Dutch football appears to be in great need of another golden generation. After finishing in 2nd and 3rd place at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups respectively, Oranje failed to qualify for the following European Championships in 2016, as well as the 2018 World Cup held in Russia. Their next appearance at a major international tournament would come at Euro 2020 where they would suffer a disappointing exit during the round of 16 at the hands of Czechia.
They did enjoy a slightly improved World Cup in 2022, but the once-great footballing nation has continued to face an uncertain present and immediate future. World-class players such as Virgil van Dijk and Frenkie de Jong are few and far between in the Netherlands at the moment, but perhaps the next generation is shaping the next great Dutch outfit, starring a teenager who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the aforementioned players: PSV’s Tygo Land.
Tygo Land was born on 11 January 2006 and spent the majority of his younger years in Heerenveen’s academy before joining PSV’s youth ranks in 2022 after being identified by the Dutch giants as a unique and transformative talent. He initially joined the club’s U18 setup where he immediately impressed coaches with his poise and maturity.
He would also make 18 total appearances for the Netherlands’ U16 and U17 sides, scoring two goals and providing dazzling displays against the likes of Brazil. He has since been capped four times for his nation’s U19 group, and he was also promoted to Jong PSV — PSV’s 2nd team — who play in the Eerste Divisie which is the 2nd tier of Dutch football. On the same day he turned 18 years old, he was promoted to Peter Bosz’s first team.
The youngster has already played significant minutes of senior football against experienced, physically developed players. To date, Land has made 15 league appearances for Jong PSV, contributing 2 goals and 2 assists. This is an impressive return for a young midfielder who does much of his work in the 2nd phase of possession.
Crucially, he also made his debut for PSV’s senior team in August 2023, becoming the youngest PSV debutant in the Eredivisie since 2019. The coaching staff evidently have high hopes for Tygo Land and his future certainly looks bright, but how exactly does the young Dutchman play and what role could he master as he develops mentally, technically and, most importantly, physically?
Upon initial viewing, it becomes apparent that Tygo Land is an extremely smooth and fluid footballer. His similarities to Frenkie de Jong are uncanny in both his physical build and his technical style and security. Land is remarkably press-resistant and never appears flustered or rushed in possession.
SOURCE: MONTAIGU TOURNAMENT
SOURCE: EERSTE DIVISIE
As shown by the above videos, Land possesses composure beyond his years and has the quick feet to match. His impressive agility also plays a major role in his ability to evade pressure and retain possession for his side. This will be a key part of his game going forward, regardless of whether his future lies as a 1st or 2nd phase midfielder, although I am currently leaning towards the latter.
Many of the elite 1st phase midfielders in Europe are physically imposing ball-winners and duel monsters who combine these characteristics with technical security and ball progression through passing and carrying. These include players such as Arsenal’s Declan Rice, Manchester City’s Rodri and Real Madrid’s Aurélien Tchouaméni. Even if Tygo Land were to put on notable muscle mass, his slight frame, outstanding agility and excellent on-ball tools would still better lend themselves to a 2nd phase role, much like Frenkie de Jong or Enzo Fernández, although the latter is more physically developed.
A significant factor in there still being the question of developing Tygo Land as a 1st phase ball progressor is due to his propensity for dropping deep and receiving the ball near his own defenders. This is another trait he shared with Frenkie de Jong before the Barcelona star moved into more of a 2nd phase role in Catalunya due to the presence of Sergio Busquets. Land likes to dictate the tempo from deep whilst also giving himself the option to break the opposition lines with an incisive pass or carry.
SOURCE: MONTAIGU TOURNAMENT
As also seen in the above video, Land is always scanning to keep himself aware of his environment, which is a key part of becoming a world-class midfielder in the modern game. Also evident is the youngster’s ability to use both feet as pressure from the defender puts him off balance and he’s forced to shift his weight and make a penetrative pass with his weaker left foot. This dexterity is crucial in developing into a well-rounded midfielder who is rarely forced into excessive discomfort by opposition pressure.
This aspect of Tygo Land’s game is also relevant as it pertains to his ability to receive the ball on the half-turn between the lines. This lends itself to a role as a 2nd phase midfielder who can receive the ball higher up the pitch and play in more advanced areas.
This video shows Land receiving the ball in a tight space between the opposition defenders and subsequently creating a great chance. This particular skill, if done consistently, may separate the Dutch wonderkid from his peers as it allows for positional fluidity in midfield which often leads to confusion amongst opposition defenders.
Land is also comfortable turning with his left foot, essentially making it impossible for defenders to gain an advantage by forcing him to turn on his weaker side. The following goal is a fantastic example of how Land can use his body orientation to protect the ball whilst also keeping it under control with his weaker foot.
SOURCE: AFC AJAX
In addition to his incredible technique, this goal also shines a light on Land’s composure in front of goal. This is consistent with his composure when receiving the ball in a crowded midfield, essentially making him a threat in all areas of the pitch. He’s also shown flashes of becoming a goal-scoring midfielder with late runs into the box and precise finishes. Questions remain over his ball-striking when his shots require extra power, but his placed finishes are already impressive and emblematic of a player in total control of his ball manipulation.
SOURCE: EERSTE DIVISIE
If Tygo Land continues on his current trajectory, there is no doubt that he’ll become a full Netherlands international in the not-too-distant future. He’s still a teenager and therefore has time to develop, particularly in his physicality. However, on a mental and technical level, he already appears to be far ahead of many of his age-mates in his development.
The Guardian recently named Land as one of the world’s best talents born in 2006, alongside the likes of Claudio Echeverri, Jorrel Hato, Warren Zaïre-Emery and Endrick. Three of these four players have already made their senior debuts for their nations and have established themselves as key players for their clubs, whilst Echeverri has trained with the Argentinian senior team alongside the likes of Leo Messi and appears set to sign for Manchester City.
Evidently, on paper, Tygo Land is still some way behind these four wonderkids, but it does feel as though his major breakthrough is coming. He’s already appeared for the PSV first team and the Dutch national team is famous for providing young players with opportunities regardless of age if they possess the requisite ability.
Dutch football is the perfect environment for Land to grow as a footballer and overall athlete, especially at a club with the facilities and infrastructure of PSV. If and when he breaks into the first team, he’ll be competing in a top 10 European league for a club that consistently competes in major UEFA competitions. At just 18 years old, there is no rush in fast-tracking the youngster’s career, but one can be certain that his time will come sooner rather than later, as it’s simply impossible to restrain that level of talent for too long.
By: Lebohang Mwamuka / @lebzygold
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Soccrates Images / Getty Images