Jun 17, 2013, 10:43 PM EDT
Christian Eriksen has been an “it” player for so long, it’s difficult to know where his skill set ends and his reputation begins. That’s what happens to players who break into Ajax’s first team at 18. They have their skills exaggerated, the influence of Dutch mystique leading those who ascribe the 1970’s antiquated notions to cast Eriksens as new models off an exaggerated assembly line. And as a player like Erikson contributes (24 goals in three season), wins awards (Dutch Player of the Year, 2011), and garners links to bigger clubs, he becomes the latest variable in an overused equation.
Perhaps it was that equation ID’d Eriksen as a breakout candidate at last year’s European Championships. Too bad that breakout never happened. With Denmark only playing three games at Euro 2012, we shouldn’t read too much into Eriksen’s output. Still, a player who was expected to be Morten Olsen’s best failed to have an impact. Now with only three goals in 34 international appearances, Eriksen has yet to show he can produce outside Holland’s attacker-friendly environment.
It all makes Eriksen’s path look a little like Eden Hazard’s, part of the reason why he’s been linked with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur. Both players had great success at club level around 20 years old, though Hazard’s production was greater than Eriksen’s while playing in a more difficult league. As young attacking midfield, both have struggled for country while dominating for club, and while Hazard’s exploits in Ligue 1 paved a move to one of the world’s big spenders, Eriksen’s play at a lower level built links to other impressive (if more financially constrained) teams.
But comparisons like that only compound the distortion around players like Eriksen. Too often we have difficulty developing a constructive conversation around players whose hype transcends their skills. After a player like Eriksen sits on the rumor mill for three years, a momentum develops, creating résumés built on Wikipedia links to Daily Mail conjecture. There’s little disincentive to overhype talent or links when there’s so much demand for gossip.
At some point, as voices become more authoritative amid the growing chatter, we’re left talking about an abstractions – breakout players who were never been capable of breaking out. In the case of Eriksen, the conversation now hinges on pure speculation. What would he do if he wasn’t playing on his league’s most talented team? What would he do if he wasn’t playing in such an attack-centric league? These sorts of questions are asked about every player, but when that player comes from a league (Eredivsie) and club (Ajax) who many fans view in light of old, romantic statures, it becomes more difficult to engage the counterpoint. It becomes more difficult to see past the abstractions.
What’s particularly interesting regarding Eriksen are the small, meaningful steps he’s taken in the last 12 months to make those abstractions real. Already a valuable contributor for Ajax, the Danish international went from eight all-competition goals in 2011-12 to 13 last season. Although his assist totals took a small step back, Eriksen proved a more decisive force around goal. On a team that scored 10 fewer goals in league, it’s little surprise a 21-year-old’s more team dependent numbers (assists) regressed while his goal rate improved.
It’s tempting to wonder if, with that improved ability to dictate his own destiny, Eriksen would have had more to say at last summer’s championships.
Now, with that added layer to his game, Eriksen is ready to leave the Netherlands, with Borussia Dortmund reportedly tabbing the Danish attacker as Mario Götze’s replacement. Atletico Mineiro’s Bernard has also been linked with the spot (and it’s not beyond Dortmund to buy both), but in the scenario reported today by France Football, Eriksen would go to Dortmund, highly-touted 19-year-old Adam Maher would move to Ajax from AZ, and Earnie Stewart would get a huge chunk of change for his club’s troubles.
It’s difficult to image a better scenario for Eriksen. What Marco Reus was to BVB last year — a highly talented attacker adapting to a new team while playing new to a world class talent — Eriksen could be to this year’s. And while few would choose Eriksen over Götze, if Reus rises to the increased challenge, Dortmund may see little drop off. In time, as Eriksen adjusts to higher expectations and a more difficult league, Dortmund could do as they’ve always done over the last three years: move forward.
Yet all that falls into the same trap. We’re placing Eriksen in the context of Hazard and Reus, forgetting his Euro 2012 disappointments, the regression of the Dutch league, and his inability to make an impact at the international level. We forget the picture surrounding the 21-year-old is more clouded than his transfer hype would have us believe.
Like all transfers, Eriksen’s will carry significant risk. And it’s only after he moves to a place like Dortmund that we’ll be able see through these clouds and distinguish the skills from the hype.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:12 AM EDT
Jill Ellis takes a lot of criticism, but she got it right again on Tuesday, moves that got the U.S. into the World Cup final.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:50 PM EDT
It’ll be an interesting story to follow as it unfolds across American soccer’s top flight.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT
For 32 glorious minutes, we thought there was a good chance we’d see a third-tier side in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT
The United States played its best soccer in two years with a victory over Germany in an epic win over Germany.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT
Either Landon Donovan is emotionally removed from last summer’s World Cup roster omission drama, or the USMNT legend just passive-aggressively lashed out at former coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:38 PM EDT
There will be a blockbuster final to the Copa America, as Argentina thumped Paraguay to cruise to the final.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
With one brilliant 90-minute performance, the United States reasserted itself as the best team in the world.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
The U.S. is headed to the final for the fourth time in seven tournaments.
Report: Pearson’s firing due to Leicester players’ racist sex tape scandal, “definitely not a football issue”
Jun 30, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT
Will either side be able to rebound from the latest incident?
Jun 30, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
The Ivorian international, 28, appeared set for a 4-year deal worth about $14.5 million.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT
There hasn’t been a single clean sheet kept in a match-up of these two teams since 2010. Should be a fun one.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT
Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe return from their yellow card suspensions to play starting roles in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal.
Jun 30, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
There’s haves, have nots and have a lots, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are in the final category.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
A long-standing right bone bruise will keep the Houston Dynamo midfielder out of the upcoming Gold Cup.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT
An incredibly-confident man who branded himself the “Godfather of women’s football” certainly won’t relish sitting this one out.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
How to stay in touch with all the Open Cup action in Tuesday’s four games.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT
Foxes decide to fire Pearson despite the greatest of “great escapes” during the 2014-15 season.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
The two best goalkeepers in the world square off in the Women’s World Cup semifinals.
Jun 30, 2015, 1:29 PM EDT
Find out how to watch the preseason tournament in Singapore live, here.
Jun 30, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT
With a huge World Cup encounter hours away, USWNT head coach Jill Ellis has a lot to ponder.
- Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Union, Orlando, Chicago move on as Charlotte bounced 0
- With the World Cup on the line, the USWNT gave us a vintage performance to savor 1
- United States defeats Germany, advances to Women’s World Cup final 12
- Reports: Galaxy on verge of landing El Tri star Dos Santos as “core player” 8
- Report: Sepp Blatter will not attend Women’s World Cup final 0
- Nigel Pearson fired as manager by Leicester City 2