European Under-21 Championships - One to Watch: Jordy Clasie, Netherlands
“Fortune favours the audacious”, Rotterdam’s greatest son, Desiderius Erasmus, once proclaimed. Rotterdam Feyenoord football club’s latest protégé Jordy Clasie fits the bill nicely. The 21-year old midfielder is currently in Israel with the Netherlands U-21 squad for the European Championships, and after a sterling season with his club, will be looking to go one better for country.
Clasie’s performances in the Dutch Eredivisie have not gone unnoticed. With a penchant for the unpredictable, his style has earned him the title ‘the new Xavi’. Some accolade. “I want to be like him,” Clasie told Voetbol International earlier this year. “Xavi is unplayable in everything he does.”
In Ronald Koeman, Clasie has one of the best mentors in Dutch football, and having just signed a new contract until 2016 will be nurtured appropriately. It was under Koeman’s tutelage that Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart rose to prominence with Ajax, and evidence so far suggests Clasie will also be propelled with the same ease from a similar production line.
Israel presents a perfect opportunity to come of age, in front of what will be a modest global television audience, and the player might just give fans a chance to see what they can expect at the World Cup for the full national team next year.
With Nigel de Jong the only accustomed player of that vein, Clasie represents a new breed of Dutch general. Gone are the days of unexpected fly-kicks to the mid-drift as the last line of midfield resistance; the position has transitioned into a more subtle art of dispossession. Clasie’s innate ability to read the pattern of play means he is often one step ahead of the opposition and several ahead of de Jong. Throw into the mix PSV Eindhoven talent Kevin Strootman, and that is an effective midfield screen.
Europe’s elite clubs were courting Clasie until he signed a new contract, including English Premier League trio Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. Lining up next to Jack Wilshere at the Emirates Stadium could have formed one of the most dominant midfield partnerships in England for years to come, if not the smallest.
Clasie’s physical game is something that hampered his early development. Having been at Feyenoord since he was nine-years-old, Raymond Verheijen, the club’s exercise physiologist at the time, placed him on an alternative training program, which meant less physical exertion. As a result Clasie benefitted, and developed at the rate that was best for him.
In a tough group this summer that includes Germany, Spain, and Russia, the Netherlands have their work cut out to qualify and need to be at the top of their game. Clasie can expect to come up against the likes of Alan Dzagoev, who burst onto the scene at last year’s senior European Championships for Russia, as well as Malaga’s highly-sought after attacker Isco.
Fans of Clasie that have travelled from Rotterdam to Israel will miss the city’s international poetry festival. They shouldn’t be too worried. If Clasie plays to his best, they will see it in motion.
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