Ola John 20 Midfielder/Striker Benfica
You will recall the gifted, but largely inconsistent, Collins John during his stretch at Fulham in the mid noughties. Offering scintillating pace and a keen eye for goal, scouts from Europe’s most voluminous monitored John for a lengthy period before the Craven Cottagers swooped to take the Dutch youngster to London from FC Twente for a fee of £600k. Initial performances suggested that Fulham had made something of a coup; their modest outlay had delivered a fleet of foot goalscorer who appeared destined for the top. A spate of injuries and disciplinary problems ultimately marred the career of Collins John but following in the footsteps of his older brother is the equally bedazzling Ola.
Drafted into the FC Twente squad as cover for Nacer Chadli, Ola John seized his chance in the Tukkers first team with a series of incendiary displays during the autumn of 2011. It didn’t take long for John’s talents to be recognised by former Netherlands coach Bert Van Maarwijk and the winger was selected for the Dutch squad for their friendly against England in February this year.
Having declared a keenness to play for Oranje rather than his native Liberia, the national call was no surprise, but the speed of John’s ascent was. Demonstrating a growing confidence, he frequently lit up the Eredivisie with a series of sparkling displays, scoring regularly and assisting others.
As their title push ultimately relented, the regular summer break up of yet another Twente squad began in earnest. While many expected talismanic striker Luuk de Jong to be the most coveted of the Enschede club’s young adventurers, John was first out of the door.
In The 100 last year we retained a sense of surprise that striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel had not followed the path of previous young Dutch internationals to Germany, Italy or Spain, and instead made for Portugal to hook up with Sporting. While the route cannot be described as a regular trade passage, it does appear that several of Portugal’s top clubs are looking at the good value offered by the Eredivisie. This summer Benfica acted swiftly and John’s move was one of the first sizeable deals announced by a European club during the transfer window. Their offer of €9million to Twente for the newly capped 20 year old winger was enough to sanction a move.
So what exactly have Glorioso purchased? John is quick, agile, positions himself well and knows how to deliver a cross. As you would expect from a player primed by Twente since childhood, he is technically adept, can score goals and has enough athleticism to ensure that tracking back is not an issue – although it is something he needs to work on. An over reliance on his right foot might be something that requires attention too.
Benfica have purchased a rough diamond and this is a move that we were keen to see completed. We love the Eredivisie, but the Portuguese top flight is of a higher standard, embraces technically accomplished players and offers the young Dutchman a chance to develop. The Lisbon outfit are a huge club, and in some ways this move could almost be viewed as a chance to shine at a finishing school. Do well here and the next logical step is Barcelona or Real Madrid, something that we are sure John will have contemplated before leaving Holland.
Before we get too excited, and while he might not have expected to play regularly at first, opportunities for John had been non-existent at Benfica initially and that is not a good situation to be in at such a critical point in his career. Fortunately, minutes on the pitch are beginning to increase slightly and a goal in the Champions League against Celtic acted as a timely reminder that Ola John is still around.
As Arjen Robben’s star begins to fade, a new wave of exciting Dutch attackers are emerging with Ola John at the forefront. Nevertheless, he is not the only show in town and a lack of regular starts at such a defining moment could be bad news.
"Has barely featured for Benfica after his move from FC Twente. As such, his career is stalled and the national selectors - at senior and u21 level - have overlooked him." - John Dobson (European Football Correspondent)
C- An exciting player and everything suggests there is more to come, but he really needs to play