Sandwiched between the Eredivisie and the amateur Tweede Divisie, the Eerste Divisie is a relatively low-level competition, yet it has nurtured a number of high-level prospects. Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt spent a season there, Steven Bergwijn and Mohamed Ihattaren the same. It is now, once again, providing competitive minutes for the Netherlands’ next generation: Naci Ünuvar, Kenneth Taylor, Mohammed Taabouni, among many others.
Joey Veerman was another young player who made his way in the second division of Dutch football. Born and raised in a traditional fishing village, a short distance north-east of Amsterdam, on the shores of the Markemeer, Veerman had spent his entire career at his local club, FC Volendam. He broke into their first-team as a 17-year-old three seasons ago, immediately making an impression with his distinctive skillset in midfield. Having won the club’s Player of the Year award – as well the admiring appraisal from another Volendam man, Wim Jonk – in his first senior season, Eredivisie clubs quickly circled, but Volendam held firm and managed to keep him until this past summer.
Last season was a difficult one for Veerman; after a couple of strong senior sasons, he suffered his first significant setback. A broken bone in his foot kept him out until the New Year, then the injury manifested itself in other areas of his foot, side-lining him until late April. Out of the spotlight, his standing slumped – and SC Heerenveen took full advantage.
They picked Veerman up late in the summer window for a reported 550,000 Euro, half the fee clubs offered Volendam a year prior. Reeling from his first career setback, he managed to take a big step forward. He has not looked back since.
Joey Veerman's style of play
Joey Veerman is a thoroughly satisfying player to watch. Blessed with an upright posture and a graceful gait, he moves around midfield with a poise befitting of the romantic virtues that Dutch football has struggled to uphold in recent years. And there is substance to his refined style. Even by the highest Eredivisie standards, Veerman is an excellent technician with a range of practical abilities.
Good fundamental skills provide a solid platform upon which he showcases his standout talents: press resistance and passing. He does the basics well – like scanning his surroundings often, checking for pressure and visualising his next action, and approaching the ball with an open posture – which enables him to receive possession in any situation and operate with a controlled tempo.
Veerman’s mobility with the ball when pressured is of a high level, and directly correlates to the skills previously alluded to. Coordinating deliberate awareness and composure with close control, he identifies pressure well and reacts accordingly, be it to quickly pass the ball onto an open team-mate, turn away with the ball in the opposite direction, or string together a couple of intricate touches to freeze an opponent and slide past him. There is an inherent and enjoyable simplicity to what he does when pressured, yet opponents struggle to stop him. His two completed dribbles per 90 minutes ranks in the 90th percentile of all Eredivisie midfielders, and a completion rate of 64 percent is above average too.
Having received the ball and dealt with any pressure he is put under, Veerman possesses a high-level range of passing that can adapt to whatever the situation dictates. He can circulate possession in deeper positions, link play across the pitch, play long diagonals that find wide attackers, attack depth with direct balls over defences, or break lines with quick, accurate passes that progress possession and are difficult to defend.
Such range is made all the more potent by his willingness to play expansively when possible; a high risk, high reward attitude that defines Veerman’s game. He rarely hesitates when he spots a player showing between lines or a runner attacking space. Whilst inefficient, see his 78.8 percent pass accuracy this season, it is effective: he is one of the primary midfield creators in the Netherlands, and a fair chunk of his shot production derives from his ambitious pass selection.
Veerman is a midfielder who balances control and tempo. He is rarely rushed in possession, instead he creates time for himself and adapts the speed at which he plays. His ability as a passing pivot highlights his intelligence, technical level, and that balance: he is highly-proficient at quickly switching from a sensible passer, retaining possession, to an expansive playmaker, facilitating quick transitions and progressing possession into attacking areas. He needs little time and few touches to gather and release the ball, practically doing so in one fluid action, and it injects a clinical speed into the way his teams counter-attack.
No aspect of Veerman’s defensive ability can match his level as a technician, yet a few do show some promise. His mobility – functional speed, agility, physicality – provides some value, as does his willingness to work hard within specific structures. His awareness when defending in set blocks leaves a lot to be desired, but 2.6 tackles made per 90, whilst a little flattering, demonstrates his practical disposition and ability to be impactful without the ball. He can also improve by remaining more focused on both sides of the ball; he can switch off defensively and becomes sloppy in possession too.
Forecasting Joey Veerman's future
It took Veerman a little longer than expected to reach this level, but that makes the season he has had all the more satisfying – he hit the ground running and has hardly slowed down since. Heerenveen have hit a little blip of late, but Veerman’s individual performances are still of a good level as his momentum builds.
That momentum could easily take him elsewhere this coming summer if he remains healthy; it is not uncommon for players to take big career steps in quick succession having finally made the initial one. A move to a big Eredivisie team – Ajax, who need a midfielder of his profile, for instance – would be within his abilities. Outside of the Netherlands, Atalanta and Bologna have been excellent at extracting value from Benelux markets recently. Whatever comes next, his profile as a press-beating, playmaking passer will attract many admirers. For a kid from a small
Joey Veerman is a strong technician with a fluent mobility on the ball and a high-level range of passing. He can slip pressure with neat dribbling ability and progress play with a variety of passes. He injects tempo into moves with incisive passing a quick-touch tempo.
Joey Veerman has potential to be a decent defender, but his awareness and intensity often leaves a lot to be desired. His aggressive pass selection can also be too ambitious, turning possession over too regularly.