Its been a sensational year for young striker Vincent Janssen, who is not only the Eredivisie’s top scorer, but also a full Netherlands international. Michael Bell takes a look at the man dubbed the “new Ruud van Nistelrooy.”

janssen az scoAfter scoring the equalising goal and assisting the winner on his first start for Netherlands in a packed out Wembley stadium on Tuesday, Vincent Janssen appeared in front of the TV camera’s to conduct an interview with ANP.

“This is one of the most beautiful moments of my life. What a night. This I will never forget,” gushed the 21-year-old who couldn’t contain his happiness, and how can you blame him? Only a year ago he was playing for Dutch second division side Almere City in front of 1,000 people in a 3-1 defeat at Achilles 29, and now he was going toe to toe with some of England’s finest players and deciding the game with a ferocious penalty and a clever assist in front of 80,000 fans.

“He just keeps adjusting to a higher level. I’m wondering where it ends, if this continues,” stated Netherlands boss Danny Blind, who will be relieved that a possible successor to Robin van Persie and Klaas jan Huntelaar has finally come through the ranks after the Oranje’s failure to reach Euro 2016.

Janssen rise to national team stardom has been incredibly fast, and more extraordinary knowing he was let go by Feyenoord as an 18-year-old after they deemed him not good enough for the top level, despite a hat-trick against AZ that sealed the league trophy for the U19 side in 2013.

After such a disappointment many players would give up and eventually lose their dream of playing top level football, but not Janssen, who was given the chance to hone his skills at Eerste Divisie side Almere City. The 19-year-old was immediately a part of the first team under Fred Grim and paid back the coach’s trust by netting ten goals in his maiden season in professional football.

The next season, Janssen almost doubled his tally by scoring 19 league goals, while he proved his capabilities against Eredivisie opposition when Almere City knocked ADO Den Haag out of the KNVB Cup, with the striker netting. His qualities also didn’t go unnoticed at national team level, and with Netherlands U21’s failing to qualify for the 2014 European Championships, Janssen was called into the squad by coach Remy Reijnierse. In ten games for Jong Oranje, who are now coached by Fred Grim, Janssen has netted eight times.

Speaking to ESPN, Grim was full of compliments for his former Almere City star “Janssen has all the right skills for centre-forward.

He keeps the ball well with his back to the goal. He knows how to position himself. He is quick and makes the right movements. He works hard without the ball and puts a lot of pressure on the defenders.

“Importantly, he is two footed, which makes his moves in the penalty area difficult to predict — he can go right, and he can go left. A lot of strikers can only shoot with one foot, and they are much easier to mark.”

Last summer a move was on the cards for the forward, and despite interest from abroad, Janssen decided that AZ Alkmaar was the right club for him and signed for an undisclosed fee. Coach John van den Brom hoped the forward would replace USA international and fan favourite Aron Johannsson, who left the club for Werder Bremen.

Janssen was handed a start in AZ’s first Eredivisie game of the season against Ajax at the AFAS Stadion, but it was a day to forget for the debutante as Frank de Boer’s side ran out 3-0 winners. AZ had a difficult start to the season, and Janssen’s form didn’t help with the striker going seven league games without a goal, and the club’s fans started to wonder if their new signing was to be a flop.

However, on the 4th of October AZ hosted FC Twente and after 64 minutes a short corner was worked to the front post for Janssen to slot in his first Eredivisie goal, and the floodgates opened. Less than ten minutes later Janssen netted his second and he followed it up with a goal against Cambuur in a 1-1 draw. Janssen was finally showing the form that earned him the move to the Eredivisie, and his strength, movement and touch on the ball was causing havoc for his opponents

AZ’s form going into the winter break was worrying for the club, but when the league got back underway in January, Janssen inspired the club’s rise up the table to fourth with the winner against Roda JC, and a very satisfying hat-trick against his former club Feyenoord. The confidence was mounting, and against Vitesse on February 6th, Janssen scored a contender for goal of the season with a superb flick over his marker and a powerful finish, which kicked off a run of seven straight league games that the forward netted.

The press in Netherlands were going crazy for the striker, and national team boss Danny Blind handed Janssen a place in his preliminary squad for the friendlies with England and France. The weekend after earning his first call-up Janssen sealed his place in the squad with his 20th league goal of the season against FC Twente, which saw him overtake Luuk de Jong as the Eredivisie top scorer.

Now after making a name for himself in Oranje the spotlight is firmly on Janssen for the rest of the season, and the question is whether he will remain at AZ past this summer. His contract at the AFAS Stadion lasts until 2019, but a number of clubs are queuing up to sign the 21-year-old, including former club Feyenoord, who will undoubtedly regret letting him go for nothing two years ago. However, Janssen could decide to follow the career path of van Nistelrooy, who he has been compared to on several occasions, and move to the Philips Stadion, should De Jong leave PSV this summer.

A season at the top of the Eredivisie and in the Champions league could prove whether Janssen is Netherlands next superstar striker.

In the meantime enjoy watching Janssen in top form for AZ Alkmaar, starting with a match against PSV this weekend.

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