BBC analyst and Arsenal legend Thierry Henry acknowledged the might of Manchester United and Bayern Munich men but believes Ajax star stole the show.
“I’m speechless,” offered Gunners great Thierry Henry whilst sitting amongst the BBC panel having just witnessed the first shock result of the 2014 FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil.
Henry was part of the punditry team tasked with analysing the exquisite Netherlands team who brushed aside reigning title holders Spain by a 5-1 score with particularly exemplary goal-scoring performances from Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie.
However, it was not the Bayern Munich attacker nor the Manchester United hitman who earned the bulk of Henry’s post-match praise, but rather Daley Blind – a typically versatile Dutchman who can feature at the base of the midfield or as a left back.
“All I was thinking was people like [Johan] Cruyff who took total football to Barcelona but tonight, the Dutch took it back [from Spain],” Henry added.
“There is nothing more to say – I’m shocked… the Dutch owned it. That was the final we wanted to see four years ago and the man of the match was Blind.”
He continued: “The way he played… he did it all to a tee. Whatever van Gaal asked him to do, he did more.”
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Blind was spectacular.
Yes, van Persie scored what will no doubt become one of the most replayed dolphin diving headers of the year, rocketed another shot into the bar and mugged Iker Casillas to secure his brace. And yes, Robben’s movement confounded the Spanish rearguard as he also netted twice, but when it came to vision, Blind was 20:20.
Displaying his defensive acumen, he returned a hat-trick of tackles, a brace of interceptions and recorded four duels won. He enjoyed 66 touches on the football, 41 of which were passes (with a near 88% accuracy) and his creativity from the left was underlined by his supply of four goal-scoring opportunities (two direct assists).
While Louis van Gaal will perhaps be credited with Blind’s exceptional form, it is Ajax gaffer Frank de Boer who is responsible for the nurturing and development of this adaptable talent.
In two years he has become one of the most useful players in his position, not just in the Eredivisie, but on the entire continent – and the fact that he could be seen as a ‘cheaper’ version of a player like Philipp Lahm will no doubt attract the attention of scouts posted in Brazil for World Cup duty.
In Holland, Blind is renowned for his man-marking nous, his one-touch intricate passing ability and his reliability in nullifying an opponent’s playmaking threat.
A 24-year-old who has two years remaining on his Ajax contract, Blind is valued by transfermarkt.co.uk at £5.28 million and, considering a: van Gaal’s future as the Manchester United manager and b: their problematic left back situation (Patrice Evra was rewarded with an extended deal but lacks a quality long-term heir), it does not take a genius to see there is an obvious link to be made…