Eljero Elia is set to make his Southampton debut this weekend, but can the Dutch winger put the past few years behind him and finally fulfill his vast potential.

  • By Michael Bell
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ca eliaSouthampton officially confirmed a six month loan deal for the Werder Bremen winger last week with the option to make it permanent. However instead of excitement the move was met with a collective feeling that Ronald Koeman was taking a bit of a risk in signing a player dubbed the “Dutch Balotelli” by English press.

Elia has threatened to derail his own career in the past few years with some abject performances in the Bundesliga, a reported lack of interest in training, and off the field issues including a fine for late night speeding with ex-Werder teammate Marko Arnautović. However the 27-year-old undoubtedly has the talent to shine in the Premier League, should Koeman find a way to unlock his potential.

Flashback six years and it seemed Elia was destined for the top. After starring for Steve McClaren’s FC Twente side Elia was named 2009 Dutch talent of the year, an award handed to the likes of Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder and Robin van Persie before him, and an €8.5 million move to Hamburg followed. Elia was also making strides in the national team, assisting twice on his debut, and scoring a fine last minute winner in a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Scotland.

A winger blessed with blistering pace, excellent ball control, tricks and an eye for goal, Elia was expected to take the Bundesliga by storm, but his encouraging start in Hamburg was hampered by an ankle injury, limiting him to 25 appearances.

Elia recovered to take his place in the squad for the 2010 World Cup and the winger made an instant impact, coming off the bench to set up Dirk Kuyt, who sealed a 2-0 opening game win over Denmark. Coach Bert van Maarwijk had so much faith in the youngster that when Netherlands were drawing 0-0 in the final against Spain, Elia was the first man off a bench that included attackers Klaas jan Huntelaar, Rafael van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay. He may not have made the desired impact in the final as Spain found an injury time winner, but the tournament certainly raised Elia’s name around Europe.

A disappointing second season in Germany followed with Elia finding himself in and out of a Hamburg team, which didn’t suit his playing style according to the man himself, and when Juventus made their interest known, the winger jumped at the chance and moved to Italy for €9 million. Elia spoke of his desire to “take his career to the next level” and his new side romped to the Serie A title after remaining unbeaten, but the Dutchman only made four appearances.

A frustrated Elia handed in a transfer request and Werder Bremen handed him the chance to get his career back on track. Again Elia complained about a team not playing to his style, as he struggled to make an impact in his first season, failing to find the net in 24 games as Werder narrowly avoided relegation. The German side were happy to allow Elia to leave, but an improvement in form saw them stick with him last season. The team struggled again though, and the winger’s high wages and lack of effort on the training field saw coach Viktor Skripnik lose patience, and Elia barely figured this season before Southampton announced his signing.

Southampton play attractive attacking football, and should be a club where Elia can finally play to his strength’s and shine, but can Koeman install the confidence that has been missing since the World Cup four years ago, and will the winger show the desire to succeed which was missing in Bremen?

Graziano Pelle is the perfect example of a player that Koeman has managed to revitalise from Serie A misfit to Premier League star, and if he can do the same with Elia then Southampton have a player that can push on their challenge for fourth place.

In the end it all comes down to the man himself, Elia has the talent and now the right club in which to succeed, its up to him to prove his many doubters wrong and stop his career from taking another blow.

Four facts you may not know about Elia:

1-Elia spent two years in Ajax’s youth side before leaving for ADO Den Haag. The Amsterdam side then tried on two separate attempts to resign the winger, but failed .

2-Elia is a keen rapper, and appears on this track by Bollebof

3- Elia co-owns a designer clothes label with fellow footballer Demy De Zeeuw called BALR

4- Elia is a good friend of Memphis Depay and regularly gives the PSV star advice on his career.

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