Nijmegen, Netherlands. 27 November 2011. Ajax lead NEC 2-0 away from home, with nine minutes to go. 18-year-old Davy Klaassen is substituted on for Nicolas Lodeiro to make his senior league debut. Klaassen is highly thought of even at his tender age, currently on his way to the Nike Eredivisie league title with the under-19s, and the final of the NextGen Series. Fourty seconds later, Christian Eriksen is finding space on the right of the box, and uses the ball smartly to create enough space for a pass into the centre of the box. He dinks the ball in to Klaassen, whose first touch creates enough space to get away from two defenders and on to his right foot, for a shot. His shot eludes the NEC goalkeeper at the away end, and fans go crazy for the young Dutchman for the first time of many.
Klaassen went on to be the adored captain of the club he had played for since the age of eleven, scoring 50 goals and making 33 assists in 162 appearances. He earned the plaudits of Johan Cruyff and was likened to Dennis Bergkamp, as well as being touted as a replacement for Eriksen when he left for Spurs in 2013. 55 chances created and 12 goals in 30 games for Ajax in what would turn out to be his last season in Amsterdam turned the heads of several top European clubs, but it was national icon Ronald Koeman who Klaassen chose, with the exciting prospect of playing in the Premier League, as well as reported wages of £100,000.
It seemed Klaassen would fit in perfectly with what Koeman was trying to do at Everton, and at the time I described him as ‘an intelligent, technically-gifted attacking midfielder with an intuition for pressing and the ability to position himself well to provide a creative outlet for his teammates’.
However after his £23 million move, rather than helping Everton, if anything (on those wages) Klaassen was a hindrance during his short career at Goodison.
Klaassen struggled with the physicality of the Premier League during the run of games Koeman granted him at the start of last season, so was given a spell out of the team in an attempt to sort himself out. Whether Koeman would have been better continuing to throw the Dutchman into the deep end to learn his trade is debatable.
Klaassen won just 21% of his duels in Royal Blue, which is clearly not what Evertonians want to see from a midfielder, being used to no-nonsense generals in the middle of the park. Rather comically, Klaassen had the best shot accuracy at Everton last season – 100%. However, these were just two shots on target in his seven appearances.
Ajax and Netherlands fans knew Klaassen as an attacking midfielder, and with the big-name signings of Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson at the same time, the 25-year-old struggled to find a game in his preferred position. Klaassen was eventually outcast by the man who signed him, and gained the sympathy of Everton fans after coming out to declare he wanted to stay and offer something to the club, amidst January speculation. Sam Allardyce was in the managerial hot seat by this point, and despite a few substitute appearances, never really put any faith into a man who he saw with obviously shattered confidence.
Bill Kenwright declared that neither Klaassen, nor Sandro, would be sold during the Summer, but Marco Silva has made the executive decision following pre-season that the midfielder is not in his plans. This liberates a large chunk of Everton’s swollen wage bill following the departure of Wayne Rooney, and frees up another spot in Silva’s similarly swollen squad.
So, will Klaassen be remembered as Everton’s worst ever signing? There have been some pretty bad ones. Royston Drenthe has to be considered, but showed glimpses of promise, which cannot really be said for Klaassen. Alex Nyarko is up there after the incident with the fan, and of course Lars Jacobsen. Per Kroldrup is a name often mentioned in this category, as is Sandro Ramirez – but this could be proved wrong (although highly unlikely).
Fans softened to Davy Klaassen during his absolute flop of a season, probably out of our own kindness and sympathy. I’m sure we all wish the best to Davy during his time in Germany after his move to Werder Bremen (in which Everton have had to take a loss of £10 million), and hope his career finally hits the heights it so promised early on.