Double Dutch: Eredivisie players in England

Double Dutch: Eredivisie players in England

Can Jahanbaksh turn Eredivisie goals into Premier League success with Brighton & Hove Albion

Nearly half of the clubs in the Premier League broke their transfer records in the summer of 2018, with Chelsea’s signing of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga the most expensive. However, for English fans who enjoy their sink-or-swim narratives, the most interesting multi-million pound deal involved a club about 70km to the south. Alireza Jahanbaksh enjoyed a fantastic season before joining the Seagulls (Brighton & Hove Albion), scoring 21 goals and contributing 12 assists for AZ Alkmaar. However, the fact that he achieved these numbers in the Eredivisie was enough for some to cast doubt on whether the £25m fee was the great value it might have seemed. Players have moved from the Dutch league to England’s top flight since before the dawn of the Premier League era: Ken Monkou, once of Feyenoord, played in the first ever Premier League season for Southampton, while the following year saw newly promoted West Ham bring in Go Ahead Eagles striker Jeroen Boere. But, more recently, a series of high-profile flops have led pundits to warn of imports from the Netherlands. How accurate is the conclusion, though? Here are just a few of the recent hits and misses.

Afonso Alves: (Heerenveen/Middlesbrough)

Alves is widely cited as an example of the ‘caveat emptor’ approach to signings from the Netherlands.
The Brazilian striker had scored at a rate of better than a goal per game in the Eredivisie – after generating almost-as-impressive numbers in Sweden – but will forever be tarred by his struggles in the North East of England. His first few months with Middlesbrough weren’t all that bad, with his six goals in 11 league games including a double against Manchester United, but his second season featured just four league strikes as Boro were relegated with a whimper. He saw out his career in Qatar, retiring aged just 32.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (Heerenveen/PSV Eindhoven/Manchester United)

At the other end of the scale we have another former Heerenveen man, though Van Nistelrooy only spent one season there before really kicking into gear in Eindhoven. A serious injury meant there were some doubts about his abilities to thrive in England, but 36 goals in his first Man Utd season silenced the critics. His United career ended with 150 goals, including a run of scoring in 10 successive games in 2003 which stood as a Premier League record until Jamie Vardy broke it more than a decade later.

Memphis Depay (PSV Eindhoven/Manchester United)

If anyone thought the difference in destination was the only thing that helped Van Nistelrooy succeed where Alves failed, Memphis offers a counterpoint. A wide forward like Jahanbaksh, he had impressed at the 2014 World Cup and followed that up with a 22-goal season in his home country, before being reunited with former Dutch international coach Louis van Gaal. Things didn’t go according to plan, though, with just two goals in his first Premier League campaign, and when Van Gaal moved on at the end of the season the youngster was all but immediately written off by new boss José Mourinho. He has since revived his career in France, though, scoring 19 times in Ligue 1 in his first full season with Olympique Lyonnais.

Luis Suárez (FC Groningen/Ajax/Liverpool)

Another success story, and another who played for a second Dutch club before moving to England, Suárez already had four double-figure seasons in the Netherlands (one with Groningen and three with Ajax) before joining Liverpool in January 2011. After easing into life at Anfield, he proceeded to tear up the Premier League after Brendan Rodgers’ appointment, scoring 54 league goals in two seasons and bringing the Reds within touching distance of their first title since 1990. Naturally, he’s continued that form after leaving Anfield, including a quite remarkable tally of 110 goals in his first 130 La Liga games for Barcelona.