Adam Maher 20 Midfielder PSV Netherlands
2013 has been…
PSV’s youthful nature has won plaudits this season. Phillip Cocu’s side is typically dominated by players under the age of 22 and, for a while, it seemed to be paying off. The Red and Whites started their season with three wins at the head of an unbeaten run of seven matches, with the most eye-catching display a 5-0 win over NEC in August achieved by PSV’s youngest ever line-up.
17-year-old Zakaria Bakkali was the inspiration behind that rampant victory but midfielder Adam Maher demonstrated the best parts of his game too. His passing is imaginative and usually impeccably executed. His short game is superb and he is intelligent, calm and boasts great technique. He’s more than a typical ball-playing midfielder; Maher is primarily attack-minded despite his positional discipline, and a creative streak will become more apparent as he settles into his game.
Unfortunately, as the demands on PSV’s young team have continued their form has fallen away. Like his colleagues, Maher is expected to impose himself but tends to dip in and out of matches.
PSV is a different challenge to AZ, where Maher spent the first half of the year. Rumoured interest from England and Ajax in the summer failed to materialise and Maher joined the Eindhoven revolution, but the freedom to get forward and really affect things either isn’t there, or isn’t being grasped fully by a player thrust into the public consciousness as a teenager in Alkmaar.
There, Maher had a more direct creative impact. From the deft chip round the corner to create Jozy Altidore’s goal against RKC Waalwijk in March to a brilliant solo run and vicious swerving finish to score one of his own against NEC a month later, Maher earned every scrap of attention from PSV and others in the first few months of 2013.
Signing for PSV reflected his fine form but forced him into a pressurised situation and a tweaked position. He scored his first goal for the club in a Europa League victory against Dinamo Zagreb in November but has been solid rather than spectacular, and involved less heavily of a matchday than last season.
Nevertheless, it remains obvious that this is a player with significant ability. He has lovely awareness of space and sometimes looks as if he’s thinking a step ahead of those around him, which goes some way to explain his effectiveness in receiving passes and his clever dribbling. The 2012/13 Adam Maher is, thankfully, still on show.
The final of the KNVB Cup, a game that provided Maher’s first senior silverware with AZ, was a fantastic example of what he can do and his performance had pundits purring. Expect more of that in 2014 in the red of PSV.
As well as growing into his role with PSV and gradually putting his stamp on games more emphatically, errors like the clumsy foul while playing for AZ against his future employers must be eradicated, along with the infrequent examples of slight nastiness, best evidenced by a dangerous swinging elbow that landed him in hot water against Heerenveen in April.
Those negatives are barely blots on the copybook of a player who might not be the thrill-a-minute number ten we hoped he might become when we assessed him for this list in 2012, but has matured nicely in a short space of time and is beginning to adapt well.
A high-profile transfer secured and admirers won all over the world, Maher will rightly be pleased with his 2013 but the rabbit dropping in the Nesquik cereal is his progress with the Dutch national team. He made his debut in the famous orange shirt last August and has won just four caps since then.
If he’s smart, he’ll be contented enough with continued Under-21 involvement and occasional senior call-ups at the age of 20, because he’s got senior caps in his future. A World Cup call-up might be on his radar after recent selections but he’ll do well to be patient and concentrate on establishing himself at one of the Netherlands’ best known clubs. If he can do that quickly, a place in Brazil might well be the result, but it shouldn’t necessarily be the immediate goal.
"Was one of the few bright lights for AZ last season, but went dim in 'the lightbulb city' at PSV. Will be fine once he has learned to cope with the pressure of playing at a big club." - Michiel Jongsma, Benefoot
"In 2013, no midfielder has created more chances from open play in the Eredivisie than Adam Maher (43)." - Opta
C Adapt, adjust and advance