With the appointment of Ronald Koeman at Southampton, rumours and speculation surrounding several players possibly exiting Rotterdam have been given added fuel. The former manager of the red, white and green has moved across the channel and is reportedly aiming to take some of his former players over with him.

  • By Oliver Fisher
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pelle gIt is hardly surprising, given the apparent “over-performance” of a young Feyenoord squad that managed to secure second place in the Eredivisie, albeit with below par seasons for perennial rivals such as Twente and PSV. Still, what Koeman achieved this past season was nothing short of brilliant. He had the means, but the fresh ideas and creativity which he brought to a talented young squad was fantastic for supporters to experience.

It was the third year of Koeman’s tenure, and by far his most successful. The season didn’t start all too well, with Der club aan de Mass (The club on the losing five of their first six games including a swift exit from the Europa league.

Things picked up quickly, and the goals started flowing in from Pellè, who had been purchased at the beginning of the season after a successful loan spell during the 2012-13 season, in which he finished top scorer.

The hard work and positivity continued as Der Stadionclub stayed in touching distance of second place, symbolised by the five consecutive wins starting on the 1st of December and continuing into the new year. All attention was turned to the climax of the season, and Feyenoord certainly did not disappoint, winning seven of their last eight games which included a draw at AZ Alkmaar in the final game.

The finish by Koeman and co. had been quite breathtaking, perfectly and emphatically reinforcing the attitude of creativity and toughness that he had instilled into the youthful squad. What was significant was how difficult it was to beat them, and after the first three league games (all defeats), Feijenoord lost just four games until the end of the season. The traditional grit, graft, determination and devotion of Feyenoord was back, one which was reminiscent of the title winning sides of the 90’s.

The talent and promise of players such as Janmaat, Martins Indi, Kongolo, Clasie, Vilhena and captain De Vrij had been recognised and in a way achieved. A solid, at times almost watertight defense complemented a free flowing attack in which the “Italian Stallion” Pellè was well served by the nimble, energetic and frighteningly pacey duo of Schaken and Boetius. Attacking midfielder Lex Immers also scored crucial goals and providing a pivotal link between the midfield engine and the illustrious front three.

With all the aforementioned, and the unfolding situation with Southampton and Koeman, it is no surprise that the young stars of Feyenoord are hot property in the off season.

Another thing to consider is the World Cup. With the rise in success of players such as Janmaat, De Vrij, Martins Indi, Kongolo and Clasie has come a rise in their international reputation and prestige. This is no better symbolised than in the crushing 5-1 victory in the opening game for the Oranje against holders Spain. Total football devastated the tiki-taka of España, something which fellow writer Ryan Ferguson discusses here: http://www.football-oranje.com/inspired-oranje-destroy-spain/

Players from the Rotterdam club were prominent and prevalent in that victory, a real high point for Dutch football, and it’s no coincidence. The game didn’t begin so well for De Vrij, who gave away the penalty that allowed Alonso to put Spain in the lead, but from that point on the Netherlands defense was solid and astute, frustrating the creative genius of the likes of David Silva and Alonso while allowing the opportunistic and clinical offensive display of Van Persie and Robben to unfold.

Many had speculated Clasie would start the game, unfortunately that didn’t happen. Nevertheless, De Vrij, Janmaat and Martins Indi were there and looked completely comfortable, almost in their element, against the might of the Spanish tiki-taka game that had torn so many defences to pieces. It was a real testament to the way the players had performed during the season for Feyenoord, as well as the discipline and solidarity that Koeman had taught and nurtured them with.

Quite simply put, the value of the youth of Der Stadionclub can not be undervalued. Valuation adopts a double meaning in this sense, as it concerns transfer valuation and fee, but also the idea that these players can not be replaced easily and carry a huge value to the squad. It’s a tough situation to be in, with big money bids from foreign giants such as Manchester United and Liverpool, as well Napoli and even Barcelona due to come in, so why should Feijenoord resist that?

Well, Koeman’s tenure is over, as previously discussed. The new manager is former PSV boss Fred Rutten, a man I will discuss more about in a future article.

Rutten is used to success, it must be stated, having won over 70% of the games in his three-year spell at Eindhoven. He coached the side that went thirty-nine consecutive games without defeat, and as boss he saw his side lose just six games in three seasons. Nevertheless, without an Eredivisie title under Rutten’s name he was sacked and moved on to Vitesse, and has now found his way to Feyenoord.

Why is this important? Well, for a manager who is used to winning, and also quite significantly not losing, the potential of having such a youthful and talented squad is one which results in high expectations in Rotterdam. If all of the players discussed (De Vrij, Janmaat, Pellè etc.) we’re sold, it would undoubtedly leave huge gaps in the squad.

Feyenoord have a fantastic academy with, in my opinion, some of the best coaches in the world having worked there, including the current manager Roy Makaay. The results are evidentiated by winning the Rinus Michels Award, given to the best academy in the Netherlands, three years running from 2010 until 2013. Ultimately, it is expected that the academy will continue to pump out quality players with the standard and level of coaching available to the Varkenoord. Recent graduates (i.e. the last five years) include Boëtius, Sleegers, Kongolo, Vilhena, Clasie, Nelom, De Vrij and ‘keeper Mulder have gone on to play first team football.

But it doesn’t stop there, the list of former players in other squads produces a similarly outstanding reflection of the quality of the Varkenoord, with RVP (Robin van Persie), Leroy Fer, Jonathan de Guzman and Georgino Wijnaldum having played for the academy and having gone on to play for the Oranje.

That is a staggering amount of talent, and the likes of Van Beek, Steenvoorden and Lamprou are developing nicely. However, the quality of players required to fill the void of any subsequent departures would be a huge ask.

Of course, with the loss of such players would hopefully bring in a large sum of transfer revenue with which to reinvest. This argument could be potentially long winded and cyclical, but I feel it simply boils down to the fact that there aren’t many young defenders of De Vrij, Martins Indi, Kongolo and Janmaat’s age, the same with the likes of Clasie, Vilhena, Boëtius and to a degree Pellè. In essence, they are all very tough players to replace in terms of talent, age, and the obvious factor of cohesion. The togetherness of the team under Koeman was a joy to watch, and the better the inherited squad and conditions for Rutten, the better his chances of following up a season of success with further satisfaction.

Regardless of what happens, it will be intriguing and exciting to see how events unfold, and I for one can’t wait to see what Rutten and the young Feijenoord squad can achieve. The sky is the limit.

Oliver Fisher (9 Posts)

Aspiring Sports Journalist and huge football fan, from Leeds, England. Follow @olifisher on Twitter