It is without a doubt that the Netherlands’ three biggest club sides are AFC Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and reigning Champions Feyenoord, however scratch beneath the surface of the Eredivisie and there continues to be a common theme year after year; a wealth of fantastic young players with raw, untapped potential.
With an eye for talent, Joe Donnohue looks at a young player who continues to leave his mark on the league outside of the traditional ‘Big Three’ squads.
Clint Leemans – VVV-Venlo
A player who has excited spectators in the Eredivisie this campaign is former PSV youngster Clint Leemans. 2017/18 is Leemans’ first campaign in the Netherlands’ top division, but the 22-year-old doesn’t play as though that is the case.
Despite being just 22, Leemans had accumulated 130 Dutch Jupiler League appearances before the beginning of this season. Without a doubt Leemans was one of the Jupiler League’s standout performers last season as he helped guide VVV-Venlo back to the Eredivisie.
The key role that he has adopted in VVV’s side is no surprise to anybody who watched him for Jong PSV or last season, rather what has been most surprising is his almost seamless transition to top division football with no prior experience.
Leemans has cemented himself as an essential part of this VVV side, with many of their attacks transitioning through the lofty Dutchman. Standing at 1.89m tall, Leemans is an imposing figure but retains a distinct nimble quality in his style of play. His ability to play through a teammate with a seemingly innocuous, but perfectly weighted pass has been seen time and time again for the Yellow and Black Army.
Leemans’ leading role does not cease in his position as VVV’s box-to-box playmaker where he is deployed to rake balls from left to right and front to back. His influence extends to the penalty spot and to set pieces which he is considerably adept at converting; one free-kick and four penalties to his name this season. At just 22, Leemans has a considerable responsibility on his shoulders as VVV’s designated penalty taker, but his composure and poise in every one of his appearances this season has more than justified the decision to bestow upon him such an influential role.
Set-piece delivery is an excellent asset of his, causing havoc in opposition penalty areas. Leemans’ floated, trajectory-considered deliveries are difficult to adequately defend against and to properly clear, making VVV a threat from free-kicks in particular.
Of all players to have amassed over 1000 Eredivisie minutes this season, Leemans ranks sixth on the list for accurate long key passes per 90 with 1.0 and is one of two players under the age of 23 to manage that feat.
One of the most aesthetic aspects of Leemans’ game is his nous for spotting a run that none of the opposition defenders are wise to. Not only does this give VVV an edge but it showcases the midfielder’s heightened natural ability above those on the field. One instance of this was in VVV’s 1-0 win at Roda in December 2017, where a deft outside-of-the-boot pass found the run of teammate Torino Hunte.
Very few players are capable of executing a through ball of that nature with such precision; even fewer are able at just 22. With eight league goals and four assists in his debut Eredivisie campaign, Leemans will no doubt begin to turn heads at other Dutch clubs and potentially those abroad. For now though, he continues to put in stellar performances at De Koel.
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