Scouting Network – Jetro Willems
Goalden Times brings you the stars of tomorrow – 20 years or under, promising players from across the world
Date of Birth: March 30, 1994
Market Value: €1.5 mn
This Scouting NetworkTM is based on Euro 2012 and no one deserves to be featured more than the boy-man – Jetro Willems, who broke a 28-year-old record to become the youngest ever player in the history of Euro Championships. It is an honour that was not just held by a random player but one of the national legends of Belgium – Vincenzo ‘Enzo’ Daniele Scifo. Scifo had audacious skills as a youngster and was compared to Pelé but he never rose to such heights. Scifo though, was capable enough to be only one of three Belgians to play in four FIFA World Cups. Willems would do well to emulate that record.
The rise of Willems is not sudden. He has been breaking the age group records all along his development. But his big break came in 2011 when he was part of the Dutch U-17 team that won the European U-17 tournament for the first time in its history. Even more sweet was the fact that Holland didn’t concede a single goal up until the final, where they thrashed the Germans 5-2. That was an amazing 368 minutes of goalless journey and Willems was one of two defenders, chosen along with the goalkeeper in the team of the tournament for that.
A transfer move was inevitable after that. Willems, who had begun his career at Spartaan ’20 and then moved to Sparta Rotterdam in 2010. The big clubs were already aware of him and Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to bring him to Manchester United. Arsene Wenger was interested in him too. But Willems ultimately remained in Eredivisie by moving to PSV for a sum of € 800,000.
The season with PSV was eventful. He started 20 matches in the league, scoring a goal and assisting two. That goal made him the youngest goal-scorer in the Eredivisie for the season. He made his European debut in a UEFA Cup match with Hapoel Tel Aviv and this made him the youngest Dutchman ever to appear in a European contest. Amidst transfer speculation in the winter window, PSV quickly extended his contract till 2016.
When Dutch national coach Bert van Martwijk included him in the 32-man list, it was a signal of great progress. When he was included in the 23-man squad, it was thought to give him some exposure with the team and nothing more. Vurnon Anita would have been the chosen left-back. But come the opening fixture, Martwijk kept faith in the young 18-year-old, who had only made his debut for Holland two weeks before the opening fixture in Euro. It was a baptism by fire. Holland in a Group of Death crashed out without a point. The defence didn’t hold on well. Willems though only missed 24 minutes of action, as he was substituted in the final group game for a desperate goal.
From the season he has had in the Euros, it is evident that Willems is more comfortable going forward than defending at the back. He made 5 tackles and four intercepts while fouling 5 times in those three matches. But he made many run ins down the left, crossing eight times. He also had a pass completion percentage of 90.8%. He needs to work on his positional skills and anticipation better. Defensively, he still requires tightening up and with age on his side that should not be a problem. His physicality and technique will hold him in good stead though. With the dearth of quality left-backs in the European game, Willems is a guy worth keeping your eyes on.