The talents of Ajax and Feyenoord are stealing the spotlights. Christian Eriksen, Viktor Fischer, Jordy Clasie or Stefan de Vrij are all highly appreciated by foreign scouts. But in the shadows, there sleeps a growing star in the form of Adam Maher.
Khalid Boulahrouz and Ibrahim Affelay, two good Dutch football players, like Adam Maher, of Moroccan blood. The 19-year old midfielder was born in Ait Izzou on 20 July 1993. Young Adam moved to Holland at a very young age.
Growing up, Adam’s life was centered on football, as a little boy; he was always outside kicking the ball on the streets, or playing football with his friends on a schoolyard. He knew what he wanted to become: a professional football player. His dad signed him up for amateur club SV Diemen, later moving to another amateur club AVV Zeeburgia. These clubs were quite aware of his talents, and let Adam enter several talent days. Ajax tested the young midfielder on three occasions and Maher got rejected all times. Maher was persistent though: “When I got rejected by Ajax, I just felt I had to keep on going.” In the same year (2004), AZ Alkmaar showed up and snatched up the midfielder. Ironically, according to Zeeburgia, Ajax showed interest after the deal with AZ was done.
Adam’s persistent mentality grew when AZ signed the youngster. ”I stopped playing on the streets and school yards. What if I get an injury? In the past football was just fun, now it’s turning more serious.”
Coming up through the ranks, six years later, his grand moment was finally there. Adam Maher made his debut for AZ on 15 December 2010 in the Europa League match against FK BATE Borisov. He came in for Wernbloom, and immediately made an impact by scoring a goal. With his goal, he also broke a record; he became the youngest Dutch goalscorer in a Europa League match (17 years old and 147 days). The match count for season 10/11 would remain on one, but the hunger and determination were very visible.
The next season can be considered as Adam’s break-through season. Due to several departures in the midfield, AZ gave the youngster a chance in the first team, a chance generously accepted by Maher. Positioned as the most attacking midfielder, Maher notched up a total of 34 appearances, scoring a total of 11 goals; quite impressive for an 18-year old midfielder. Consequently, Adam Maher won The Eredivisie talent of the Year award. Johan Cruijff, the Dutch football legend, crowned Maher the winner and said: “Adam Maher deserved to win this prize.”
The current season, Maher, even though still at a young age of 19, is expected to carry his team. AZ are having a horrible season sitting in 13rd position, in comparison to last season’s fourth place. Dark and gruesome clouds are hanging above AZ, but Maher is one of the few shining lights in the squad. Even though the season is not over yet, the youngster won an informal tag of being the ‘biggest talent of the Eredivisie’. A panel of Dutch football experts made a top 25 list, and Maher finished on top.
The AZ-midfielder has featured in every youth side of the Dutch national team. On August 15, 2012 he made his official debut for the senior squad. He is currently capped four times for Oranje.
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
Adam Maher can be described as an elegant football player, and, although very versatile, is best manifested in the attacking midfield role. AZ assistant coach Martin Haar has compared Adam Maher to the likes of Cesc Fabregas. The comparison is somewhat justified as Fabregas now takes on a more advanced role at Barcelona. Maher is the ultimate playmaker and possesses every asset to excel in that role. His dribbling, pace, and technique are one of a kind, and, paired with his creativity, the young midfielder swerves through the lines to cause danger.
Famous boxer Mohamed Ali once said: “Fly like a butterfly and sting like a bee”. Maher’s style reflects the saying. With his tender body, fast feet and agility, he’s very hard to stop, and with eye-of-the needle passing and a deadly shot, he’s capable of causing serious havoc to the enemy defenses.
On technical terms, Adam Maher is a very gifted player. Former Dutch international Pierre van Hooijdonk said: “Based on technical abilities, he’s is absolutely the best in the Eredivisie.” The many hours spent on school yards and streets have paid their dividends, as Maher excels in a small area. He’s a type of player that people pay to watch football. From no-look passes to functional elastico’s, Adam Maher governs these skills into perfection. In AZ’s match against Ajax, the young midfielder imitated a brilliant move of Barcelona maestro Iniesta. When confronted, Maher laughed and said: “True, the night before I saw Iniesta doing the same move during Real Madrid – Barcelona.”
Although his style is similar to Iniesta’s, Xavi is his grand idol. “You have Iniesta, but Xavi is the man. I watch how he stands on the pitch, the way he plays, and the way he passes.” Xavi’s influence can be seen in Maher’s way of playing. Due to a lucrative transfer of Rasmus Elm to CSKA Moscow in 2012, Maher was pulled back into a more conservative midfield role. As a central midfielder, the teenager functioned as a deep-lying playmaker for AZ, relying more on his vision, hard work and passing capabilities.
He filled in the role with decency; the problem lies in Maher’s natural urge forward. When playing in this controlling and steering position, one must pace the match and dose their forward runs. Adam Maher has often made runs, jeopardizing the midfield balance, and forgetting his defensive responsibilities.
His defensive qualities are not his strongest point. Only weighing 64 kilos at 1.75m, Maher gets knocked off the ball quite easily. However, like his biggest idol, what he lacks physically he makes up for in inch-perfect positioning, intercepting the ball by smart play and movement.
A more defensive role does not suit Maher’s nature; the teenager should be positioned as an attacking midfielder to fully excel and to dominate.
Maher possesses everything to become a world-star. One point of improvement is his lack of goals and assists. This season, Maher has scored six goals and provided six assists in 27 league appearances. His youthfulness is to blame for it, often attempting to score in a beautiful fashion instead of a clinical finish. As the teenager ages and matures, his productivity will surely rise.
A talent of his class is always being linked to the biggest clubs, and for Maher it is not different. Reportedly, Manchester City are interested in signing the young midfield star from AZ Alkmaar. The Premier League giants are willing to offer £15.4million, which is equivalent to €18 million. Previously, Adam Maher has been linked to other giants like Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal.
Adam Maher feels that his time has come to take the next step in his career. ”I’m looking forward to the moment that I can take the next step. Next summer it will finally happen.” He is also very clear in his choice, stating: “I said I want to move to one of the two biggest clubs in Holland, I’m referring to PSV or Ajax.” Both these clubs have showed interest in the AZ wonder kid. Last winter, PSV were very close in signing Adam Maher. The club from Eindhoven made an official bid of €6.5million, but AZ declined the offer, pointing towards their asking price of €10million.
This summer, without a doubt, Maher will make his move. If reports are true, then Maher will have to choose between money or a wise career move. My guess is that the youngster will move to Ajax – being born in Amsterdam, the teenager has a weakness for Ajax. Additionally, with Christian Eriksen linked to almost every top club in Europe, he will be the perfect replacement for the Danish playmaker.