Louis van Gaal caused a stir on Friday when his preliminary squad for the upcoming Nations League ties was announced and Vincent Janssen’s name was included on the list. Michael Bell takes a look at Van Gaal’s surprise decision to recall the striker, who hasn’t featured in Oranje since 2017.

On Thursday, Louis van Gaal was on stage at the end of season Keuken Kampioen Divisie awards and handed out the top scorer prize to Excelsior sensation Thijs Dallinga. He whispered in the 21-year-old’s ear that he should keep going as he was looking for a new striker with the Dutch national team.

Van Gaal has also been vocal about his lack of options at right-wing since he returned as Oranje boss and his most recent internationals saw him start with Memphis Depay and Steven Bergwijn as his two-man attack in a 5-3-2 formation.

Luuk de Jong and Wout Weghorst are not seen as starters for the national team at the moment, while Donyell Malen is injured and hasn’t shown good form for Borussia Dortmund this season. Cody Gakpo and Arnaut Danjuma are arguably the two most in-form Dutch attackers this season, but neither are out and out centre-forwards.

Van Gaal could have turned to young talents such as Brian Brobbey, Joshua Zirkzee, or even Myron Boadu, who has started to come good at AS Monaco. However, all three remain with the U21 squad, and instead, Van Gaal has opted to recall Vincent Janssen, a striker who has fallen off the radar in recent years.

Janssen was at one point the Netherlands starting striker and he showed good form in Oranje during a difficult period for the national team under Danny Blind. In only his second appearance, he scored and assisted in a 2-1 win over England at Wembley and his performances from then continued to impress and it seemed Oranje had a new star centre-forward.

Janssen was flying for AZ Alkmaar at the time and earned himself a big-money move to Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2016. He struggled for form in England but remained a regular for Netherlands, earning 17 caps by the end of 2017 and scoring seven times.

The National team failed to qualify for two major tournaments in a row and Janssen was dropped at Tottenham after failing to impress. A loan move to Fenerbahce followed but Janssen lost his place in Oranje under Ronald Koeman and in the summer of 2019 he made the decision at only 25 to move to Mexico with Monterrey.

Janssen started off well in Mexico but his form has not exactly set the country alight and at the moment, he has only netted 23 times in 93 games for Monterrey. This season, injuries have played a part but Janssen only has three goals in 29 appearances. That includes two in his last two games, though.

This form makes it even more surprising to see Janssen’s name reappear in a Netherlands squad for the first time in almost five years. The news even came to the surprise of people in Mexico and Keuken Kampioen Divisie side MVV Maastricht made a joke of the decision, tweeting, “The Dutch players of MVV have immediately started training again with a view to possible selection for the World Cup in Qatar. If 3 goals in 27 games in the Mexican League is enough to be there, you never know.”

So why has Van Gaal, who is always vocal that you need to be in-form to get a spot in the National team, decided to hand Janssen a recall?

Well, recently Van Gaal took credit for a return to form of Ryan Gravenberch at Ajax, by stating that dropping him from the Netherlands squad and speaking with him gave him the kick he needed. This may be what Van Gaal is trying to do with Janssen, in the opposite way.

By naming Janssen in his provisional squad, Van Gaal is trying to inspire the striker and let him know he is on his radar. It may give Janssen the boost to push for a move back to Europe and if he can rediscover his form then a place in the World Cup squad is not out of the question.

Janssen may not make the cut in the final squad that is named on the 27th of May but hopefully, this boosts the forward, who is still only 27. He has proved himself in Oranje before and could definitely come back into the fold if he gets himself a move back to Europe.

If Janssen, does move back over the Atlantic, impresses, and earns his place back in the squad for the World Cup, then Van Gaal will claim it as another masterstroke. It is now down to Janssen himself to make that happen.

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