FC Utrecht are enjoying themselves at present – and why not with European football for the first time since the 2004/05 campaign and in a Europa League group containing Napoli, Steaua Bucharest and this week’s opponents Liverpool. Returning to Europe was the main aim of Frans van Seumeren, a Dutch businessman – his company, Mammoet, specialises in the transportation of heavy objects – who became the largest shareholder in the club in 2008, having increased his shares to 63%. Van Seumeren knew that taking Utrecht back into Europe wouldn’t be an easy task and, in the summer of 2009, decided to gamble of a whole host of rising stars, including the now-highly rated Ricky van Wolfswinkel.
Van Wolfswinkel, born in 1989, has become a key player in Van Seumeren’s revolution since he joined Utrecht from Vitesse on a four-year deal. The striker was crucial in helping the club to victory in the Europa League playoffs, scoring two goals in two games against Groningen and then a brace in the final to pip Roda Kerkrade. However, for the forward that has proven to be just the beginning.
This season, Van Wolfswinkel has continued to fire for Utrecht, enjoying an excellent start, both in the Eredivisie – seven goals in seven games – and the Europa League – six goals, including a hat-trick against Celtic in the home leg of the Dutch side’s first round tie; a match that will be long remembered by the Utrecht faithful – despite a 2-0 deficit from the first leg at Parkhead, the Scottish side were trounced 4-0 at the Galgenwaard Stadium, with Van Wolfswinkel quickly labelled “Hat-tRicky” by the Dutch press. At present, with 13 goals, the 21-year-old is currently the top scorer in Holland.
While Utrecht might have produced a superb display against Celtic however, they have so far been unable to reproduce this form in the Eredivisie, where too many ups and downs have put them closer to the drop zone than the Europa League playoff places. Van Wolfswinkel though, to his credit, appears to be their lucky charm – Utrecht only win if he scores. In all the club’s games – except an early Europa League qualifier against Swiss side Luzern – Utrecht have needed the forward to hit the back of the net. When he has not, the best that can be hoped for is a draw, with defeat possible. In fact, even a good performance, as the side turned in against Napoli in the goalless draw at the San Paolo two weeks ago, does not yield victory without a Van Wolfswinkel strike.
The striker began his career at Vitesse Arnhem’s football academy, operating as either a frontman or attacking midfielder. Soon, Van Wolfswinkel was swapping to Vitesse’s A-youth team, choosing them ahead of Feyenoord and Utrecht. In the yellow and black shirt, the striker was the top scorer in the A-youth championship for two consecutive years. And finally, on 5th April 2008, at the age of 19, made his Eredivisie debut against Sparta Rotterdam.
“Van Wolfswinkel is a skilled forward who has a lot of potential”. That is the view of Cor Pot, the current boss of Holland’s Under-21 team. “He has pace, passing ability and a good shot with both feet.” A good base for sure, but Pot warns Van Wolfswinkel does still have some developing to do. “He needs to become physically stronger”, said the 59-year-old. “He is as tall as players like Fernando Torres, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Didier Drogba, but he weighs eight to 14 kilos less than them. Nothing to be worried about, he has time, he is just 21. At that age Ruud van Nistelrooy was still playing with FC Den Bosch.”
Utrecht’s bright new hope is linked with the footballing world in his private life too. The youngster’s girlfriend is Bianca Neeskens, daughter of Dutch legend Johan Neeskens, who coached Van Wolfswinkel for a short time in the now defunct Holland B team. Also the nephew of Erik Willarts (brother of the striker’s mother), a former Utrecht striker who was the second top scorer in 1986/87’s Eredivisie – after a certain Marco van Basten – Van Wolfswinkel has the game running through his blood.
Following years of dull football and equally dull results, FC Utrecht have rediscovered their ambition thanks to a clutch of stars. Belgian left winger Dries Mertens, goalkeeper Michael Vorm (the only Utrecht player in the Dutch World Cup squad), veteran midfielder Michael Silberbauer and, of course, Ricky van Wolfswinkel. Despite a difficult beginning to the club’s Eredivisie campaign, much is still expected from Ton Du Chatinier’s talented team. And success in the Europa League could be the boost they need.
Fonte: Inside Futbol