The Keuken Kampioen Divisie is a league where young talents get their chance to shine and Excelsior striker Thijs Dallinga is proving to be the sensation of the season so far. Michael Bell takes a look at the young goal machine.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Pierre van Hooijdonk, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and more recently Memphis Depay all made a name for themselves in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie before going onto stardom in the Eredivisie or around Europe. However, not one of those strikers have matched the recent achievement of Excelsior forward Thijs Dallinga.

On Friday, the young striker netted his second hattrick in three league games and took his tally to 20 goals in only 16 matches. No player has reached that tally so fast in the Dutch second division since the stats were recorded by Opta.

The 21-year-old is becoming a sensation in the Netherlands and scouts are flocking to the van Donge & De Roo Stadion to watch the forward, who moved to Excelsior in the summer on a free transfer from Groningen.


Dallinga started his career with Emmen and after netting constantly at the youth level, he made his first-team debut at the age of 17. He netted once in eight appearances, some as a winger, before he was snapped up by his hometown club Groningen.

However, it didn’t go to plan in his home city. Dallinga began in the U18 squad and spent the next two years in the youth teams before he was finally given a chance in the Eredivisie on the 12th of December last year. He appeared as a substitute with 16 minutes left of the 2-0 victory over RKC Waalwijk and nearly capped that with a goal but was denied by an excellent save. That was the first of six league appearances from the bench, but Dallinga did not net, and he was allowed to leave in the summer on a free transfer to Excelsior.

Groningen’s loss has been Excelsior’s gain and Dallinga has been on fire since the season began. There have only been three games out of sixteen that the forward has not provided at least one goal or an assist, while he has netted four goals in two games (5-0 v Den Bosch and 5-2 v Telstar). Unsurprisingly, Dallinga is the top scorer in the league and five goals ahead of Robert Muhren in second.

Dallinga won caps for Netherlands U19 side and was recently named in the provisional squad for the U21’s but was only a standby with Joshua Zirkzee, Daishawn Redan and Brian Brobbey chosen ahead of him.

Strengths and weaknesses

The level of the Keuken Kampioen Divisie’s defending is not strong, but Dallinga has impressed with his movement, pace, and positioning in the box. He is a pacy forward, who comes to life in the penalty area, and he has the ability to net with his head and both feet, scoring five of his 20 goals with his left and 13 with his right.

Dallinga is a natural finisher and plays on the shoulders of defenders. A lot of his goals come from him beating his marker for pace onto a through ball. Since his debut for Emmen, Dallinga has also developed physically and has the physique of a powerful striker.

There are no weaknesses that stand out clearly for Dallinga as he likes to get involved in build-up play and creates chances as well as scores goals. He wins over 50% of his aerial duels and his finishing in good positions is strong.

However, Dallinga’s main weakness is the fact he has not yet proven anything at a higher level and it remains to be seen whether he can make the step up the Eredivisie and possibly the U21 national team. A number of strikers in the past have scored plenty of goals in the Eerste Divisie but not been able to make it in the Eredivisie, and Dallinga needs to prove he is an exception to the rule.

What next for Dallinga?

Excelsior is aiming for promotion but the January transfer window is approaching and there is a big question now whether Dallinga will remain at the club or if he will return to the Eredivisie. Heerenveen have already confirmed that Dallinga is on their radar, while he has also been tipped as a potential signing for Excelsior’s local rivals Feyenoord.

Dallinga needs to test his ability at a higher level and a move to a mid-table side in the Eredivisie or even Feyenoord or AZ Alkmaar would be sensible. However, he needs to play and there is no point joining a club where he will sit on the bench.

Netherlands have a handful of talented young strikers in Myron Boadu, Zirkzee, Brobbey and Redan, but none are in the form that Dallinga is at the moment. It is exciting to see how he will develop on the coming months. If he continues to excel, then Netherlands have another excellent striker on their hands that made a name for themselves in the second tier.

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