FEATURE | Why Louis van Gaal should take Xavi Simons to the World Cup

Xavi Simons has been included in the preliminary Netherlands World Cup squad, and for a number of reasons, Louis van Gaal should name the 19-year-old in his final selection.

Simons has been the talk of the town in the Netherlands this season, dazzling since joining PSV from PSG on a free transfer in the summer.

In 10 Eredivisie matches, he has eight goals and three assists, and is looking like one of the most exciting young Dutch players around.

That enormous talent he possesses is the biggest reason why Van Gaal should take him to Qatar despite never selecting him in one of his squads before.

His set of skills makes him the perfect player to bring off the bench towards the end of a match. If the Netherlands are leading, he’ll be absolutely lethal on the counter-attack with his speed and dribbling, while he has the creativity to unlock defences if his nation are in need of a goal.

The Netherlands had players come on to do just that in the previous two World Cups they competed in, with Eljero Elia being the super sub in 2010 and Memphis Depay in 2014. Both were absolutely crucial to their respective teams, providing them with much-needed energy and flair and creating goals in the process.

Simons is the perfect man to fill this role, that of a super sub, in this year’s tournament, arguably more so than anyone else in the preliminary selection.

That’s not the only reason he should make the cut either by any means, with his versatility being another string to his bow.

Oranje will set up in 3-4-1-2 formation, and the PSV man is capable of playing in multiple positions in this system. He can be one of the two central midfielders, the number 10 or one of the two strikers.

He has displayed such versatility at his club already this season, playing across the forward line as well as in midfield, and it’s a quality that is invaluable at international tournaments.

Injuries and suspensions are likely to occur, and in Simons, Van Gaal would have a player that could provide cover for five of the 11 players in the starting XI.

What’s more, he could fill multiple positions during a match if the manager wanted to change his formation during it, saving him a substitute; for proof of how important such an ability is, just look at how crucial Dirk Kuyt was when the Dutch turned things around late against Mexico in 2014, playing as a full-back, wing-back, winger and striker in the space of 90 minutes.

Van Gaal is a manager that isn’t afraid to make in-game changes if things aren’t working, and Simons would give him more freedom to do so.

His inclusion wouldn’t just be good for Oranje this year either, but could benefit the national team for years to come too.

The experience of a major tournament can be invaluable for a young player and hugely aid their development, as it did for Arjen Robben when Dick Advocaat took him to Euro 2004. Thanks in part to that experience, Robben went on to be the Netherlands’ best player on the biggest stages for years to come, and Simons can be too.

There, of course, aren’t any guarantees, but any chance to improve the odds of that being the case should be taken given the rewards it would reap.

The fact that Simons could well be the future of Oranje is a big enough reason alone to take him to the World Cup next month; add in the fact that he can already add a huge amount to the team in the present, and the decision becomes a no-brainer.

Finley Crebolder

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