Some good news at Feyenoord: Robin van Persie’s second return, now as a youth coach


The highlight of Robin van Persie’s first return. He scores in 2019 with the right at Feyenoord -Ajax. Feyenoord then won 6-2.Image Photo Guus Dubbelman / de Volkskrant

The report that Robin van Persie (37) will return to Feyenoord for the second time next season has been spread widely over the club’s website in recent days, as if it were some kind of personal liberation day. There was plenty of images of the old striker’s broad smile, filled champagne glasses, a printed trainers shirt in gift paper that was cheerfully handed over by technical director Arnesen to Van Persie, who was later photographed in a kind of indoor football setup with his two agents and Arnesen. . Plus an interview on film with uplifting music underneath.

Feyenoord that puts the spotlight on the future, because the present feels bleak; it is a well-known reflex, almost a matter of course. The libelous loss against number last ADO Den Haag of last Sunday was expertly pushed out of the message column.

No, Van Persie is not going to pull the football boots out of the grease à la generation-mate Robben, he will be a youth trainer and assistant at the first. ‘Football is my passion and you have to follow it,’ he says in the interview. There is no mention of a future head coach, although Van Persie does have ‘an ideal image’ in terms of football, which touches on that of Arne Slot, the head coach next season. Perhaps Van Persie’s role will soon be even more important, as a connoisseur and kneader of the youth and ‘independent’ sounding board for Slot.

New Kings

They are the new kings. Their dead predecessors, in a figurative sense, are called Dirk Kuijt and Dick Advocaat. Kuijt started three years ago with even more fanfare and ambitions in the Feyenoord youth, he already had the promise that one day he would get the most important chair in the dug-out. Director Arnesen, employed since January 2020, opted for more experience in that place and Kuijt was gone, with a silent drum.

A lawyer, a few months ago still king, emperor and admiral in the Kuip, threatened to resign in The Hague on Sunday, but in the end never seriously considered it. Or yet again, that remained a bit vague. Lawyer came across as downright distraught after the failure against ADO. Direct placement for European football is out of sight, forcing Feyenoord to play play-offs. If Feyenoord wins it, it will be ready on 22 May and ‘the new Feyenoord’ has to play again on 22 July in the first of a total of three jump-offs to be admitted to the Conference League.

What does the team look like then? Mostly the same given the dire financial situation. Best player Steven Berghuis seems to be off to a fresh start, his contract is regal in Feyenoord terms in mid-2022.

Could be so much better

The captain is missing against champion Ajax on Sunday, just like Jens Toornstra. Both have been suspended after rude violations resulting from frustration. This Feyenoord could be so much better, they think, in spite of Advocaat’s view, who states that ‘the fight for fourth, fifth place is where this group belongs’.

Still, practically the same selection was well on its way to finding out Ajax and AZ last season. A number became champions with Feyenoord in 2017, others play for new contracts at Feyenoord or elsewhere and will therefore normally do their best instead of being distracted as Advocaat suspects.

In any case, the art is to turn all negativity into positive aggression, to create a collective enemy if necessary, but Advocaat will not be able to do that in 2021. With ‘when I see this team, players who earn top salaries, then I am ashamed’, he rather becomes that enemy himself.

The ADO failure does not stand alone. The entire second half of the season is, with a few exceptions, extremely difficult, while there are far fewer injuries, Feyenoord no longer plays European football and the newcomers should be used to it by now.

Sad ending

But stepping up so close to the finish would be a very sad end to Advocaat’s impressive career. And now sending the experienced coach away will criticize technical director Arnesen and the players. Plus the impractical task of finding an adequate, temporary successor.

Slot will not want to step in now, he is focusing on next season and has already spoken to Advocaat and Van Persie for a long time. Van Persie’s enthusiasm about those conversations is contagious. It also seems like a good combination: the former top football player Van Persie with his eye for detail, experience in the absolute top and positivism plus the professional idiot Slot who gave Cambuur and AZ a fit, cheerful and attacking face, the mirror image of the grooved, defensive face that Feyenoord now has.

There is quite a bit of talent in the first and in the youth. Yet it is brave that both want to step in. Van Persie, who will soon be trainer of son Shaqueel, had a great time on the padel court, in the riding school and as a well-paid analyst. Slot was in a spread bed at AZ.

That expectations are ultra-low after this drama season also works in their favor. Seen in this way, the excited reporting for ‘Robin’s return part II’ is quite understandable.

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