Eredivisie Exports #3: Daley Blind

Eredivisie Exports #3: Daley Blind

Names like Marc Overmars, Edwin van der Sar and Dirk Kuyt have won it before: the Dutch Footballer of the Year award. But who has won it in the past three years and where are they now?

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Daley Blind, Ajax: Season 2013-14

As the son of famous footballer Danny Blind, Daley started his football career in the academy of Ajax, joining in June of 1994. Although officially still being a B-junior, the 17-year old defender became a mainstay in the A-junior team in 2007. Martin van Geel, former Ajax technical director, praised the youngster: "Daley is one of the biggest talents within the club". After interest from clubs abroad, the defender signed a new contract on 29 March 2007, keeping him in Amsterdam until the 1st of July 2010. 

In the summer of 2008, Blind was chosen as the biggest talent in the academy of the Dutch club. Meanwhile, he made the move from being an A-junior to Jong Ajax (U21), where he immediately was named as the captain and mainly played in midfield. During the 2008-09 season, he regurlaly trained with the first-team, being coached by Marco van Basten. He renewed his contract on December the 19th, this time an extension up until the 30th of June 2013. Blind made his debut for the first-team in an away game against FC Volendam, on the 7th of December 2008. This made him the first son of a former Ajax player that made his debut for the first team. In the next season, when Martin Jol trained the Dutch team, Blind was not called up to the squad anymore. To improve his qualities, he was loaned out to FC Groningen, after interest being showed by Belgian side RSC Anderlecht

Blind joined FC Groningen on the 5th of January 2010 and made his debut in a friendly, ironically against Ajax. His debut in the Eredivisie came a few weeks later, against SC Heerenveen on the 20th of January. In his second game, against FC Twente, he impressed Twente coach Steve McClaren, who later said positive things about the youngster, who then played as a right-back. FC Groningen almost signed Daley for €1.5 million, but the move failed to materialize in the end. 

After his time at FC Groningen, Blind rejoined 'his' Ajax. Lots of clubs were interested in signing him, but Ajax were reluctant to let Blind to leave. Ajax manager Martin Jol didn't need the defender, preferring Vurnon Anita and Urby Emanuelson in the left-back spot. At the end of 2010, Jol resigned and Frank de Boer took over the reigns. de Boer announced that he did not see Anita as a left-back and Emanuelson was sold, consequently meaning that Blind finally got his chance again. In the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, Ajax and Blind won the Eredivisie twice. However, the fans were not happy with the performances of the defender and he got booed off the pitch a couple of times. He earned de Boer's trust in the next season and became a regular starter for the Dutch team. On the 23th of April he renewed his contract, binding him until July 2016. 

Ajax won their third title in a row on the 5th of May 2013 and Blind was chosen as Ajax Player of the Year, playing a total of 34 (out of a possible 34) Eredivisie matches that season. On the 17th of August 2013, Daley played his 100th game for Ajax against Feyenoord in a 2-1 victory. In the away game against FC Twente, de Boer decided to play Blind as a defensive midfielder as opposed to playing him in the left-back position. Here, he impressed even more and soon became a fans' favourite. Blind had a great season and won the fourth(!) consecutive Eredivisie title, an impressive feat by any means. He was awarded the Dutch Player of the Year accolade for his impressive performances.

After a great World Cup last summer with the Dutch national team, where they finished in a respectable third position, Manchester United announced they had signed the versatile defensive-minded player for a transfer fee reported to be around £13.8million pounds. Blind made his debut for the Manchester side against Queens Park Rangers in the middle of September, playing the whole 90 minutes as a defensive-midfielder.

His first goal for Louis van Gaal's side came in October, a 20-yard strike which flew past Ben Foster to secure a hard-fought draw against West Brom. Blind has established himself as a first-team regular, playing 25 matches in all competitions this season, including an international fixture for his native Netherlands earlier on in the year. His versatility is a key component to the red half of Manchester, meaning he can play in a combination of different positions to accomodate other players in the team, without hurting the balance too much. A prime example of this was in their 0-0 FA Cup draw with Cambridge United, where Blind played at left-back, to allow van Gaal to select a few more attacking options going forward.   

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