"He is quick, he is busy, he is dangerous." Newcastle United FC manager Sir Bobby Robson was in no doubt about the likely threat posed by Feyenoord's Thomas Buffel in the teams' UEFA Champions League match tonight.
'He can hurt you'
Given the way the youngster has travelled this season, Robson was right both to serve notice of Buffel's potential, and to choose his words. "
The boy is a little snapper of a player," he said. "You cannot forget him because he can hurt you."
Fenerbahçe SK could attest to the latter: Buffel scored his first Champions League goal against the Turkish side in the third qualifying round. Yet speaking to uefa.com ahead of the Group E game in Rotterdam, the 21-year-old Belgian was focused on points not plaudits. "We need a result," he said. "We got good results against Juventus [FC] and Newcastle but have not done so well in recent matches."
'Newcastle are a good team'
Feyenoord took five points from their opening three games - a win at Newcastle plus home draws with Juventus and FC Dynamo Kyiv - but none since, leaving them bottom of their section. They must now beat Robson's men on Matchday Six, and hope for a Juventus victory in Kiev, to progress. "Newcastle did not play as well as they can in the first game, but we know they are a good team," Buffel said.
Defeat, however, will end an important learning curve for the former Cercle Brugge KSV schoolboy. "
Playing against these international teams is a great experience- you learn things all the time. If we don't get through in Europe we will go back to playing just in the Eredivisie and we don't want that," he said.
So far Buffel has made six Champions League appearances, his competition debut against Juventus being the highlight of a productive start to the campaign for the Feyenoord youth product. He has scored six times in nine league games and been rewarded with his first international caps in the UEFA EURO 2004™ qualifiers against Andorra and Estonia. "It is a special honour to play for your country," he said.
On paper, it seems a far cry from the previous two seasons, spent on loan at second division SC Excelsior. On grass, less so: Buffel was twice voted that league's player of the year, and last term helped the club win promotion. No surprise, then, when Feyenoord coach Bert van Marwijk brought him back to De Kuip to replace Jon Dahl Tomasson.
Creator of chances
"I wondered if I would have to wait for my chance, but it came early and I did well and have stayed in the team since," he said. "It is hard to compare me with Tomasson because we are different players. But we both run a lot and create chances for the team." That creativity will not go amiss against Newcastle tonight.
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