Micky van de Ven to Tottenham: Dutch defender’s rise from Volendam to Wolfsburg explained | ‘The speed is crazy’ | Football News


Micky van de Ven is among the most exciting young defenders in the sport, his ‘crazy’ speed separating him from the rest. At 22, a move to the Premier League would confirm his status among the game’s elite talents. But this rise was not inevitable.

In the spring of 2019, before his move to the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg, the Dutch youngster was still playing for Volendam’s academy team and had been earmarked for release that summer. His potential was not obvious to everyone.

A new regime brought a new perspective. Wim Jonk, the former Netherlands midfielder, was to take over as head coach that summer. Jasper van Leeuwen would be the new sporting director. Fortunately, both were there to watch an U19 game that April.

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“They were like, ‘Woah, who is this?'” That is the recollection of Ruben Jongkind, the incoming head of methodology at Volendam. He too had been part of the sadly aborted velvet revolution at Ajax alongside Johan Cruyff. These men knew true talent.

“We had just come from Ajax where we had developed plenty of top young players and then we saw that boy with this remarkable, extraordinary weapon, which was his speed and his dribbling ability from the back. It was top class,” Jongkind tells Sky Sports.

“We asked people at the club and they told us that he was the fifth-choice centre-back and had told him that he could look for another club because he was not that good. We were like, ‘Oh no!’ When we started in June, we immediately gave him a new contract.” Within months, he was a starter for the first team.

Ostensibly, it was an inauspicious start at a struggling side in the second tier in the Netherlands. “There were really no fans anymore. Low quality football.” But Jonk and his colleagues changed that, introducing ideas from Ajax that brought new hope.

“We worked with him in the same way that we worked with the Ajax players, the same individual training model, the Cruyff idea. The budget for the whole club was no bigger than Ajax’s academy but when you have a rough diamond, you can make it shine.”

07 May 2023, North Rhine-Westphalia, Dortmund: Soccer: Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund - VfL Wolfsburg, Matchday 31, Signal Iduna Park: Wolfsburg's Micky van de Ven complains to the assistant referee.
Micky van de Ven has impressed during his time in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg

Van de Ven certainly fell under that category. He was unique. “Twenty years ago I had worked in athletics with world-class performers,” says Jongkind. “I worked at Ajax with the biggest talents but the speed that this guy has for a defender? It is crazy.”

In Volendam, as talk of a transfer has intensified this summer, Van de Ven’s growing reputation apparent, the head scout has been digging out the old reports on him. Curiously, one of the most promising defenders around was once viewed as a striker.

“They saw him as a centre-forward and he also played on the left wing,” laughs Jongkind. “But they felt he was not good enough there and that is why they put him at the back.” It helps to explain why some of the early defensive weaknesses clouded opinion.

“Back then, he was not so good at heading, not so good in one-on-one situations because he had been a forward. He played so much at the other end of the pitch, he lacked the technical defensive skills. The movement was a bit like a giraffe so that had to improve.”

But the desire to get better was always there. “Any small little game, whatever it was, he wanted to win. Even if it was darts or something. He is obsessed. He gives it the maximum in training, even in small-sided games he is strong in the duels and he kicks your butt.”

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The excitement about Van de Ven’s potential alerted one of the game’s most high-profile agents, the late Mino Raiola. “He was smart. Having made a lot of money from Ajax players, when he saw that we liked him, he jumped on Van de Ven,” claims Jongkind.

When Volendam then rejected €1.5m bids from Wolfsburg and Marseille, the player and his agent took the club to court seeking a dissolution of his contract. Jongkind calls it “a long story that could have been a disaster for Dutch football” had it gone against them.

Instead, an arbitration committee decided that Volendam were entitled to €3.5m plus bonuses – the biggest fee ever paid for a second-tier player in the Netherlands. There was also a sell-on fee of 15 per cent. “That was not included in the original proposal.”

That detail could be significant this summer given the numbers now involved. “For us, it could be half the budget for the year.” A big moment for a club that is now competing in the Eredivisie, having stayed up last season with the second youngest side in Europe.

It is just another reason why everyone at the club has been following the fortunes of their former academy player ever since he left. At Wolfsburg, the pace remains but the desire too. No player in a top-half team blocked more shots in the Bundesliga last season.

“It is the way he fends off opponents too,” says Jongkind. “He does this thing with his hands and you just cannot reach the ball. He has such long limbs it is impossible to get near to him and then he just accelerates away from you and you cannot do anything to stop it.”

04/22/2023, football, soccer, 1st league, 1st Bundesliga, season 2022/2023, VfL Bochum - VfL Wolfsburg 1: 5 Micky van de Ven
Micky van de Ven’s ability to shield the ball from opponents is a standout trait

Combine that with versatility – “he can play left-back if needed” and an “incredible winning mindset” and the appeal is no surprise. There is an expectation that other aspects of his game, such as his build-up play and speed of pass, will improve in a stronger side.

“The raw potential is amazing for his position,” adds Jongkind.

“I really like Josko Gvardiol because he is so complete. Micky is not so complete but he has this special quality, this incredible speed, that makes him very valuable. He can progress the game in the build-up and for a team who has a lot of the ball that is very interesting.”

A special player whose talents are now obvious.

But they needed spotting that day in 2019.

“He probably would have popped up somewhere else, but you never know. It is a striking story of how people perceive talent and potential because there was enough to talk about with what he was not good at. If you look at that maybe you make another decision.

“If you look at the extraordinary part, stress his strengths and work on raising the weaker points to a good level, you see a top talent.”


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