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Steven Bergwijn's potential is huge after breakthrough year with PSV
PSV Eindhoven winger has been linked with a move to Tottenham
Last Updated: 03/07/19 4:51pm
Steven Bergwijn is a major transfer target this summer after a fine season for PSV but how good is he? Adam Bate gets the thoughts of those who know the Netherlands international best, including the winger's mother and former academy coach, to find out more...
Capped by Ronald Koeman for the first time in October, it has been a huge season for Steven Bergwijn. After scoring 14 goals for PSV in the Eredivisie campaign, he has been linked with a move to the Premier League or perhaps even a return to boyhood club Ajax. But why is the 21-year-old forward in demand? It's a combination of determination and skill.
An insight into the mentality that has taken him this far is his response to the seismic decision to leave Ajax at the age of 14 after a fall-out with a youth coach at the club. It was a difficult time, one that Bergwijn's mother Bianca remains reluctant to revisit, but she is happier when talking with pride about the hard work it took to get back on track afterwards.
"It is such a long ago and too much has been said about this topic already," she tells Sky Sports when asked about that Ajax exit. "Steven has worked so hard to get to where is his now. The amount of training, travel and more, but all with one goal. He always has done everything in his life for that same reason. The love of the game."
Bianca says she knew "even when pregnant" that her son would be a footballer and the Bergwijn family's commitment is underlined by the journey that the youngster's father would make to allow his son to continue his development with PSV in Eindhoven.
"Every day at 6am, his father drove 600 kilometres each day to take Steven to PSV," recalls his mother. "He picked him up again every day at 7pm."
It proved to be time well spent because it was at the PSV academy, not the famed Ajax one, where Bergwijn would flourish. Edwin de Wijs still remembers the first time that he clapped eyes on the teenager at De Herdgang, the club's renowned training complex.
"I saw a very little boy who oozed talent," De Wijs tells Sky Sports. "He clearly enjoyed the game, and had great technical and tactical abilities for someone who was only 14 years old."
Bergwijn has only progressed since then.
"Perhaps the biggest talent Steven possesses is that he works each day and every day to become a better player," adds De Wijs. "As well as being a very talented player, Steven is also a wonderful person with a big heart. He is always there for anyone. And it says a lot that I, as a youth trainer, am still in touch with Steven on a regular basis.
"He also has an incredible individual technique combined with great speed. That, in particular, is what makes Steven a special and valuable player in the Eredivisie."
This was Bergwijn's breakthrough campaign, although it is now more than four years since his professional debut versus Heracles in May 2015. He was increasingly involved over the following three seasons, but it is only over the past year that the components of his game have really come together, explains Rik Elfrink, a journalist with Eindhovens Dagblad.
"He is an incredible talent but he had some problems with scoring goals before 2018," Elfrink tells Sky Sports. "He had a lot of chances and you could see the potential was there, but he just did not score enough goals. What you see now is that he has the goals and the assists. He is a 21-year-old player who still has a lot of potential to improve."
Bergwijn in stats
The statistics not only highlight the improvement in Bergwijn's game but also just how rare his talent is. As well as the 14 goals, he also contributed 12 assists - only four players in the Eredivisie were involved in more goals than that in the competition.
None of those were aged 21 or under. In fact, the only player in that age bracket to be involved in more goals than that in any of the five major leagues this past season was Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe. That should explain why there is a buzz about Bergwijn.
His total of 105 successful dribbles in the Eredivisie was more than anyone else and his ability to operate on the left or right wing means that Bergwijn is a versatile opponent too. The decision-making has also improved once his marker is beaten. Only the creative Ajax pairing of Dusan Tadic and Hakim Ziyech completed as many through-balls in the Eredivisie.
Bergwijn's next step
All of which was enough to earn Bergwijn an opportunity in the Nations League and while he caused problems for England's Ben Chilwell in the semi-final victory, not everything went his way out in Portugal. However, his admirers remain optimistic. The learning curve continues and what happens next could see him emerge as a genuine European star.
"Steven has developed himself fantastically and has become one of the best players in the Eredivisie," says De Wijs. "He also has a handful of international matches in his name. But I sincerely believe that he is now ready for the next step in his career. I think that Steven can become an important player at the top level in the years to come."
Tottenham have been linked with Bergwijn, but they are not alone. Bayern Munich are believed to be keen if their move for Leroy Sane does not come off, while Inter Milan's interest means Italy is a possibility for the player too. But it is the mooted return to Ajax, who have money to spend following their player sales, that is perhaps most intriguing.
It would be a move home in some respects. But Steven Bergwijn has grown up in more ways than one since the days when he and his father made that long drive to Eindhoven.
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