Davy Klaassen has gotten off to an absolute flyer this season. With 9 goals in 13 games in all competitions, 5 in the Eredivisie and 4 in Champions League qualification, Klaassen’s stats aren’t to be scoffed at, regardless of what league he’s playing in.
Goals scored in the Eredivisie are rarely given the credit they deserve. Many football purists see it as some kind of Mickey Mouse league given the fact that even Premier League rejects such as Jozy Altidore managed to bang in close to 40 league goals (Yep, that’s forty, four zero) in his two seasons in Holland.
But for every Dozy Altidore or Afonso Alves that the Eredivisie exports there is a majestic Luiz Suarez or a brilliant Zlatan Ibrahimović. Suarez bagged himself a delightful 81 league goals during his time at Ajax before moving on to Liverpool and Barcelona where he has won the treble and last season finished as the top goal scorer in Europe. Ibrahimović, the towering Swede, netted 35 goals in the league with Ajax before moving on to clubs including Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan and Juventus winning league titles with them all before joining Manchester United this past Summer.
These two players alone prove that writing off star performers in the Eredivisie before they’ve had the opportunity to play in another league is a serious risk. Klaassen is a player I believe can follow in the footsteps of other Ajax greats such as Ibrahimović and Suarez and make a big impact on European football.
As a midfielder, Klaassen’s goal scoring stats are currently hugely unrivalled across Europe’s top 5 leagues. So let’s take a closer look at the other top scoring midfielders across Europe:
Fabinho (AS Monaco)
The top scoring midfielder in France’s Ligue 1 so far this season is Monaco’s Brazilian enforcer Fabinho with 5 goals, he has scored 3 in the league and 2 in Champions League qualification across 12 games. Fabinho has played one less match yet has 4 less goals than Klaassen. Taking into account the difference in standards of leagues, Klaassen has still managed double what Fabinho did in Champions League qualification. Also with 4 of Fabinho’s 5 goals coming from the penalty spot these stats are proving him to be more of a solid penalty taker than a midfield goal scorer, although 4 of Klaassen’s 9 have also come from the 12 yard spot he has scored far more from open play making Klaassen the victor in this battle.
Franck Kessié (Atalanta)
Italy’s current leading midfield goal scorer is the 19-year-old Ivorian Franck Kessié. The tenacious midfielder has managed to grab 4 goals in the league and 1 in the Italian cup in 7 appearances. Klaassen has the advantage of playing 6 more games overall than Kessié due to Ajax’s Champions League qualification and Europa League commitments putting him ahead in the goal scoring tables. However, on average Kessié is edging it with a ratio of 0.71 goals per game compared with Klaassen’s 0.69. There is very little to split them. With the difference in quality of leagues and Kessié’s presumable lack of service at 16th placed Atalanta in comparison to Klaassen’s service from a 2nd placed Ajax I feel Kessié has got the slight advantage in this bout however Klassen has a history of scoring goals on his side.
Éttiene Capoue (Watford)
Watford’s French metronome Éttiene Capoue is currently in the form of his life. Going the entirety of the 2015/16 season scoring a whopping total of 0 goals for his club. Clearly, he has been bitten by some kind of Spider-man style arachnid, giving him the ability to bang in goals for fun opposed to inheriting the ability to climb walls and shoot webs. Capoue has scored 4 times in his 6 Premier League games taking everyone by surprise including a vital goal in Watford’s 3-1 victory over a Manchester United side containing the world record signing Paul Pogba and ex-Ajax players Zlatan Ibrahimović and Daley Blind. Albeit Klaassen has scored more than double Capoue’s goals he has played close to double the games Capoue has. If Capoue continues in this rich vein of form then the title is his, however, for now Klaassen is the reigning champion for both his volume and magnitude of goals considering he is scoring both domestically and in Europe.
Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Thorgan Hazard has had quite a remarkable start to his season and it looks as if he’s finally ready to step out of the shadow of his older brother, Eden. Hazard is highly comparable to Klaassen as, not only do they play the same position and were born a month apart, but Mönchengladbach and Ajax both had to play Champions League qualifiers at the start of the season. Klaassen’s 4 goals in 4 for qualifiers is a brilliant record but Hazards 3 in 2, in arguably the harder round of the competition, ever so slightly dwarfs Klaassen’s record. Not to mention Mönchengladbach actually managed to qualify for the Champions League (Sigh…). In fact, Hazard’s 1 goal in 2 Champions League appearances, against Barcelona of all people, beats Klassen’s 0 in 2 in the Europa League (Including a missed penalty) comfortably. The only area Klaassen is beating Hazard is in league scoring where Hazard has a respectful 3 in 5 whilst Klaassen has 5 in 7. Once again though, Bundesliga goals are generally regarded as much harder to score than Eredivsie goals. I mean, out of Nemanja Gudelj and Arturo Vidal I know who I’d rather line up against… Overall, Hazard is definitely the strongest contender for goals on this list, comfortably beating Klaassen in this face off, especially in terms of the stature of competition Hazard has scored his goals in.
Ivan Rakitic (FC Barcelona)
In a league where the preference is, generally, for midfielders who can dictate the tempo and control games rather than a dynamic central midfielder who can chip in with a few goals finding an outstanding candidate for this list was harder than finding a reason as to why Gudelj starts ahead of Bazoer every week. With 2 whole La Liga goals Ivan Rakitic is the top scoring central midfielder in La Liga across all competitions (I know, I struggled to believe it also). Perhaps an unfair comparison as, I suggested before, teams in La Liga have a preference to play with classy, cultured midfielders who control matches but here we can highlight an aspect of Klaassen’s game which is slightly lacking. Rakitic is a dynamic player who has a brilliant range of passing as well as a strong pair of lungs and legs which allows him to run longer than the Duracell bunny. His ability to dictate the tempo within games whilst delivering devastating passes and through balls, alongside chipping in with the odd goal, is what makes him one of the top central midfielders in the world. There are a lot of aspects from his game Klaassen could learn from, especially his passing which, for a central midfielder, I believe to be sub-par. Klaassen clearly has the goals locked down, in order to take his midfield game to the next level he must learn from other European midfielders such as Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos. Klaassen needs to become heartbeat of the team, not just a goal getter.
Overall, this list proves that Klaassen can 100% compete with other midfielders across Europe in terms of scoring goals. Regardless of opposition he is streaks ahead of most in regard to goal scoring with only really Thorgan Hazard rivalling his goal tally at this early stage of the campaign. I fully believe Klaassen would continue to score goals in any other league across Europe, his knack for arriving late into the box at the right time is unparalleled, however in order to become a top, top player he must draw on inspiration from other players at the top of their game across Europe.
If Klaassen was to culture his game in the way that players such as Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric have over the years then he would be the complete package. Who knows, perhaps one day we will be talking about Klaassen in the Ibrahimović/Suarez bracket. The balls in your court, Davy.