“What matters is the training of the young players and the quality of our game,” said manager Leonardo Jardim, after selling further stars this summer.
The signing of Terence Kongolo should certainly help allay fears of a decline in player quality. The 23-year-old is fresh from winning his first title in his home country, to build on a previous Dutch Cup success.
Feyenoord are suffering a similarly unwanted summer sale. Having sold right-back Rick Karsdorp to Roma, fans are far more disappointed with the departure of Kongolo, who was arguably their best defender.
Adept at playing at both centre-back and left-back, the Swiss-born Dutch international stands tall at 1.88 metres. It was his physicality that attracted attention from several Premier League teams in the past as well as his sharp tackling and strength in the air.
Hence it is no surprise that Kongolo is better suited to the centre-half position. However, last season, the majority of the defender’s matches came at left-back. The player wasn’t best pleased but stubbornly stuck to his task which aided Feyenoord’s memorable title triumph.
For Kongolo’s development, it’s important that he gets games in the heart of the defence, as the almost ambling giant isn’t gifted with his crossing nor known for his offensive abilities on the wing.
That’s not to say the two-time capped Dutchman isn’t confident when on the ball, boasting an 82% pass completion and displaying assertive flicks to beat opponents.
It’s Kongolo’s determination that sets him apart from most other players on the pitch. An especially memorable performance came in Feyenoord’s home match with Ajax, sprinting over 30 yards to meet weedy striker Kasper Dolberg through on goal with a crunching challenge.
It was that type of hunger that set the Feyenoord academy product apart from rest when he was young. Kongolo featured for each Netherlands youth level, but was particularly prominent for the under 17s, winning the European Championship in 2011 and consequently appearing in the team of the tournament.
That type of form earnt the defender a debut for Feyenoord and eventually a call up to Louis van Gaal’s 2014 World Cup squad at the tender age of 20. After over 100 impressive club appearances, €15m is a steal for a player who carries potential to one day be uttered in the same breath as Kylian Mbappé, Thomas Lemar and Tiemoué Bakayoko.
Another advantage to the acquisition is that Kongolo is a native French speaker, so shouldn’t be hampered by issues settling in with the young squad.
“I look forward to meeting the staff, my new team-mates and doing my best on the field to help the group.” Typical of a determined character, ready to win, more.