21 Defender PSV Netherlands
The name Jetro Willems has been on the lips of pundits and scouts alike for years. The player who owns it joined PSV from Sparta Rotterdam in 2011 and, by 2012, he was successfully fighting to get into the Netherlands senior team for UEFA EURO 2012. He made his first Oranje start at those championships and expectations went through the roof. No younger player has ever featured in the European Championships finals.
Despite the attention and his progress Willems has remained in Eindhoven in the intervening years, racking up more than 100 Eredivisie games at an extraordinarily young age. The 21-year-old left back doesn’t have much left to prove, save for performing at the very highest level to the standards we’ve now come to expect of a very fine player indeed.
2015 has been…
A game of two halves. PSV stormed the Dutch title in 2014/15, improving on the shortcomings of the previous year’s incredibly young but undeniably exciting squad, and Willems was a major part of that achievement. He worked well with Memphis Depay but also with striker Luuk de Jong, with whom he formed an especially potent combination.
Willems crossing the ball for his team-mate was PSV’s not-so-secret weapon. By the time they’d sealed the title in April Willems had assisted seven headed De Jong goals and had become the subject of reported interest from Manchester City, Real Madrid, and, later, Newcastle United.
In February Willems “went viral”, as the yoof might still say, when he was sent off inside the first 30 seconds of a match, the fastest red card in Eredivisie history – or it would have been, had it not been a quite ludicrous decision and quickly rescinded. Sadly, it wasn’t his low point of 2015.
In pre-season Willems damaged his knee ligaments in training and he’s only been seen once since, suffering a setback in his recovery in October when a return was expected imminently. He limped out of a training session and is now due to return to action this winter.
That’s been the shape of his year and its dominant feature but his quality was in evidence early on. His potential is very high indeed because he’s the very essence of the complete modern full back. He defends to a high standard and is electrifying going forward, brimming with quality on the ball and devastatingly productive. PSV have missed him immeasurably.
Willems will need to put the transfer talk to one side and focus on his fitness. His injury recovery nearing completion, with a bit of luck, his next task is to regain match readiness and then achieve some decent form in the second half of the season. In truth, we might not see him back to his best until the start of 2016/17.
C A tank with a tear
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