Young Dutch players leaving for the greener pastures of more competitive European leagues at youth level has become an intriguing rhetoric in the development of Dutch players. Jeffrey Bruma left Feyenoord for Chelsea at the age of 15 and after coming through their set-up, he only received a flurry of first team appearances. He was one of a few Chelsea players to be loaned to Hamburg due to their relationship with Frank Arnesen as he spent two seasons there after a loan spell at Leicester.
By the time he was 21, he was back in the Netherlands as PSV Eindhoven took a chance on him and he hasn’t looked back since. He started to climb to lofty heights after forming a steady partnership with Karim Rekik who had also left Feyenoord at youth level to join Manchester City as his career seems to have taken the same trajectory. Last season, they were an integral part of PSV’s dominant title run. Then Rekik chose to join Marseille permanently in the summer and Bruma had to adjust to a new partner in Hector Moreno this season.
It is intriguing that the defender who is still only 24, has arguably been at his best in the Champions League this season. His sense of danger has improved while his instinct of when to slide in and when to stay on his feet has been exemplary as him and Moreno have formed a solid partnership that was the backbone of PSV’s Last 16 qualification. Against Manchester United at the Phillips Stadion, he repelled everything in the air when PSV were 2-1 ahead while his positioning was reminiscent to one of his mentors at Chelsea, John Terry.
Against CSKA Moscow at home in the deciding game of the group stage, he was tasked with marking the pacy Ahmed Musa who had left the PSV defence bamboozled in the away fixture. He sometimes had to leave his position to close down Musa as his blend of athleticism, tough and clean tackles helped limit the Nigerian forward’s ability. His performances will be of more importance in the second-half of the season as PSV are still in the KNVB Bekker, Champions League and only three points behind Ajax in the Eredivisie.
This season PSV have altered to a more progressive playing style as they will look to press more and the defence will play a higher line as opposed to last season. He will need to show more initiative in his decision making, especially when playing attackers offside and improve his concentration, especially throughout games. The PSV defender will need specifically in the smaller games as little lapses in the Eredivisie have cost the Dutch champions a bounty of points this season. Bruma doesn’t have a shortage of critical acclaim from high-ranking figures in the Dutch game, especially as he continues to improve his game.
“Eight years ago, Jeffrey had everything he needs to be a top defender. He’s big, strong and fast. It was unfortunate for his development that he has played so little for so long. You see that he is getting better by getting what is required of his position. I also think it’s good for him that he plays with an experienced guy like Hector Moreno,” said Bruma’s former youth coach Cor Adriannse to De Telegraaf.
“I never stopped believing in Jeffrey Bruma,” exclaimed former PSV and current Chelsea scout Piet De Visser to De Telegraaf. “Together with Frans Bouwmeester I scouted him at the time at Feyenoord for Chelsea. He has a strong body and also a very good football character. At Chelsea he trained very quickly with the first team, where he fought duels with Didier Drogba and was addressed by John Terry. It’s just been such a shame that he, as a young player could not have a longer time to play alongside an experienced player as Terry.”
Now, with PSV’s focus on holding possession and playing out the back, PSV fans have been blessed to see the hulking defender’s blend of grace and calm on the ball. Bruma makes 50 passes at an astounding success rate of 88% with 6 accurate long balls per game, according to WhoScored. The defender makes 2 tackles per game with 2 interceptions, 6 clearances and 3 aerial battles as he and Moreno have formed a solid and experienced backbone to a young and exuberant team.
The next stage of Bruma’s career is to perform consistently in the Champions League and the Eredivisie while looking to replicate those performances for the Dutch National Team. In the last game of the disastrous Dutch Euro qualifying campaign saw him partner Virgil Van Dijk at centre-back in what was an atrocious performance against the Czech Republic. He will need to look to build on his 13 caps as it is a hope that his top-level experience in the Champions League will help him improve in the National Team. Bruma has arguably been PSV’s best player in the Champions League and will continue to develop as a player at PSV where he finally has a place to call home.