‘That time has been good for me’

‘That time has been good for me’
Tijjani Reijnders

NOS Football

With a smile from ear to ear, AZ midfielder Tijjani Reijnders speaks to us ahead of the topper against Feyenoord. Things are going well for the AZ midfielder.

He recently extended his contract to 2027, plays an important role every week as a dynamic midfielder, scoring goals, providing assists, and battling for the lead in the Eredivisie on Saturday night in a packed Kuip. A scenario that the vast majority of soccer players would immediately sign up for and for which Reijnders had to be patient for a long time.

Reijnders comes from a real soccer family. Father Martin played more than 250 duels in professional soccer, and little brother Eliano is under contract with FC Utrecht. After periods in the youth of FC Twente and PEC Zwolle, Tijjani made his debut in professional soccer with the latter club, but it would remain with that one game.

He transferred shortly thereafter from PEC to AZ, where he started making his minutes with Jong AZ. According to Reijnders, that move was the moment he started to see himself as a professional soccer player.

Late bloomer Reijnders was shelf filler for a while: ‘That was a great time’

Before Reijnders made a transfer to AZ, he worked at the Aldi with his two best friends for another year. “I filled the shelves, sat behind the cash register and earned a few hundred euros a month doing that,” he said.

Now the 24-year-old Reijnders earns very different amounts and his life looks completely different. “The other day I was talking to my family about that contrast, and from that we concluded that that time at the Aldi has been very good for me. I’ve seen both sides of the coin that way.”

Premier league level

In Alkmaar, the Zwolle native learned that patience is a virtue. He played a season and a half with Jong AZ in the Keuken Kampioen Divisie before he was allowed a taste of the premier league level again.

He was loaned to RKC Waalwijk in the 2019/20 season, which at the time was embroiled in a fierce relegation battle. “I felt I needed minutes at the highest level to develop further. I fortunately got those in Waalwijk. It was limited, due to the corona pandemic, to eight duels but it provided what I was looking for.”

Tijjani Reijnders (L) with his little brother Eliano (then a PEC player) in January 2021

Once back in Alkmaar, the benefits of that rental period quickly became apparent. Reijnders was allowed to appear more and more often in AZ’s first team. And last season, at the age of 23, managed to fight his way into the starting line-up.

He thus experienced his definitive breakthrough at the highest level. “I had to wait a long time for that. Doubt hit me at times, but through my close-knit family I managed to get myself through that.”

“I also consider myself a late bloomer, but have finally fulfilled my boyhood dream. You don’t think about it very often, but at certain moments you realize that the dream has come true after all,” laughs Reijnders.

Kayleigh Williams