Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven are not content with present-day success. They play a good long-term game, too, and have demonstrated their foresight by seeing off a stack of rivals to secure pre-contract agreements with Emmen’s Dutch Under-21 keeper Jelle ten Rouwelaar and Groningen attacking wonder boy Arjen Robben.
No wonder PSV chairman Harry Van Raaij looked so pleased with himself. From the summer of 2002, his club will have two fine young talents on their books, and in 17-year-old Robben he has acquired on a five-year contract one of the most exciting prospects to emerge from Holland in years.
It took the teenager just six months to become a familiar name in Holland’s football community. Although he scored 50 goals for Groningen’s youth team in 1999-00, Robben was still considered too raw for a shot with the professionals at the start of last season and did not even warrant a place in the official team photo.
However, he got his first-team chance last December, coach Jan Van Dijk selecting him to replace the injured Martin Drent for a key League match against Feyenoord. The result was sensational. Out on the left wing, Robben’s pace and trickery terrorised the opposition, with experienced Dutch international defender Kees Van Wonderen particularly embarrassed by the youngster’s flair. To seal a dream debut, Groningen pulled off a shock 1-0 win.
“A coach canbe criticised for rushing things and bringing in a good youngster too early,” said Van Dijk after the Feyenoord game. “Arjen is only 16. However, when you watch him in action, it’s as if he’s been with thefirst team for six months.”
Robben’s exceptional debut was no flash in the pan. He performed superbly throughout the second half of the campaign and was rightly voted the club’s Player of the Season.
Moreover, he is arguably not playing in his best position. In youth football, he excelled as a playmaker and a switch to such a strategic role is an option. Just as impressive as his talent is his steady temperament and maturity. He does not play the star and insists he is pleased his œ2.5million move to PSV will not come into effect for another year.
“It’s too early to leave Groningen,” says Robben, a current Dutch youth international. “I’ve made a lot of progress since my first-team debut, and here I have the chance to carry on with my development.
“In the next year, I want to prepare myself mentally and in a football sense for PSV and also finish my schooling. I could be badly injured tomorrow and my career would be over. That’s why school is important.”
Born January 23, 1984, in Bedum
Previous club VVBedum