‘Fits perfectly on any team’
Kevin Strootman (33) had grown into a defining player at Oranje on his way to the World Cup in Brazil nine years ago. A year earlier, the midfielder had traded PSV for AS Roma, where he quickly made a good impression. However, on March 10, 2014, a serious cruciate ligament injury shattered his World Cup dream.
It was the beginning of a nasty period you wouldn’t wish on any footballer. Shortly after his recovery, Strootman had to go under the knife again, followed by another operation. All in all, it took two years before he was able to compete again at the top of soccer. In 2018, the man from Ridderkerk left the Italian capital, for a transfer to Olympique Marseille.
Since then, we haven’t heard much from the once-admired Strootman on the sporting front. But Strootman’s soccer career is anything but stagnant. Marseille has already rented him out three times to clubs from Italy. In the spring of 2021, Strootman played for Genoa. The following season he was loaned to Cagliari and this season he is playing again for Genoa.
Genoa was relegated to Serie B last year and at the second Italian level Strootman scrambled up. Last week, the club promoted back to Serie A with Strootman, and now the title. Tomorrow Genoa, ranked second, plays against leaders Frosinone. A win will shrink the gap with Frosinone to one point, with only one match to go as well.
Strootman is making a strong impression this season. “Especially in the second half of the season,” said Filippo Grimaldi, a follower of Genoa on behalf of Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. At the end of last year, the club was troubled and coach Alexander Blessin was fired. Strootman also had a tough time personally, with the death of his father.
Under new coach Alberto Gilardino, things improved at both the club and Strootman himself. “He impressed a lot. Not only with his performance on the pitch, but also with his experience and by being an example to his younger teammates. This is not only me saying this, but also Gilardino,” Grimaldi said.
As an example, the journalist cited last weekend, when Genoa was ahead and the 33,000 fans were waiting for the result of the rival, who was playing at the same time. “Strootman’s teammates were tired and nervous, but he addressed them all with enthusiasm. Gilardino thanked him for that.”
Strootman already has 30 games under his belt this season. If he adds one more, he will record his highest number of appearances since 2018 in a single season. The Dutchman has also already scored two goals this season. Perhaps more importantly, Strootman has not been injured once.
The ‘washing machine’
Partly because of his fanatical attitude, Strootman is a popular player in Italy, despite not often appearing in public. “Even in Rome he is still popular, and Genoa fans remember his long period there. His nickname is still ‘the washing machine,’ because he clears balls in midfield.”
Grimaldi does not know if Strootman can ever regain his old top level, but his mentality should not be an issue. “It’s possible, even at 33. He often says that Genoa has given him new passion and reasons to keep playing at the top level. He thinks that with this team, with these teammates and in this place where he is seen as a leader, he can experience even more success. Genoa’s owner thinks this too.”
And why exactly is he experiencing these successes in Italy? “Because he is a fine example of serious character and professionalism. In every team in which he played he fitted perfectly, even if he was sometimes injured.”
Strootman’s contract at Marseille expires at the end of June and Genoa wants to keep him for another year, according to Grimaldi. “In my opinion he is very important for Genoa, and Genoa has been very important for him to return to the top.”