Botman impresses at Newcastle and will be at Wembley tomorrow
Of course Erik ten Hag’s Manchester United claims a lot of attention Sunday (5:30 p.m.) at Wembley at the League Cup final. But make no mistake, at opponent Newcastle United, a Dutchman is also enjoying a whirlwind first season in England.
Sven Botman is part of the Premier League’s least-passed defense. With 15 goals against in 23 duels, Newcastle, the current number five, keeps all top teams below them. Compliments are flying around the 23-year-old Dutchman’s ears.
“Soccer is just too easy for you,” teammate Jacob Murphy once wrote under a photo of Botman on Instagram. Even managers of opponents let it be known that they are impressed.
Analyst Ruud Gullit stated at a soccer talk show table that he would like to call national coach Ronald Koeman to get Botman into the Orange for the upcoming international matches in March.
New distinguished nickname
In France, Botman was nicknamed “RoboCop,” referring to the action figure (half man, half robot) from the film series of the same name. In England today, he is known as the “Rolls-Royce,” named after one of the most prestigious (and expensive) car brands.
In short: the 23-year-old Botman from Badhoevedorp is hot in England.
It is not for nothing, then, that Erwin van de Looi traveled to Lille, where Botman was still playing at the time, at the beginning of the 2021 European Championship qualification series, asking if the central defender would like to become the new captain of the young national team.
“Sven was honored,” Van de Looi says of the meeting at the time. “It also seemed like an interesting next step for him. He comes across as impressive physically, but I felt he could still play a slightly more dominant role in coaching.”
Always the right club
Even before he had played a premier league game for Ajax 1, the defender chose a surprising move to Lille, with whom he became champion and, after two seasons, earned a transfer for some 40 million euros to the Premier League.
“He has always chosen the right club and has a real image of himself,” Van de Looi stated. “I also asked him on occasion why he left Ajax. Then he told me they don’t play the ideal soccer there for his type of defender.”
By this, Botman is referring to his play with the ball. He has to rely more on his physicality, winning duels, taking out opponents. Instead of dribbling in and taking care of the build-up.
His own path
That’s why he left Ajax early on, while experts often exclaim that you have to have made your mark in Holland before you try your luck in a stronger league.
“There is no one right path,” Van de Looi believes. “That’s what I try to pass on to the players of the young national team. Sometimes interest comes from nice clubs abroad, but the question is whether you will play there.”
“It can be more convenient to go for a club of a slightly lower level, where you do play. That happened with Sven.”
Stable, stoic, they call him in England. Quiet, somewhat in the background, but merciless to attackers. As coach of the Dutch youngsters, Van de Looi keeps a close eye on his pupil in the Premier League.
“In the beginning I was still like: ow. He sometimes came up short. But, and that’s just a very big quality of Sven, he adapts quickly. Plus the team, like before at Lille, suits his qualities well. They defend grouped.”
The national coach sees Botman making strides. “Not much happens to Sven … He knows what he can and can’t do, doesn’t do strange things, hardly makes any mistakes. And he dares more on the ball now. You only do that as a defender if you have confidence.”
Botman hears it more often: he has a good head on him. He knows what he wants and doesn’t let himself get crazy. This was evident at the end of last summer, when he was being pulled hard and had to choose between AC Milan and Newcastle.
“He has had contact with other clubs on occasion while he was with the national team,” Van de Looi acknowledged. “He discussed that nicely with me. I think he handled that well, you didn’t notice anything about him. He kept performing.”
“At that age, a lot of guys can get confused then. He didn’t.”