“Our player of the season? Kevin Strootman, no doubt. He’s been absolutely magnificent. His association with Michael Carrick has worked out perfectly – it has showed us the best of both players. Strootman has been the bully in midfield that Manchester United needed. Roy Keane even said he recognized a bit of himself in Strootman. Is there a better compliment? The Dutchman has been a vital factor in United’s treble conquest and his goal against Bayern Munich in the final has concluded a brilliant season.”
Oh sorry, I’m a year ahead. Let’s rewind back. Strootman has been heavily linked to Manchester United for over a year and for most United fans, he seems to be the perfect summer signing. But how much do you really know about Kevin Strootman? I’ll try and give you an insight about the Dutch midfielder.
Now, where do we start. Kevin Strootman has started his career in VV Rijsoord’s youth and subsequently joined Sparta Rotterdam where he made his professional debut in 2007. He stayed four seasons at the club before moving to FC Utrecht but in the summer of 2011, he got his big move in a €13m combined deal that saw Dries Mertens and him join PSV.
His first PSV season was his best one when he was a revelation to the Eredivisie and he was rewarded with his first national call up in 2011. This season has been a bit more difficult for him. After being joined by Marc van Bommel in the summer, he enjoyed a good start of the season but failed to maintain that level of performance for the whole year.
But for the national team, this has been his most complete campaign. He has been promoted to captain at the age of 23 during the games Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart didn’t play and he played a big part in the Netherland’s qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup.
What exactly does he bring to the national team? Ever since Van Bommel left, the Netherlands missed an organiser, a leader in midfield. Sneijder is a great player, undoubtedly, but Strootman lays a tad deeper and brings composure and leadership to the Orange side.
Strootman is a leader. He tries to constantly organize his midfield. He’s tactically very flexible and smart. He can adapt to the opposition, change his role and his position in midfield.
Strootman is a so called “box-to-box” midfielder but a very rare and complete one. His defensive abilities are way better than some other box-to-box midfielders. Strootman has got fantastic anticipation which enables him to break down opposite attack with great intelligence.
He’s also a strong and aggressive, sometimes a bit too much. He picks up easy yellow cards, even a red one here and there – but it’s not always negative. He knows when to commit a foul. No doubt Van Bommel has taught him a few tricks in that sense.
But something a lot of people ignore is that Kevin Strootman started his career as an attacking midfielder. It’s only a few seasons ago that he moved back down on the pitch and when you realise this, you understand better where those attacking qualities come from because Strootman has them in abundance
He’s able to burst up the field with great power while keeping a clear mind and combined with his intelligence, it allows him to pick the right pass or take it further on and shoot himself. He has a great variety to his game that makes him so valuable to the team.
One of the qualities I appreciate most is Strootman’s ability to change the rhythm of the game in one pass, one movement, one action. The typical Strootman action is when he anticipates a pass, recuperates the ball and fires off an excellent long ball or a simple pass that launches his team’s attack. This dynamism benefits the team no end.
As I said earlier, Strootman is a leader. He tries to constantly organize his midfield. He’s tactically very flexible and smart. He can adapt to the opposition, change his role and his position in midfield.
Take a look at this video to give yourself an idea of how Strootman plays.
The main thing to take from this video is that it showcases his intelligence. Whenever he asks for the ball and gets it, he knows exactly where he’s going to play it. He almost never touches the ball too many times in a row because he knows where he’ll play it before he even touches it – he is always a step ahead.
He is the kind of player we need. He could play alongside Carrick and free the 31-year-old up to play a more dynamic attacking role, safe in the knowledge that Strootman is there to protect him. But he could also assume the midfield role alone and that tactical flexibility is one of his greatest assets.
That being said, Strootman can certainly improve some parts of his game. For example, he is very one footed (left) and tends to shy away from using his right foot at all, which can be crippling in certain situations. His technical ability is good, especially given that he is 23, and with age he should naturally get better with ever season he players. As I mentioned before, he can be a bit too hot headed at times and while it can be considered a quality, he sometimes just has to take a step back and avoid confrontation. You only have to look at how Rooney has adapted to see how that hot headedness can be controlled.
For me, Strootman would fit in perfectly at United. He is the kind of player we need. He could play alongside Carrick and free the 31-year-old up to play a more dynamic attacking role, safe in the knowledge that Strootman is there to protect him. But he could also assume the midfield role alone and that tactical flexibility is one of his greatest assets.
He hasn’t had the best of seasons, but anyone who’s watched him regularly know his quality and that he is ready for the step up.
Price wise, it should be around the €20m mark, maybe a little more, but he is worth it given that he is only 23 and has years of growth ahead of him.
And after the Van Persie experience, who are we to not want another Dutchman at the club? Kevin Strootman? Yes please David.
But don’t forget, the best way to judge a player is by watching him. And you’re lucky with Strootman as you have the perfect occasion.
He’ll be captaining the Dutch U21 side this summer in the U21 European Championship that start on June 5. Tune in and give yourself a chance to watch Strootman play.