Danny Blind surprised many with his national team selection, in which he replaced Jetro Willems by Sporting Lisbon full back Marvin Zeegelaar. The 26 year old defender fell off the radar after leaving Ajax and took a big old detour into his international duty.
“I was lazy,” Zeegelaar confesses. “I guess I was a little late to realize what it means to be a pro footballer. I talked a lot with my father and thought about what the coaches had said earlier. I played well in all my clubs, by Sporting really turned the tide.”
Safe to say, you wouldn’t expect Zeegelaar to make the national team some five years ago. After just 4 appearances for Ajax, the club that brought him into big football, he was loaned out to Excelsior for half a season, and helped the team from Rotterdam avoid relegation. Instead of returning to the ArenA, he made his way to Spain, where he signed for Espanyol. “Eventually, it was my choice to leave,” Marvin comments.
But in Spain, he failed to make it out of the reserves and was soon set for a move to Turkey. Elazığspor, a then-Süper Lig side, allowed him 39 appearances, but also a not so pleasant move to England’s second tier team Blackpool. In the summer of 2014, upon Elazığspor’s relegation, he moved to Portugal where he finally reached his potential.
Zeegelaar initially signed a two year deal with Rio Ave and helped the team to a 10th place finish in his first season. He soon caught the eye of Portuguese giants Sporting, and a few months before his contract expired the club from Lisbon bought him for a bargain of 400 thousand euro’s.
“It’s been going well lately,” the left back says. “The Champions League fixtures against the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund really got me into the spotlight a bit.” Sporting currently sit 3rd in the Primeira Liga, 5 points behind rivals Benfica, and despite the fact that some fans still haven’t really taken a liking to the defender from Amsterdam, his performances finally got him the national team call-up he was hoping for. As he said himself: “I took a detour, but I finally arrived.”