Former Everton midfielder Royston Drenthe and Hamburg winger Romeo Castelen once had the world at their feet. Now the former Feyenoord players both seek redemption in the unlikely location of the Russian Premier League.
In 2006 and 2007 The Netherlands won the UEFA European Under-21 championships in consecutive years; becoming the third side to complete the feat since Italy and England before them.
The 2006 team contained names such as current Oranje goal-machine Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Aston Villa centre back Ron Vlaar and Swansea keeper Michel Vorm. The 2007 side was captained by a now more senior Vlaar and could also call on the talents of Newcastle stopper Tim Krul and former Liverpool forward Ryan Babel.
Two players that shone in their respective outings were Romeo Castelen in 2006 and Royston Drenthe a year later.
By comparison to Drenthe; Castelen had a muted effect on team performance. Outshone slightly by future Wigan Athletic player Daniel de Ridder he did still have the chance to highlight some of his more precocious talents. His dribbling ability and pace for instance could not be questioned and the partnership he formed at club level with future Premier League players Dirk Kuyt and Salomon Kalou at Feyenoord was feared across the Eredivisie; during this time he made 10 appearances for the senior national side scoring one goal.
A year later and it was another Feyenoord youngster who was attracting the headlines. Royston Drenthe was being operated at left-back for the Jong Oranje but it was his attacking prowess that really caught the eye. He was named Player of the Tournament and subsequently moved to Real Madrid the same summer.
Meanwhile Castelen had agreed to play for Hamburg; at the time a team spending big on talent in a hunt for an elusive Bundesliga title.
The future seemed bright.
Yet there paths have both gone in strange directions. Castelen has been an unfortunate victim of injury turmoil. During his five injury ravaged years in Germany he managed just 17 first team appearances and recently could not convince the likes of Birmingham City that his fitness would prevail.
Drenthe suffered with the back-up role he was being asked to play in Madrid and fell out with the club management. Loan spells at Hercules and Everton had their moments of brilliance intertwined with personal controversy. In the end his time at Everton ended in shame after being turned away by David Moyes who had become fed up of his erratic discipline.
The two paths these two have taken now seem destined to cross; in Russia.
Castelen has signed for FC Volga Nizhny Novgorod while Drenthe has finally completed a move to Alania Vladikavkaz; although not before allowing mentor Andy Van Der Meyde check out the cities nightlife to investigate whether it was boring enough for a man with Drenthe’s partying tendencies.
With one a right winger and the other a left they will undoubtedly come face-to-face with each other when the two sides meet at Volga’s Lokomotiv Stadium on the 10th May. Two former Dutch starlets trying to get their careers back on track in the most unlikely of locations.
image: © juanjaen