When Steven Berghuis left AZ Alkmaar a year ago to join English Premier League newcomers Watford, fans of the Dutch club were afforded an unexpected glimpse into the winger’s farewell ceremony, known locally as ‘afscheid’.
Featured on the club’s official YouTube channel, a baby-faced Berghuis stood coyly with a knapsack slung across his back and lips shelving a respectful grin as he embraced colleagues before departing.
Peculiarly, the clip held a fictive quality in its relating of events, as if pointing to the first of many watershed moments in the youngster’s fledgling career.
And yet we arrive twelve months on to find Berghuis returning hastily to Holland with Feyenoord, as if to suggest his debut season in England was one to forget.
While the 24-year-old remains a Watford player at large, he won’t thank new Hornets manager Walter Mazzarri for shipping him out on loan, no matter how convincing the Italian might’ve been under a pretense of goodwill in doing so.
While it’s true Berghuis should play every week, we shouldn’t overlook the wide man’s maturing across Holland’s friendly roster recently as one of Vincent Janssen’s nearest allies in a new-look senior team.
No less ready of bedding into England’s top flight than his fellow AZ alumnus, Berghuis may not have been ordained like Janssen has in recalling Ruud van Nistelrooy, but would delight in the Robin van Persie mantle should a likeness serve to bring his burgeoning career to the attention of the wider footballing world.
Maybe joining Feyenoord helps in doing just that, with fans certain to see the similarity straight away, however blinded they were before Berghuis traded the red and white of AZ for that of the Rotterdam club.
So just what kind of player is Steven Berghuis? Surprisingly for a country so rich in technical players, the Dutchman is a throwback to a time of more humble footballing repertoire.
With remote Watford colleague Ikechi Anya an example to the contrary because of his low centre of gravity and tendency to range past players out wide, Berghuis’ tendency to come inside early and link up with centre forwards sets him apart from most in the Watford camp, especially now Jose Jurado has left the Hornets.
Otherwise possessing a peach of a left foot, one could be excused in bridging parallels between Robin van Persie and his younger equivalent, particularly after seeing Berghuis impress in AZ’s Arsenal-like kit.
While there’s little indication the Feyenoord loan signing will grow into a more central role, like van Persie did before him, the two share a vivid appreciation for footballing minutiae and that timeless Dutch quality of poise.
Rarely culpable of wanting ‘too many touches’, as is customary of so many flawed creative players, Berghuis’ precision of thought and collaborative approach hardly sees him complicate a move, with a recent example seen in the Dutchman’s assist for Janssen against Poland.
Where no danger seemed present at all, Berghuis enticed his opponent into a walking pace after retrieving Georginio Wijnaldum’s wayward pass at the far post.
Confronting the full-back once he’d been allowed to turn, Berghuis shifted the ball sharply onto his favoured left foot and dispatched a pinpoint cross into the new Spurs forward.
Without neglecting that Berghuis’ international call-up came after a sprinkling of impressive Premier League cameos, the signs are certainly promising for the midfielder.
Though far from the finished product, it’s refreshing to see such a selfless young winger emerge from the latest crop of Dutch talent.
Tasked with reconciling the nation’s footballing identity after the curtain fell prematurely on their Euro 2016 qualification bid, Berghuis might expect a return to the national squad ahead of Russia 2018, though playing domestically in a receding Eredivisie could stifle his chances.
While little is known of Walter Mazzarri’s tactical agenda at Watford long term, dismissing a gifted Steven Berghuis at this early stage spells ominous things for a player capable of growing into the next Robin van Persie under the right guidance.