I’m lucky enough to watch quite a bit of the Eredivisie and I’d suggest Everton have made a very shrewd signing in Leroy Fer. The figures quoted vary from £7m-£8.5m, even if it’s the higher end, I’d expect the Dutch international midfielder to be worth double that after a couple of years in England.
He’s strong, athletic, powerful and has a fantastic engine – confident and creative going forward but also capable of breaking up attacks and distributing the ball – I personally find comparisons with other players a little uncomfortable, but his former Dutch U21 coach Cor Pot once said he saw similarities between Fer and Patrick Vieira.
Schooled for eight years by Feyenoord at one of Holland’s most well respected academies, Fer broke into the first team there back in 2007, handed his debut at the age of seventeen by Bert van Marwijk, the same man who gave him his international debut in 2010.
Asked about Fer back in 2009, van Marwijk said he had “great potential” and he appears to be realising it after a productive 18-months at FC Twente. Fer arrived in Enschede in August 2011 for €5.5m, after a long, drawn-out transfer from Feyenoord – the Rotterdam club loathed to sell-on one of their most promising young players to a rival club.
Despite a difficult move which left many people at Feyenoord feeling angry and betrayed, Fer showed a degree of mental toughness to settle quickly and continue his improvement at Twente, scoring 10 goals in 32 league games (4 games for Feyenoord) last season. So far this season, Fer’s scored nine goals in all competitions, despite missing more than two-months with a knee injury.
He has undoubtedly benefited from having a more settled position in the Twente side, usually played just to the left of a narrow three-man midfield – a frustration during his time at Feyenoord was that he was sometimes seen as a utility player, deployed in several different positions including right-back and up-front.
You could actually view it as a huge compliment to the all-round ability of Fer, who was nicknamed ‘De Uitsmijter’ in Rotterdam (The Bouncer), mainly due to his imposing physical stature, which can only be of benefit in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
Little seems to phase him and he’s clearly ambitious, further qualities that will be imperative for the step-up in class to the Premier League, which also comes with added scrutiny – I’d also back him to deal with the increased pace of the game in England because that’s his style, all-action and box-to-box.
The great news for followers of Dutch football is that there are currently several young midfielders, comparable in ability to Fer plying their trade in the Eredivisie – I’m talking about Kevin Strootman (PSV), Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV), Adam Maher (AZ) Jordy Clasie (Feyenoord) and Marco van Ginkel (Vitesse) – Fer is the first of this ‘new-breed’ to leave the security of the Eredivisie, it will be fascinating to see how the move works out.