Is Joey Veerdam the Eredivisie's next star?
Background image: Udo Ockema. CC BY 2.5.
The Netherlands are bristling with youth prospects. The country’s academies are churning them out at an astonishing rate, benefitting from a focus on development and high standards of coaching. But unless these starlets happen to be on the books at Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, AZ Alkmaar or perhaps Sparta Rotterdam, they are broadly ignored by the world at large. This is, after all, a country of awkward spellings and obscure places, somewhere far less appealing than its soccer-playing neighbours. Football fans from across the world will pledge undying allegiance to middling outfits from major European leagues, like Aston Villa or Fiorentina. But speak with beautiful game aficionados in the cafes of Nairobi or sportsbars of Boston and see if you can find a local pledging firm allegiance to Utrecht.
No surprise then that the absurdly talented Joey Veerman has slipped under the radar. A product of the highly-rated Volendam youth system, the midfielder is the latest off the conveyor belt of solid Dutch talent emerging from the second-tier club, joining fellow graduateLars Veldwijk, PSV Eindhoven goalkeeper Robbin Ruiter and Bologna fullback Mitchell Dijks. Veerman honed his skills in the Eerste Divisie, graduating from Volendam’s reserve team, before impressing enough at senior level to earn a €500,000 transfer to Heerenveen.
Veerman’s presence on the pitch belies his lack of experience. He is defensively sound, covering his teams’ backline effectively, slotting into midfield with superb positioning and vision. His intelligence and skill on the ball are perhaps undervalued qualities that allowed him to escape the notice of football media in the less glamorous environs of the Dutch leagues.
It’s the little things that mark Veerman’s game out as special; the way he turns to receive the ball, then alternates between passing and dribbling with equal efficiency. He is fit, mobile and technical, strong too with a fierce work rate. The complete midfielder.
Despite his talent, there’s far more to come from Veerman. At 21, he is enjoying his first season at top-flight level. While he can certainly stand to improve, and the experience he is gaining will help him do just that, he’s already proving his worth. A mainstay in a Heerenveen team currently flying high in fifth place after finishing 11th last season, he played a key role in wins over big clubs like AZ Alkmaar and Sparta Rotterdam.
This is a player who knows what it takes to make it not only in the Dutch leagues, but abroad too. Without doubt, Veerman’s journey will involve at least one more step domestically before he tries his hand abroad. In a season or two, the youngster will be putting his prodigious talents to the service of PSV Eindhoven or Ajax, perhaps helping to iron out some of the weaknesses in the team.
The international stage could be another key component in Veerman’s rise. During his time in the lower leagues, he’s failed to catch the eye of the national team scouts and make the age group teams. It’s unlikely Veerman will earn a cap this season, with his country heading off to the Euros with powerhouse midfielders like Frenkie de Jong and Georginio Wijnaldum at their disposal. But give it a year and when the young talent has garnered some extra experience, and the Netherlands are playing less important games, Veerman could be lining up alongside those players, showing he’s got just as much to offer as they do.