As Europe searches for drama, the Eredivisie’s title race rises

With seven games remaining in the Eredivisie the destination of the championship is no clearer than it was at the beginning of the campaign. At this time of writing four sides are in contention separated by three points making this the most eagerly anticipated climax to any of Europe’s major leagues. Like the season finale of a gripping television drama series, its one not to be missed.

How this has come about is attributed to a new economic reality, one that has slowly weakened Dutch clubs, as a result the gap between the traditional old guard (consisting of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV) and majority of the division isn’t as wide as it once was. You get the feeling this season won’t be a one-off.

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Vilhena ready for the next stage after emerging from Feyenoord’s fountain of talent

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By Mohamed Moallim

Ask a manager about the value of camaraderie and you could be there for a while. Ronald Koeman is no different, his situation unique to most, is common within the Netherlands, and even then it’s different. No better demonstration this season and explicitly in Feyenoord’s recent game against FC Twente. It would end goalless, but the headline was already written, one that embodies the clubs resurgence heavily characterised by a youthful feel.

When it comes to youth football the Rotterdammers are at the forefront, their academy Varkenoord – reinvigorated by club icon Wim Jansen first as manager then as technical advisor – been voted three years running as best in the Netherlands. It’s this coupled with talents given a chance at first team level – averaging seven graduates starting per game – that has eroded fears of losing them before a professional contract can be presented (see Karim Rekik and Nathan Aké). Those waiting to break through can look to the Twente game.

Koeman, who arrived in the summer of 2011 with reputation as a champion of youth development, started with four of the clubs brightest recent graduates: The Four Musketeers. It was their first ever appearance together; Jordy Clasie the most experienced, and Feyenoord’s metronome, flanked by wingers Jean-Paul Boëtius and Anass Achahbar and mercurial talent Tonny Vilhena alongside in midfield.

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Feyenoord’s Clasie has arrived and he’s here to stay

By Mohamed Moallim

There was one minute left in extra time and Ronald Koeman started to prepare for the inevitable. He found what he was looking for, a notepad and pen, after collecting his thoughts he jotted down numbers one through five. Next to number one ‘Lex’ was written, followed by a space, then letters I and M, before he could finish the surname, a loud roar erupted, looking up, Koeman saw Lex Immers – the very person that was going to take the penalty – wheel away in celebration, Feyenoord left it very late.

In a single minute every emotion imaginable was exhausted. They say the KNVB Beker is often void of drama well the Goffertstadion played host to one. It was cruel on NEC, but satisfying for Feyenoord, who needed that win. A few days earlier they were second best to a PSV side many had down on the verge of a crisis. Yes, even this early.

It goes to show how much football has changed, it’s about the here and now, no patience and nothing is kept in perspective anymore. A one game losing streak, to paraphrase Roy Keane, is a crisis. Their success last season, finishing runners-up, has meant anything less won’t do. The expectation from the fans was the club would push on instead they’ve started their campaign slowly. The mindset of their support has reverted to a previous state one Koeman encourages and is doing everything to satisfy.

The club from Rotterdam is a different one from years gone by, but they are now – like before – players in the Eredivisie. Their recent successes, which is few and far between, been built on their esteemed youth academy based in Varkenoord, with its seemingly endless production line. The game against Excelsior – city rivals – last April featured 18 academy graduates, the bulk in red and white. On the scoresheet – getting their second in a 3-0 win – is probably their current crowning jewel: Jordy Clasie.

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