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Feyenoord: The road back to the top

Siew Joe Lee of Dutch Football League guests for us today and tells us about the fall and rise of one of Holland's biggest clubs, Feyenoord.

Dutch Eredivisie - Feyenoord v PSV

Feyenoord are one of the biggest clubs in the Netherlands, and have always been considered as a traditional top three club in the Eredivisie, having won 14 Eredivisie titles and 11 KNVB Cups. De Trots van Zuid have established quite a name for themselves across the continent. In Europe, the club have won the European Cup once (the predecessor to the Champions League) and the UEFA Cup twice.

The line-ups for the 1970 European Cup Final between Celtic and Feyenoord. Courtesy of Zotteteen1

Football is known for its ups and downs, and climbing to the top is one of the hardest things to do for any club. Once you reach the top, continuity is key and staying on top is near impossible. Feyenoord hit rock bottom in its downfall, starting in the 2006-07 season when the club signed established names like Roy Makaay, Kevin Hofland and Giovanni van Bronckhorst. These players earned relatively high wages for any Eredivisie club, and the club’s finances started to creak.

The main problem was that these players were expected to carry the team, but they failed to do so. This resulted in an eventual 7th place finish in season 2008-09, a massive 35 points behind league winners AZ Alkmaar.  A sum of massive existing debt, not qualifying for the Champions League and the high wages that were paid to these established players pushed Feyenoord into a financial slump. There was no money for new signings, and the current team selection was far from competitive.

Due to some creative financial counteractions (cutting the existing wages, selling out shares and selling a percentage of ownership of talented players) Feyenoord managed to shrink their debt to €17 million. This allowed the club to gain some financial momentum, but big, costly signings were still not permitted.

The club was a mere shadow of what it was in the past. Performances were under par for several seasons, with the nadir being the 10-0 hammering against PSV Eindhoven and finishing 10th on the final league table in the 2010/2011 season.

Their poor league performances had taken a huge toll on their finances. Feyenoord were set back in a so-called Category 1 financial position, which means that the club was strongly being monitored by the KNVB and were forbidden from signing any new players.  When it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, hope arose. A group called Vrienden van Feyenoord invested a large lump of money into the club and a new technical director was appointed in the form of Martin van Geel.

At the start of the 2011/2012 season, van Geel appointed Ronald Koeman as the new Feyenoord coach. This has proven to be a fantastic move. Ronald Koeman’s vision of football was a perfect match for Feyenoord. The squad for the season consisted of a fine mix of talented youth players, with the likes of Jordy Clasie, John Guidetti and Stefan de Vrij alongside experienced players like Karim El Ahmadi and Ron Vlaar. Ronald Koeman’s squad managed to finish 2nd, receiving a golden qualifying ticket for the Champions League.

Graziano Pelle is the current hero of the Feyenoord faithful.

This season, Feyenoord are climbing up the league rapidly and should be considered as a contender for the title again. The club signed Graziano Pellè from Parma in the summer to fill the void that was left open by the departure of John Guidetti.  With the league coming to the end, Pellè has bagged in 20 goals and is proving to be a rising star in the Feyenoord red and white. Together with talented youth players like Erwin Mulder, Stefan de Vrij, Bruno Martins-Indi, Jean-Paul Boëtius, Jordy Clasie and Tonny Trindade de Vilhena, the club is fighting for the title.

With eight games left in the Eredivisie, Ajax are currently on top with 54 points. However, Feyenoord trails only one point behind and the team have a great opportunity to become league champions for the first time since 1999.

These youngsters are the new face of Feyenoord, and it is a noteworthy fact that Feyenoord, with seven call-ups in the last national squad, are starting to provide the spine of the Dutch national team.  The talent, eagerness and mentality of these young players have driven Feyenoord back to the top of the Eredivisie.

Published with permission from BornoffSide.

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