though his stay may not last too much longer with some of Europe’s biggest clubs ready to flex their financial muscle in order to acquire the young Holland international.
It has been a whirlwind ascent to the top for Elia since he touched down in Germany but, in truth, the potential for such rapid success has always been evident. The 22-year-old spent two seasons honing his skills at the famed Ajax academy following an upbringing with local side ADO Den Haag. It was when he returned to Den Haag to begin his professional career that his talents begun to be noticed. Spending three seasons with the modest Eredvisie outfit, Elia soon battled his way into first team plans during his first season and became an integral part of what was largely a struggling side. Despite the club’s lowly status, the youngster shined in a wide role that highlighted his speed and crossing ability and went on to make 59 appearances, scoring six times. Soon enough, bigger clubs came calling.
Initially, it seemed Elia would make the big move back to Ajax but surprisingly the young Dutchman decided against the move. Having chased the winger for some time, along with PSV, part of Ajax’s deal to sign the player involved loaning him back to Den Haag for one season. Given the club had just been relegated after a disastrous campaign, Elia wasn’t keen on spending another season at his previous stomping ground and had differences with then Coach Lex Schoenmaker. Rejecting Ajax’s approach, the new Holland Under-21 international instead decided to join up and coming FC Twente and their highly rated Coach, Fred Rutten. Elia made an instant impact under Rutten and soon became one of the club’s regular star performers, playing 30 times and scoring twice.
In the summer of 2008, Rutten left to take charge of Bundesliga giants Schalke and was replaced by former England boss Steve McClaren. At first it seemed Elia would follow his ex-Coach to Germany, but the ambitious Dutch side managed to convince him to stay for what was the club’s inaugural Champions League appearance. It proved to be a good decision as Elia’s game developed even faster under McClaren’s tutelage as Twente enjoyed a hugely successful season, finishing runners up in both league and cup. Most of all, McClaren helped the talented winger improve his attacking play and added goal scoring to his impressive repertoire. Elia scored more goals in one season under the Englishman than he had in his entire career before that (nine goals) and the bids for his signature became too much for Twente to rebuff in the summer of 2009.
Since joining Hamburg, Elia’s game has continued to blossom. Although the 22-year-old is still quite na