Think Philipp Lahm will be the only trained full-back to also feature in midfield at the 2014 World Cup?
Ajax product Daley Blind—son of club legend Danny Blind—is already providing Louis van Gaal with impressive positional flexibility, and it’s possible the 24-year-old, who was recently named Dutch Footballer of the Year, could be following the Netherlands manager to Manchester United in July.
Louis van Gaal has identified Ajax star Daley Blind as a possible major summer signing ahead of the new season, according to The Express.— United News (@Mufc_Info) May 26, 2014
Late last month, both Jamie Anderson of the Express and the Manchester Evening News linked Blind with a move to Old Trafford, and while it has long been thought his path may follow that of Van Gaal, who coached his father in the 1990s, his first piece of business will be helping an underrated Dutch side achieve some semblance of success in Brazil.
To that end, it’s likely he’ll be deployed in various roles against group-stage opponents Spain, Australia and Chile.
273 - Daley Blind had more touches (273) than any other Dutch player in the three World Cup warm up matches. Involved.— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 9, 2014
In a pre-tournament match at home to Ghana, Blind functioned as a left-sided wing-back in a 5-3-2 formation and provided useful width against a side that played considerably more narrow. But four days later against Wales, he was running the show in the centre of the park—completing 90 per cent of his passes, contributing seven tackles and touching the ball more often than anyone else on the pitch, according to WhoScored.com.
Given his history as a full-back and recent transition to midfield, which was helped along by Ajax boss Frank de Boer, the comparisons to Lahm are inevitable.
Both players are masterful distributors of the ball, and both possess the smarts that have inspired their club managers to modify their positions.
Blind, for example, made an eye-popping 76 interceptions in 29 Eredivisie matches for Ajax, as per Squakwa, and of the more than 2,000 passes he completed over the course of the season, nearly two-thirds moved the ball forward.
77 - Daley Blind made 77 tackles this season, more than any other Ajax player in the Eredivisie. #Oranje23— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) May 31, 2014
Given the absence of midfielder Kevin Strootman through injury, it may fall to Blind to orchestrate the Netherlands’ possession game at the World Cup. That is, of course, unless he’s asked to play a significant role in a counterattacking system, as he did against Ghana.
No doubt he’ll be an asset wherever he operates, and as Van Gaal continues to take to him, the chances of an Old Trafford switch become more and more likely as well.