July 5, 2013

Can Van Ginkel (the Dutch Justin Bieber) solve Chelsea's midfield problem? (VIDEO)

Chelsea have reached an agreement over the signing of midfielder Marco van Ginkel (right) from Vitesse Arnhem
Marco van Ginkel is not the first. Chelsea have tried many times without identifying the natural successors to the mighty midfield triumvirate of Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Claude Makelele.

Why would they? These are three of the finest midfielders of their generation and like-for-like replacements are scarce. Or expensive.

Instead Chelsea have been gambled, working the market in different areas. There have been the young prospects like Scott Parker and Nemanja Matic, who were both allowed to leave before flourishing elsewhere.
Van Ginkel is the latest player to move between Chelsea and Vitesse Arnhem
Others fell far short of the desired quality, such as Maniche and Mineiro or Steve Sidwell, Jiri Jarosik and Alexei Smertin or the partial successes like Raul Meireles.

Michael Essien was ravaged by injury at his peak and John Obi Mikel has spent seven satisfactory years without fulfilling the enormous hype which accompanied his complicated transfer.

Oriol Romeu flickered and faded and damaged his knee ligaments and Ramires, an irrepressible source of energy occasionally appears to have the worst first-touch in Brazil.

Step forward Van Ginkel, the 20-year-old signed from Vitesse Arnhem having been voted the best young player in Holland last season.

At a glance, he has what it takes to fit into the type of football Jose Mourinho like to play. He is tall and strong, yet mobile with typical Dutch technique, poise on the ball and awareness of movement around him.

He is comfortable in a 4-3-3 system, displays good energy, can win the ball, slide a pass and he clearly has a goal knack with eight from midfield in Erevidisie last season as Vitesse finished fourth.

Most of them were scored breaking into space from midfield or with a firm strike from around the fringes of the penalty area with a touch of Lampard.

Van Ginkel can develop into a midfielder with defensive responsibilities, like Ballack
It is a big step to come straight from the Dutch league to the top of the Barclays Premier League at the age of 20 but those in Holland believe he has what it takes to survive in Mourinho’s squad this season, rather than continue to develop on loan like some recent signings from Belgium, including Kevin de Bryune and Romelu Lukaku.

'Eventually I think he will reach that level,' said Vitesse midfielder Theo Janssen, when asked recently about Van Ginkel’s possible move to Chelsea.

As ever, the question is how quickly and will his development stall if he cannot command the playing time.

If it goes to plan, he can learn from the experience of Lampard about how to fashion those attacking instincts into match-winning contributions in the Premier League environment, with a view to ultimately taking his place in the team.

He was often deployed on the right of Vitesse’s midfield trio with the versatility to possibly evolve into a midfielder who can shoulder more defensive responsibilities, like Ballack. He has the physique and decent aerial strength, although this would probably be considered a waste of his energy and attacking drive at such a young age.

Mourinho made the young Lampard into the player he is by instilling belief in a young mind and schooling him in the art of match-winning. Like Van Ginkel, Lampard’s qualities always suited the ruthless and direct style Mourinho preferred to play.

Van Ginkel does not appear to lack confidence – Dutch footballers rarely do – but he was wary of moving too soon and failing to break into the Chelsea team. A chat with Mourinho seems to have eased his concerns.

The youngster is firmly in the fast lane. He made his senior debut at 17 and his international debut at 19 as a late substitute against Germany in November, developing quickly last season under the eye of manager Fred Rutten before he quit.

Plenty of top clubs have scouted him over the last 12 months but Chelsea had the advantage of their special relationship with Vitesse Arnhem, born out of the friendship between Roman Abramovich and Merab Jordania.

Abramovich’s friend and advisor Piet de Visser has close connections at the two clubs and revealed that Chelsea even had a say in who would be the new Vitesse manager before Peter Bosz was appointed last month.

The Blues have sent young players like Matic, Tomas Kalas, Patrick van Aanholt and Gael Kakuta on loan to Vitesse and have been rewarded by signing their starlet for a fee thought to be £9m.

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