FC Bayern have struck again! Mats Hummels returning to his former club Bayern Munich and the Bavarians have agreed on a 35 million euro fee for the German International, making him the third player high profile player to move from Dortmund to Bayern in the space of four seasons.
Although Borussia Dortmund are known for their ability replace their departing players quite effectively, the fans should not be over the moon considering the fact that Hummels, was their best defender and had a pivotal role to play in build-up too.
Now that Hummels is gone, Borussia Dortmund has been linked with many possible Hummels replacements, including the likes Omer Toprak, Niklas Sule, Aleksander Dragovic, Shkodran Mustafi, or even Rafael Varane of Real Madrid!
But one player missing from this list is Joel Veltman. The 24 year old has been Ajax’s best player this season according to Squawka’s rating system and his playing style is pretty similar to Hummels, making him a perfect replacement for the BVB captain.
Born in Velsen, a roughly 40 mins drive from Amsterdam, Veltman began his career with the youth teams of VV Ijmuiden before moving to the youth ranks of Ajax in 2001, aged nine. It was there that he learned his trade as a ‘number three’ defender, and after going through several youth ranks, Veltman made his debut in 2012 for Ajax in a 6:1 drubbing of N.E.C Breda, featuring as a substitute for Mitchell Djiks.
The 2012-13 season was a very important one for Veltman as he won his first and helped Ajax to win their third consecutive Eredivisie title. Veltman stands today as an integral part of Ajax’ rearguard and has now made a total of 122 professional appearances for Ajax.
There are many reasons of why he could be the ideal replacement for Hummels at Borussia Dortmund. First, he is tailormade for Tuchel’s possession based style of play because the same tactic is used by Franck De Boer at Ajax.
Like Ajax, Dortmund also focuses on switching play on a regular basis creating spaces, and Mats Hummels played an integral role of switching play by acting as a defensive playmaker. De Boer also uses this kind of tactic, but with a tweaked formula in Ajax first provokes the opposition, inviting them forward and then applying quick pressure resulting in the ball going to the CBs or CDMs who then makes a vertical pass. Veltman’s job, playing as a ‘number three’ or a ‘ball playing defender’ is of tremendous importance in Ajax’s game plan just like Mats Hummels for Borussia Dortmund.
As Pep Guardiola states “they bring you out of trouble and set up the forwards”. Rather than pure physicality, skill on the ball is predominantly recognized as a nifty thing for defenders in the modern world of football and Veltman measures up to this yardstick.
Ajax’s proficiency of developing young players and their virtuoso of playing in a multitude of roles and circumstances in each game has shaped Veltman, whose versatility was evident, romping as a Right Back for almost the entirety of the second half.
Veltman is much more than a simple defender. For example, he owns a Whoscored rating of 7.91 rating when deployed as a right back, replacing the Ajax’s Tete, who himself had a 7.34 rating at this position. Veltman accomplishes this role by seamlessly moving the ball from defense to attack in combination with his tendency to move into midfield on a regular basis to create a passing triangles, which eventually indirectly lead to additional scoring opportunities. Hmm, sounds quite similar to Mats Hummels, right?
Veltman is a master when it comes to switching the ball, averaging 4.7 long balls per match and he already has five assists to his name, as well as creating 17 chances this season, almost three times more than what Hummels has managed (6) with BVB this season. Quite a thing for a central defender. And oh! His 4.7 per match successful long balls is well above the targets which Dortmund are currently looking upon (Hummels has 3.9, while Toprak 3.11, Varane 3.34).
— Tom Payne (@TomPayneftbl) May 8, 2016
Having said that, I also gotta say creativity isn’t the only thing he is constantly improving upon in the past years.
The 24 year old Dutchman has really improved himself reading the game. Veltman lacks pure speed, so he depends upon his positional sense to resolve matters. When he makes 3.3 interceptions and 5.3 clearances per match, it’s because his positional sense is really good and he knows where the ball is going. The fact that he made second most interceptions (114) in the Eridivisie this season comes as no surprise either.
Veltman truly resembles the quote which current Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink once prescribed “Players should not just run with their legs but with their heads as well.”
Moreover, Veltman also has a better headed duels win percentage(64%) compared to last season’s disappointing 53.9%. No wonder he’s becoming more and more dominant in the air. He is also prolific in front of goal as he managed two goals from set pieces this season. Last year he got four.
Even though he’s been labelled as an ‘Error-prone’ defender, there’s an increased sense of maturity and calmness into his play. Indeed! he is yet to make a defensive error in the Eredivisie this season. Joel Veltman, at 24, is the eldest in Ajax’s first choice backline. Organizing a defensive backline of players aged around 19-22 has shown Veltman’s level of maturity and has shaped him into a vocal and strategic leader on the pitch.
Veltman’s improvement in all departments year after year is clearly visible. The second best player in the Eredivisie this season has acquired a Whoscored rating of 7.77 which is better than last season’s 7.59 and 2013/14’s 7.68.
However, there have been no concrete news about Veltman’s potential switch to Borussia Dortmund and his stay at Ajax seems obvious for next season and even though Suddeutsche Zeitung reported that Dortmund do have Veltman in their shortlist, the concrete news is still missing.
Meanwhile, Omer Toprak has been touted as the leading candidate for Hummels replacement and Valencia are reportedly asking 25 million euros for another top candidate Shokhdran Mustafi, the 24 year old who was part of the German World Cup in 2014. Although there is a slim chance that Dortmund could get to Veltman considering a potential squad overhaul which might take place in the summer and Neven Subotic is also a name linked with a move elsewhere. So there is more than a chance that Dortmund could buy two central defenders this summer and who knows, Joel Veltman might just be one of them.
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