Dutch football is famed for technical excellence and has a well-earned reputation as a breeding ground for the stars of tomorrow.
Here are just five talents looking to impress in the Eredivisie...
Davy Klaassen (Ajax)
The 21-year-old attacking midfielder had long been tipped as a potential star having picked up Ajax’s talent of the future award in 2011, but a groin strain set him back the following year and the early promise was stunted. However, Klaassen stepped up following the exit of Christian Eriksen, showcasing his speed, intelligence and skill to help Ajax to a fourth successive title. Having inherited the No 10 shirt from Siem de Jong this summer, there will be more responsibility for the forthcoming campaign and the early signs are that Klaassen will relish the challenge. “For next year I have the goal that I play more and score better. I also want to provide some more assists and become stronger. Just be important.” Given that he was already Ajax’s joint-top scorer last season, it seems he has big plans for the future.
Quincy Promes (FC Twente)
Already capped by the Netherlands and a strong contender for their World Cup squad, the 22-year-old was one of the stars of last season’s Eredivisie. Promes ranked among the top six for assists, chances created and through-balls as well as netting 11 goals of his own. The speedy winger might have had his head turned by reports of interest from Manchester United but having signed a new deal in March contracting him to FC Twente until 2017, it seems likely the Eredivisie will get to enjoy him for a while yet. “I am happy here and feel it’s too early to go overseas,” he said at the time. “First let me have one or two seasons playing football at a consistent level in the Netherlands. That next step will then be an issue, I am sure.”
Joel Veltman (Ajax)
The 22-year-old centre-back has already displayed maturity beyond his years and has an admirer in Louis van Gaal, who took him to Brazil this summer as part of his World Cup squad. Veltman’s responsible passing saw him rank among the Eredivisie top six for passes per game and passing accuracy in 2013/14 and he has been linked with Premier League heavyweights Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham so far this year. However, he appears committed to staying at Ajax for the foreseeable future. “I think we can keep this group together,” he told Voetbal International. “Why would you not like to build something at Ajax? It’s something beautiful in the Netherlands and the next step we want to make is in Europe. If you look at the age structure of our squad, we have a group than can achieve this.”
Kamohelo Mokotjo (PEC Zwolle)
The 23-year-old South Africa international midfielder spent three years as a Feyenoord player before making the move to PEC Zwolle where he truly began to blossom, lifting the KNVB Cup last season. Ranking among the Eredivisie top eight for passes per game and passing accuracy he provides an element of control in midfield allied to powerful bursts forwards. “My coach always tells me I’m like a diesel engine,” Mokotjo told Fox Sports recently. “Once I get going, I’m unstoppable.” That’s certainly how it looked against Ajax in the season-opening shield game between league and cup winners as he produced a man of the match display to help PEC Zwolle take the trophy. It was a display that is likely to cement Ajax’s well-documented interest and ensure that if and when Mokotjo does move on it might not necessarily mean an Eredivisie exit.
Hakim Ziyech (Heerenveen)
Ziyech was one of the statistical stars of last season’s Eredivisie with a highly productive campaign for Heerenveen. The 23-year-old Netherlands Under-21 midfielder not only scored nine goals of his own but established himself as one of the league’s most creative figures. His nine assists saw him ranked third, while he was also among the top five for through-balls and chances created as well as one of the Eredivisie’s most successful dribblers. But his precocious talents didn’t prevent him being axed by coach Marco van Basten during the run-in. “It’s his own fault he was on the bench,” said Van Basten. “He lost his place by collecting unnecessary yellow cards. He must learn, especially if he wants to go to a top club, because the competition is even greater. He needs to read the game better and learn when and when not to go.” This could be the season to watch Ziyech kick on.