The biggest shock at the World Cup thus far has undoubtedly been Spain’s complete mauling at the hands of the Netherlands. The 5-1 victory was of particular interest to Manchester United fans, keen to get a better look at new manager Louis van Gaal and gauge his abilities. No doubt everyone will have been presently surprised; even given his sizeable reputation, no one expected Holland to be able dismantle the current World Cup holders with so much ease and efficiency. It wasn’t the Total Football of Renus Michels and Johan Cruyff, but it was nevertheless pleasing on the eye and obviously very effective. One player who stood out in particular is Daley Blind. Operating as a wing back, Blind was brilliant on the left, pinning back opposition right back César Azpilicueta and recording two assists; his cross to Robin van Persie for the Dutch equaliser particularly good. With still nothing official announced in regards to the proposed transfer of Luke Shaw from Southampton, Manchester United fans can be forgiven for glancing covetous eyes Blind’s way.
Full Name: Daley Blind
Date of Birth: 9th March, 1990 (24 years old)
Height: 5 feet, 11 inches
Daley’s father Danny is an Ajax club legend, so it is little surprise that Blind junior joined the Amsterdam club at just 8 years old. Progressing through the youth ranks, Blind was promoted to the first team in 2008 and going on to make 5 appearances, before spending the next season on loan at . FC Groningen. With more experience under his belt, Blind began to integrate himself into the Ajax first team as a left back, winning his first, and Ajax’s 30th Eredivisie title in 2011. With Frank De Boer now the manager following Martin Jol’s resignation, Blind earned more game time in the 2011-12 season, before making the left back position his in the 2012-13 season.
Last season saw Blind reinvented at Ajax as a ‘controlling midfielder’, or ‘third centre back’ within Frank De Boer’s interpretation of Total Football. Similar to Pep Guardiola’s use of Philip Lahm at Bayern Munich, Blind is tasked with recycling possession and starting attacks. He has been a revelation in midfield, the position he played in for many of his academy years, and was awarded the honour of Dutch Footballer of the Year in 2014, for his role in helping Ajax to their 4th consecutive Eredivisie title.
Blind then plays a very different role for his club to that which he plays for his country. Brought into the squad in 2013, the majority of Blind’s caps have come in 2014, used by van Gaal at left back in part due the lack of other, quality options. Although perhaps better in midfield, it is nevertheless a role in which Blind excels. Like all Ajax products, Blind is comfortable in possession, but also possesses decent pace, impressive stamina, and excellent delivery, as demonstrated by his two assists against Spain. Since the injury to Strootman forced van Gaal to switch to 3-5-2, Blind has only gotten better for Holland, the reduced defensive responsibility allowing him to demonstrate more of his creative, attacking ability.
The deal for Luke Shaw has apparently been done or close to done for weeks now, with little apparent movement and no official word from either club. It remains to be seen whether the appointment of Ronald Koeman will facilitate the transfer, or scupper it, but if the deal does fall through, there are few better options for van Gaal than Daley Blind.