Former Real Madrid talent Peeters lives up in Dubai: ‘Towering ambitions’

Former Real Madrid talent Peeters lives up in Dubai: ‘Towering ambitions’
Mink Peeters at Real Madrid between Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo

NOS Soccer

  • Dean van het Laar

    editor of NOS Sports

  • Dean van het Laar

    editor of NOS Sports

Making a top transfer from the Ajax youth to that of Real Madrid at the age of 16. For Mink Peeters a soccer dream come true. However, a debut in the virgin white shirt of the ‘Galacticos’ never came.

Instead, a ramble crisscrossing Europe followed: from Serbia to the Dutch Uoften competition. Moreover, those years were accompanied by serious injuries.

Now, eight years later, the top talent of yesteryear is 24 and we find him back in Dubai with the ambitious Gulf United. There, light is shining at the end of the tunnel and Peeters dares to look upward again: “My ambitions are still sky-high.”

‘Doubting myself’

Peeters touched down in the sandbox last year and recently crowned himself second-tier champion with Gulf United. Before the Middle Eastern club threw a lifeline and gave him another chance in professional soccer, his last tenure dated back to July 2021 with FC Volendam.

Peeters: “It actually went quite well at Volendam. I was doing well in the preparation for the new season, but disaster struck. I had to deal with two serious injuries to both my ankles. In total I had to rehabilitate for almost two and a half years. In that tough period, there were moments when I doubted myself enormously, and my qualities as a soccer player.”

2015: Mink Peeters with Oranje under 18 against Germany

Peeters went to work with a mental coach and regained confidence in himself. “The pressure I put on myself was not realistic. I can deal with that much better now. I think that aspect of soccer is underestimated by the outside world.”

“There is so much more to it than just training and playing games. After my long rehabilitation, the pain I used to play with is finally gone. Moreover, I found a club here that suits me perfectly and is set up to scout and resell talents.”

By this, Peeters is referring to Gulf United. The club has only existed since 2019 and promoted for the second time in a row thanks to the championship won last week. So next season it may show itself at the highest level.

After all these setbacks, I’m very proud of myself, though, because I got to know myself very well.

Mink Peeters

“The team is a mix of talents and older players. They scout young guys all over the world, with the idea of making them better and then selling them on to clubs at the highest level in Dubai or elsewhere in Europe. We also have experienced players, such as Gary Hooper, the former Celtic and Norwich City striker. The facilities here are also excellent. They have everything to make young players better.”

As a result, Peeters is noticing that his level is rising. The phlegmatic outfielder is making plenty of minutes and paying it off with goals and assists, tentatively attracting interest from clubs across Europe.

Towering ambitions

“My stats and match records are excellent right now. My contract expires here at the end of May and I am keeping all my options open. I’m not ruling out a longer stay at the club, but neither am I ruling out that my future lies in Europe. My ambitions are still sky-high,” he laughed.

Mink Peeters on the bench at VVV-Venlo (against Ajax)

Because that Peeters has it in him to still make it far, he knows better than anyone else. “The important thing now is to show everyone the talent that is in me. I may not be the youngest anymore, but I still have a whole career ahead of me.”

“In doing so, I mirror Jamie Vardy, Leicester City’s striker. He also only broke through later in life. And look what he has achieved. With my footballing qualities, there really are some clubs in the premier league that can make good use of me.”

Looking ahead and buckling down

At the same time, Peeters is aware of his injury history and tries to remain realistic. “My first goal now is to play 30 games in a whole season. That would already be fantastic.”

One thing is clear: the former top talent is looking upward again after a dark period. “If you had told me eight years ago that things would turn out this way, I would never have expected it. But after all these setbacks, I am very proud of myself, because I have gotten to know myself very well. I can now look forward and knuckle down again.”

Kayleigh Williams