When analysing young footballers, their talent, and development, one thing that is constantly overlooked in the conversation is stability. People do not often talk about how difficult it is for players developing in unstable circumstances to make their marks; those who have constantly moved around or sent on too many loans, those who work in environments with too many changing parts, those who have to work with too many coaches with varying philosophies and more.
One player who has never really gotten grace when his career and development are being analysed is Justin Kluivert. At just 24, Kluivert has already played in five different countries. In the past six seasons, he has moved to a different country four times and worked under ten coaches. That means that he has had to adapt to new teammates, new environments, new languages, new coaches, new systems, and new roles almost every year. No matter how talented a player is, this kind of instability is difficult to excel through. It is, therefore, not a surprise that Kluivert’s stock has gradually fallen, especially after a couple of underwhelming loans.
Once again, he is on the move. It is a different country yet again; England, the one place where the spotlight is overwhelming and the media’s voice extends beyond their shores. It could well be the most challenging adaptation of them all, possibly due to a combination of those factors on top of what he has already had to deal with in other countries. The good news for him is that it is not a loan, it is a permanent deal. He is finally off Roma’s books and can be assured of some stability, at least if Bournemouth stay up once again. His career needs it.
Another bit of good news is the manager he gets to play with this time, Andoni Iraola, Bournemouth’s new hire. A highly rated young manager, Iraola’s focus on high pressing and the smart use of channels will suit Kluivert and his skill set perfectly. No doubt, Iraola must have seen Kluivert in Spain this past season, having faced him twice when former club Rayo Vallecano locked horns with Valencia, with whom Kluivert was on loan. He scored a penalty against Rayo in the second leg at Mestalla, after a relentless, all-action performance that emphasised his strengths.
Justin Kluivert’s year on loan at Valencia is probably his most impressive season since bursting onto the scene at Ajax. His performances were so good that Valencia fans were incensed that the club chose not to take up their option to sign him on the cheap. Their ongoing war with majority shareholder, Peter Lim, is well documented and this was perhaps the latest example of his mismanagement of the club. Kluivert was easily the club’s player of the year; their brightest spark in attack, their most consistent performer, and one of the shining lights of a truly awful season. For the first time in years, it looks like his stock actually rose again, significantly. This move to Bournemouth might be the perfect follow-up to that.
Kluivert is a versatile, hardworking, and direct forward with incredible acceleration, strong dribbling skills, and an eye for goal. He looks very much like a throwback to the classic wingers of old, exemplified by the fearlessness with which he takes on players and his preference for driving to the byline. That said, he also has the instincts of a nine that lives off the shoulder of the last defender. His speed makes him lethal when receiving passes in behind, and he also looks like a tidy finisher. His ability to deliver as a winger on either side or as a centre forward makes him a valuable asset. He also has good technical skills and a good football IQ.
In spite of his solid qualities, he still has some glaring weaknesses. His execution is slightly inconsistent, and he may sometimes be too fixated on running at a defender when a pass or a one-two could be more beneficial. His decision-making is still of the required level, however, and he certainly looked to be on a different wavelength from his Valencia teammates sometimes – a positive. He still has to work on using his body more, especially his strength, to dominate opponents.
Justin Kluivert could well be one of the signings of the season in the upcoming Premier League season if Iraola uses him right. If he builds on what he did at Valencia and has a stable environment around him in England, he will be an asset and a game-changer for Bournemouth. Many, who still look at his career and view him only through the stereotypes associated with nomadic players, could be pleasantly surprised once he gets going. Bournemouth fans should be excited to see their new signing, who will no doubt give them memorable performances. Maybe a 15-goal season could be the ‘cherry’ on top.
By: Astorre Cerebróne / @xyCerebrone
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / AFC Bournemouth