Having lost four key players this summer, Feyenoord have rebuilt with an accent on youth.
By Berend Scholten
For Dutch giants Feyenoord the summer has seen some major upheavals.
The Rotterdam club, who finished third in the Eredivisie last season to qualify for the UEFA Cup, have lost four key performers - all of them internationals. Polish wing-back Tomasz Rzasa has departed for FK Partizan, Australian winger Brett Emerton has moved to Blackburn Rovers FC, while Ivory Coast forward Bonaventure Kalou has joined AJ Auxerre.
The most damaging loss of all, though, is that of Dutch international Pierre van Hooijdonk to Turkish side Fenerbahçe SK. Talismanic in Feyenoord's 2001/02 UEFA Cup triumph, with two goals in the final against BV Borussia Dortmund, Van Hooijdonk's record for Feyenoord was outstanding. The free-kick specialist hit 52 goals in 62 league matches during his two seasons in Rotterdam, with a further eight goals during that UEFA Cup campaign.
'A magical player'
"With the loss of Van Hooijdonk we lose about 30 goals a season and a lot of personality," said coach Bert van Marwijk. "Kalou was also a magical player, while Emerton was the man who often controlled our whole right flank." As if to add insult to injury, Paul Bosvelt has decided to relinquish the club captaincy.
Building for the future
Despite the departures it is not all doom and gloom at De Kuip with the arrival of three youth internationals indicating that the club are building for the future. Van Hooijdonk's potential replacement, the 23-year-old striker Dirk Kuijt, has joined from FC Utrecht, and will hope he can match last season's impressive 20-goal tally.
The other promising additions are 20-year-old Serbia and Montenegro international forward Danko Lazovic from FK Partizan and Brazilian left wing-back Jean Carlos Dondé, 19. In central defence, meanwhile, the 31-year-old Peter van den Berg has signed from RKC Waalwijk to lend the side more experience.
Van Marwijk bullish
All this has left Van Marwijk in a bullish frame of mind. "Of course we have lost a lot [of players] but we will go on," he said. "A club like Feyenoord has to play for the championship every year, must win the national cup and must have a good run in Europe. The players we have bought have good, but different qualities, so we must build a new system to really make those qualities work for us.
'A born winner'
"With Kuijt we have a very good young Dutch player who scored 20 goals last season. Van den Berg is a born winner and Lazovic is a player with a lot of potential who will also deliver goals. Jean has excellent technical skills, but maybe needs some tactical education. I'd rather look forward than backwards."
Van Marwijk concluded: "What really counts is that we will be ready at the start of the season on 17 August. When everything fits in the right place, then who knows, we could be the sensation of the season." Whether such optimism proves justified could prove the most fascinating aspect of the new season.