Memphis Depay may be making all the headlines  this season, but its midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum who is pulling the strings for PSV Eindhoven as they look to seal their first Eredivisie title for six-years.

  • By Michael Bell
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wijnaldjdnWhen Wijnaldum first burst onto the scene for Feyenoord as a 16-year-old, the versatile midfielder was expected to be the next big Dutch talent. Capable of playing in midfield or out on the wing, Wijnaldum had blistering pace, and excellent dribbling skills, which made him a nightmare to play against. Big clubs began to circle when it appeared Wijnaldum was to leave Rotterdam, but it was PSV Eindhoven who won the race for the at the time 20-year-old, who was still seen as a raw talent.

The first year in Eindhoven was a frustration, with coach Fred Rutten switching the player back and forth from the wing to the middle, while some fans were frustrated with the youngster’s sometimes poor decision making, in and around the box. However after Rutten left, and Dick Advocaat came in, things improved for Wijnaldum, who in his preferred position of attacking midfield began to mature, and he netted 20 times in 45 appearances.

Last summer was a time of transition for PSV, as Mark van Bommel retired, while Kevin Strootman, Dries Mertens, and coach Dick Advocaat all left for pastures new, with Phillip Cocu coming in to take charge. Wijnaldum’s growing maturity, and importance to the club was confirmed when Cocu handed him the captain’s armband, and decided to build his midfield around the then 22-year-old, who would play permanently from now on in his preferred position in central midfield.

Everything was going great for Wijnaldum, and Cocu at the start of last season, with the club leaping to the top of the table early on after remaining undefeated for the opening six matches. Wijnaldum himself netted four goals, which earned him a recall to the Dutch national side. Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal was instantly impressed with the midfielder, and he played the full ninety minutes in the friendlies against Italy, and Ecuador.

However Wijnaldum’s season would be ruined by a persistent back problem which ruled him out of 23 Eredivisie matches, and without their captain PSV’s form imploded, and they fell away from the title race. Wijnaldum’s return in March helped the club seal third place, and the midfielder earned himself a spot in Louis van Gaal’s squad for the World Cup in Brazil.

Wijnaldum had to settle for a place on the bench at the start of the World Cup, but as the tournament went on he earned his place ahead of Jonathan de Guzman, and impressed with his box-to-box play. Netherlands would eventually be knocked out in the semi-finals, but Wijnaldum was the star of the third place play-off win over Brazil, scoring the final goal in a 3-0 win.

After showcasing his talents in Brazil, a number of big clubs, including PSG, and Atletico Madrid, were beginning to circle around Wijnaldum, who admitted for the first time that he is ready to listen to offers. However, much to the relief of PSV fans, he has signed a new contract, and will remain in Eindhoven for what is likely to be his final campaign in Netherlands.

Currently PSV sit top of the Eredivisie table with three wins out of three, and although Memphis Depay is getting the headlines after scoring five goals, its Wijnaldum that is influencing the side’s brilliant start. No longer the flashy player which first broke on the scene, Wijnaldum is now an almost perfect box-to-box midfielder, who doesn’t mind doing his defensive work, and keeps his passing simple, while his tremendous engine, and dribbling makes him a constant threat when going forward. The 23-year-old has worked hard on his distribution, completing 86% of his passes in the Eredivisie so far, whilst chipping in with two goals.

On Sunday, PSV earned their first win over Ajax at the Amsterdam Arena since 2008, which was also the last year they managed to win the Eredivisie title. With Wijnaldum finally ready to have the dominating season that was expected of him back when he made his Feyenoord debut, PSV could be about to end Ajax’s stranglehold on the Dutch top flight.

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