Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas-Boas stated in his press conference on Thursday that new signing Christian Eriksen can be as good as Wesley Sneijder and former Spurs favourite Rafael Van der Vaart.
Both of the Dutchmen came through the ranks at Ajax where 21-year-old Danish starlet Eriksen had been plying his trade in the Eredivisie.
“I think what happened with Christian is a bit like what happened with Van der Vaart and Sneijder when they were at Ajax,” explained the Portuguese coach.
“They reached a moment in their careers where they became extremely important for the team, and the club that goes there and gets them makes a great transfer move, and we expect great things of Christian Eriksen.”
Sneijder and Van der Vaart both came through the youth system at Ajax – the Amsterdam based Dutch champions have exported some of the finest footballing talents in the world, the likes of Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Edwin van der Sar, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank de Boer, Marc Overmars, Patrick Kluivert, Jaap Stam, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Luis Suarez, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are all former students of the club.
Their list of pupils reads like a who’s who of Dutch football and Sneijder and Van der Vaart are undoubtedly two of their brightest and most gifted exports. The former went on to win the Champions League and the Serie A title with Inter Milan and the La Liga title with Real Madrid as well as being named UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year in 2010 as well as featuring in the World Cup Final with the Netherlands that same year.
The latter was also part of that World Cup Final team that came runners up to Spain in 2010 and was also at Real Madrid where he won the Supercopa de Espana in 2008, the same year he was also nominated for the Ballon d’Or, before moving to Spurs in 2010.
Can Eriksen become as good as either of the two Dutchmen? Firstly, it must be accounted that Wesley Sneijder is and always has been a superior player to Van der Vaart, not only in his achievements but also in his technical ability – there really was no better player in 2010 than Sneijder such was his gift for the game, his reading of it, his intelligence, skill, vision, flair and determination to be the best in the world.
Both Sneijder and Van der Vaart won the Ajax Talent of Year awards of which Eriksen was in receipt of in 2011 at the tender age of 18 by which point he had become the youngest debutante since Michael Laudrup to grace the international stage for Denmark, as well as featuring in the 2010 World Cup as a 17-year-old and the youngest player participating in the tournament in South Africa.
In 2012 he was the star of the show for Denmark at the European Championships and, after one last season with Ajax, he now arrived in the Premier League, undoubtedly the toughest and most intense league in the world, ahead of the World Cup in Brazil next term.
He arrives off the back of a season in which he scored 14 goals and made 23 assists in all competitions for his club from his position as a midfield playmaker. His assists record is one assist away from matching Arsenal signing Mesut Ozil’s record for Real Madrid last term and he has a superior goal tally than the German maestro.
Can Christian Eriksen become ‘as good’ as Wesley Sneijder? I wouldn’t imagine many players will come close to that. The Dutchman in his prime was the best playmaker on the continent, if not the world. If Eriksen was ‘as good’ as that, he’d have had offers from Real Madrid. He is, however, I believe more than capable of being as good if not better than Rafael Van der Vaart.
I believe Eriksen’s style of play is actually more similar to Sneijder’s than to Van der Vaart’s – he is a far more intelligent and imaginative player than the former Spurs man – and I suppose given his career trajectory so far makes him one of the most exciting rising stars on the planet, he could very well end up being his generation’s answer to Wesley Sniejder and, crucially, in Villas-Boas he has the mentor he’ll need to achieve that level of perfection.
After all, it was largely down to Villas-Boas that Gareth Bale enjoyed such great excellence, form and confidence last term – he had not achieve those heights under Harry Redknapp. The current Spurs boss is the coach Eriksen needs to fulfil his potential and, if he can do just that, he may well reach the level of Wesley Sneijder one day.