Dutch international Davy Klaassen has resuscitated his career at Werder Bremen, after a traumatic season in the Premier League with Everton.
Klaassen had earned a glowing reputation in his native Holland, after scoring 55 goals in 181 appearances for Dutch giants Ajax Amsterdam.
It was a demoralizing phase of his career. Klaassen had gone from being one of the hottest prospects in Dutch football to playing in the Everton reserves, which puts into perspective his precipitous demise.
Now at Werder Bremen, Klaassen has rediscovered his confidence and is flourishing under the management of Florian Kohfeldt, as The River Islanders aim to make a push for Europa League qualification.
Another positive is their journey to the quarter-final of the DFB-Pokal. Werder pulled off a magnificent result by defeating Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund via penalties, with Klaassen converting the penultimate spot-kick.
Thus far, Klaassen has been directly involved in nine goals in all competitions, scoring four goals and recording five assists. His latest strike was as early as last weekend with a rocket from range rescuing a point against relegation contenders VfB Stuttgart.
The Rapid Rise
Davy Klaassen was born in the Northern Dutch city of Hilversum, based just 34 kilometres from Amsterdam. He joined his first football team at seven years old and subsequently spent four years at HHV de Zebra’s.
At 11 years old, Klaassen signed for HSV Wasmeer, which is famous for producing former PSV Eindhoven right-back and 53-time Dutch international Roel Wiersma. It’s also a hotspot for Ajax scouts with former players Kevin van Kippersluis and Azor Matusiwa joining the Ajax youth system, although only the latter made the first team.
Klaassen helped the Ajax youth side win the Nike Eredivisie title in the 2011/12 season, as well as playing an influential role in guiding them to the final of the NextGen Series (the under-19 equivalent to the Champions League), which they subsequently lost to Inter Milan on penalties.
It was during the 2011/12 season that Klaassen also received his first taste of senior football. He had forged an exceptional reputation at youth level and was voted AFC Ajax Talent of the Year due to his promising performances.
He marked his Eredivisie debut with a goal in a 3-0 win over NEC Nijmegen in November 2011, just five days after making his senior debut in the UEFA Champions League in a goalless draw against French outfit Olympique Lyonnais.
Ajax are undisputedly one of the greatest clubs at producing young players and the supporters were beginning to get excited about the prospect of their new midfielder. By the end of the 2011/12 season, Klaassen had represented the first team on eight occasions, including appearances against Real Madrid and Manchester United in the Champions League and Europa League respectively.
However, injury reduced him to just three appearances in all competitions during the following season, meaning that his quick rise into the first team was put on hold.
Taking it to the Next Level
He seized the moment once back to full fitness in the 2013/14 season, scoring eleven goals in 36 appearances. He was a key component in their Eredivisie title winning season and was voted Dutch Football Talent of the Year and AFC Ajax of the Year.
Klaassen played in victories over Celtic and FC Barcelona, as well as the goalless draw against AC Milan, which confirmed their elimination in the UEFA Champions League. Nevertheless, Klaassen opened his goalscoring account in Europe, albeit in a 6-1 aggregate defeat against Red Bull Salzburg in the Europa League Round of 64.
His most iconic performance of the season was his hat-trick in an emphatic 4-0 win against NAC Breda in December 2013. Not only had he displayed an eye for goal, but he also posed a major creative threat, finishing the campaign with four assists.
Louis Van Gaal had been monitoring his progress and rewarded him for his performances with an international call-up in February 2014. After representing Holland at U16, U17, U19 and U21 level, Klaassen walked out with the senior team for the first time in a 2-0 defeat against France at the Stade de France on 5 March 2014.
Frank De Boer selected Klaassen as club captain following the departure of Finish defender Niklas Moisander. Instead of becoming flustered by the added responsibility, Klaassen matured increasingly and drew the curtain on his Ajax career in spectacular fashion.
After scoring eight goals in the 2014/15 season, Klaassen reached his peak and took his game to the next level. He scored his first goal for the Dutch National Team in a 2-0 victory against Spain at the Amsterdam Arena in March 2015 and scored 35 goals in 90 appearances in the 2015/16 and 2016/17 season respectively.
Peter Bosz had applied much of his focus on producing youth and Klaassen was an influential role model for the likes of Davinson Sanchez, Matthijs De Ligt and Kasper Dolberg. Ajax reached the UEFA Europa League final where they met English giants Manchester United, but subsequently succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.
Ajax lost Peter Bosz to Borussia Dortmund, Davinson Sanchez to Tottenham Hotspur, Kenny Tete to Olympique Lyonnais and their beloved Davy Klaassen to Everton.
Nightmare at Goodison
Excitement spread at a rapid pace when Everton supporters learned that Ronald Koeman had signed Klaassen. The Dutch midfielder was expected to provide energy, creativity and goals from his midfield role, but it quickly became evident that Klaassen looked a distant image from his usual self.
The pressure was on his shoulders due to a heavy price tag of £23.6 million, but it was also difficult for the multitude of summer signings to form a cohesive bond and play in a telepathic manner.
Many of the summer signings suffered a significant drop in form and Klaassen was definitely one of them. He featured in four of the first six league fixtures of the season, but played just three of the following 21 fixtures in the Premier League.
Klaassen received most of his playing time in the UEFA Europa League, but the lack of opportunities meant it was practically impossible for him to rediscover his confidence.
The Revival at Werder Bremen
Everton pulled the plug on their connection with Davy Klaassen when Marco Silva was appointed as the new manager at Goodison Park in the summer. Werder Bremen pounced to sign the Dutchman for a reported fee of £12 million, signalling the end of his nightmare in England.
Florian Kohfeldt demands high physical effort from his players, which is evidently shown by the statistics. Only five other players have covered more ground than Klaassen this season and two of those are Werder Bremen players.
Klaassen has made 1,624 intensive runs, 354 sprints, won 201 duels and has an 80% pass completion rate, which is arguably the only statistic that requires improvement.
He’s rediscovered his confidence in Germany and has become a crucial player in the heart of the Werder midfield. His work ethic and creativity has been invaluable at times this season and Klaassen looks like one of the bargain buys of the summer transfer window following an exceptional debut season at the Weserstadion.