Who are the youngsters to watch as the second half of the Eredivisie kick’s off this weekend? Michael Bell picks his top five talents to keep an eye on.

Nick Venema

It’s been a few years since the Eredivisie had a young striker make a big impact on the league but in Nick Venema, Netherlands may have a new goalscoring machine.

Prolific in the club’s youth ranks and for Jong Utrecht, Venema has been getting first-team opportunities under Dick Advocaat this season and he has not let his manager down. Nicknamed the “Venomenon” by fans, the 19-year-old may have only scored four goals in the Eredivisie so far, but that is from only one start and another six appearances from the bench.

Advocaat can no longer hold the youngster back and during the winter break, he showed that he is the man to lead their line with four goals in two games including a hattrick in a friendly win over Stuttgart.

Utrecht has been home to a number of prolific strikers throughout the years such as Michael Mols, Dirk Kuyt, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Sebstien Haller, and in Venema, the club has another star in the making.

Good in the air and lethal in the box, Venema has the attributes to set the league alight in the second half of the campaign and could come into the view of the league’s top three next summer.

Calvin Stengs

After spending last season out through injury, Calvin Stengs has returned to the pitch for AZ Alkmaar and will be hoping to rediscover his form over the next six months.

Stengs made a huge impact when he burst into the AZ first-team at the end of the 2016/17 season with his direct running, pace and eye for goals. This led to comparisons with Arjen Robben and an expectation that he would be a star winger of the future.

His injury, suffered on the first day of last season, was a major setback for the forward and he has only recently returned to action. In his five appearances so far for AZ this season, we have not seen the best of Stengs yet as he tentatively tests out his damaged knee but there have been glimpses of his immense talent.

With AZ struggling for form, especially up front, a lot will be expected of the 20-year-old between now and the end of the campaign and he will be key for their chances of reaching Europe. A few goals would go a long way to boosting his confidence and hopefully we will see the real Stengs by the end of the season.

Orkun Kökcü

He may only be 18, but Orkun Kökcü looks a special talent and one that Feyenoord can no longer hold back.

The Rotterdam based club have had a disappointing season so far and are nowhere near the title race. Things have gone stale in Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s eleven but one way he can liven it up is with the introduction of Kökcü.

The Netherlands U19 international with Turkish roots, has been a special talent in the club’s academy over the past few years and he was finally handed his Eredivisie debut against Emmen last month. The midfielder made an instant impact with a goal and assist in a 4-1 win over Emmen.

A number ten with great technique, shooting ability and a dead ball specialist, Kökcü is the natural successor to Jens Toonstra in the Feyenoord midfield and the sooner he is permanently integrated into the starting eleven in Rotterdam, the better.

Michel Vlap

Heerenveen have had a disappointing campaign so far, but one of the bright lights has been the form of midfielder Michel Vlap.

The 21-year-old has taken his team by the scruff of the neck in several games this season and is their top scorer with eight goals, whilst also contributing two assists from the midfield.

An excellent dribbler on the ball, Vlap is a talented number ten who has a reputation for scoring spectacular goals including a stunning volley against Utrecht earlier this season.

The Netherlands U21 international will now be hoping to finish the season strongly and possibly follow in the footsteps of Hakim Ziyech and Daley Sinkgraven, who used the Frisian side as a stepping stone to a bigger club.

Tottenham Hotspur is reportedly the dream club of the youngster but a move to the top three in the Eredivisie would be a good idea for the midfielder next summer.

Kaj Sierhuis

A goal-machine in the Ajax youth teams, Kaj Sierhuis will finally get the chance to showcase his talent in the Eredivisie on loan with Groningen.

Sierhuis has been prolific for Jong Ajax for the past two seasons but has found opportunities in the first team limited with Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Kasper Dolberg ahead of him in the pecking order.

The 20-year-old will now spend the next 18-months on loan in Groningen, who are in desperate need of goals to pull ahead of the drop zone.

The move is the perfect opportunity for the striker to regularly get Eredivisie action and could convince Ajax to give him a chance once Huntelaar retires and Dolberg moves on.

The Netherlands U21 international, who has Greek roots, is an old-fashioned number nine, who comes alive in the box and has an explosive finish. However, he also has excellent technique and has a highlight reel of spectacular goals.

With 37 goals in 44 games for Ajax’s U19’s and 22 in 41 appearances for Jong Ajax, it will be exciting to see if Sierhuis can make the step up at the Euroborg.

Michael Bell (66 Posts)