The Dutch league always seems to throw up a prolific striker every couple of seasons that makes the whole of Europe sit up and take notice. For every Van Nistelrooy though there is an Afonso Alves and for every Robin Van Persie there is a Mateja Kezman waiting in the wings. So will these cautionary tales put clubs off Luis Suarez, and would the Uruguayan forward even prove a success should his move come to fruition?
It’s difficult to say with any certainty whether Suarez will prove a success or not, for the Dutch league is an extremely hard league to gauge a player’s quality from. Swedish striker Marcus Allback for instance scored 25 league goals in two seasons for Dutch side Heerenveen but struggled to settle at Aston Villa after completing a move in the summer of 2002 for £3m, but two indifferent seasons followed in England and they brought with them only 6 league goals in 35 games.
Jon Dahl Tomasson signed by Newcastle from Heerenveen too failed to adapt to playing up top in the physical English top flight and was soon on his way after only contributing a pitiful 3 goals in 23 appearances. But when used correctly, he went on to have great success for not only the Danish national side to the tune of 51 goals, a hugely impressive haul, but also back in Holland with Feyenoord and a useful spell in Italy with AC Milan as a squad player.
Georgios Samaras too failed to set the world alight after transferring from Heerenveen (noticing a pattern here are we Gareth Southgate) to Man City for £6m, and the big Greek looked out of his depth. He was subsequently used sparingly by successive managers Stuart Pearce and Sven, and was shipped out on loan to Celtic where he has found goals a lot easier to come by, and he has since made his move permanent.
Kezman is possibly the greatest example of a Dutch league goal machine’s failure over here though, after being seriously disappointing in his time in England with Chelsea. Everyone thought the signing of Kezman was quite a coup and that he was ideally suited to the league’s quick style. The sheer amount of goals he scored for PSV marked him out as a great striking talent (129 in 177 games in all competitions) and it was impossible to ignore the predatory instinct obviously present in his game. People thought he’d get goals anywhere, yet at Chelsea he only started 14 games under manager Jose Mourinho, and only contributed 7 goals in 41 appearances as he began to look a shadow of the confident striker that strode into Stamford Bridge. He was promptly sold to Atletico Madrid after only one season with the club as they made a small profit on the £5.3m they forked out for him the season before.
Suarez though has got consistently better year on year since signing for Ajax for £5m from fellow Dutch side Groningen in 2007. Pacy, with a stinging shot and more intelligent than most in the league, he looks a cut above the rest playing for Ajax. He tucked away 17 in his first season, 22 last and so far this campaign has 29 goals in 28 appearances to his name, exceptional whatever the standard of the league is.
He has 89 goals in 122 games to his name for the 4 times European Champions Ajax and a useful 12 in 23 games in European competitions for them too. His ability to play behind the frontman would be an attractive proposition for most clubs, as would his ability on the ball and to spot a pass. He would cost upwards of £15m and the only thing that could possibly hold a top English club back from chasing his signature would be the relative failure of his counterparts from the league that have followed the well trodden path of moving from Holland to the Premiership, but have failed.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, there have been success stories. Ruud Van Nistelrooy was a huge success for Man Utd, scoring 150 goals in 219 games in total for the English champions, a ridiculously good record. Robin Van Persie too has matured into a fine goalscorer rather than a scorer of fine goals recently and before a long-term ankle injury sidelined him for the rest of this term, he looked like delivering more consistently in front of goal. Dirk Kuyt has been a success story too, and although not the free scoring striker of his time in Holland anymore, he’s adapted well and reinvented himself as a consistent and productive right winger for Liverpool and is a key component of Benitez’s Liverpool machine.
The Eredivisie remains a league that’s difficult to call, the quality varies wildly in the league from top to bottom, and a goalscorer over there does not necessarily mean they will score goals in this league, as Boro fans will no doubt testify to with 7 goals in one match flop Afonso Alves. But Suarez looks to be the real deal, the stocky forward looks cut out for the pace of the league and although time will need to be given for him to adapt, at 23 years of age, it’s certainly something he’s got on his side as he looks certain to fly the nest in the summer.
Written by James McManus