Southampton have made their fifth purchase of the summer after the club announced the signing of Feyenoord captain Jordy Clasie for a fee arising to £8.5m.
Clasie signed a five-year-deal at St Mary’s last night and is expected to be the direct replacement for Morgan Schneiderlin, after the French international departed the Saints for Manchester United in a deal worth £25m.
The diminutive midfielder came through the lauded Varkenoord academy and spent in total fifteen years at Feyenoord, first breaking through under Saints manager Ronald Koeman in 2011-12 after a successful year at Excelsior on loan, wearing the captain’s armband in his final season in the Eredivisie.
After 152 appearances in the red and white of Rotterdam’s biggest club, Clasie will receives a goodbye worthy of his reputation when Saints travel to Holland for a preseason tour, which culminates in a friendly at Feyenoord’s De Kuip home.
Saints were competing with clubs from Serie A and the Premier League for the Dutch international’s signature, but Clasie wanted to link up once again with Koeman, the manager who taught him ‘how to be a leader, and cried into his shirt when the Saints boss gave his own goodbye to De Kuip last year.
To give us the lowdown on the player many call ‘The Dutch Xavi’, we spoke to Mark Lievisse Adriaanse, who when he is not studying for his Masters degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics writes football about the Eredivisie for Benefoot.net and runs the news account which covers all about the club he supports, Feyenoord.
St Mary’s Musings: Clasie is expected to join Southampton for a fee around £8.5m. What is the feeling of Feyenoord fans towards his departure?
Mark Lievisse Adriaanse: Most people are happy for Clasie. He's been with Feyenoord for fifteen years and was the club's captain last year. Clasie is a player that is very appreciated by the club's fans: he's from the academy, works hard and never gives up. It fits the profile of a perfect Feyenoord player.
Last year, he was the best player in the team and even the whole Eredivisie. But people also understand that Clasie is ready for a next step in his career, to a bigger league with stronger opponents. While feeling regret to see him go after so many years with the club, I think that people are happy for him to make such a good transfer.
SMM: For those fans who have not seen Clasie play, what are his best qualities and what do you think are his weakest areas?
MLA: Clasie is a typical defensive midfielder: small, with a lot of football intellect and passing qualities. His main quality is to "read the game" and see options that others don't. His through balls are very good and show that he combines a strong football intellect with good ball control and passing.
His main weakness might be his lack of goals, although to be fair to him, it was not his role as a controlling midfielder to create chances and score goals. Another weakness might be his physical ability, although he is getting stronger and has more pace every year. He might be substituted a lot during his first months with Southampton, because of the higher tempo of the Premier League, but he'll catch on quickly.
SMM: In an article you wrote recently for Benefoot you speak about his strong bond with Ronald Koeman. Is that the biggest draw for him towards Southampton, and do you think the Saints are a good fit for Clasie?
MLA: Yes, I think the main reason he is moving to Southampton and not AS Roma or Schalke 04 is his bond with Koeman. Without Koeman, Clasie might now be playing at a smaller Dutch side. Koeman gave him a chance in the summer of 2011, and started playing him more often. Koeman has been crucial in Clasie's development. He has taught Clasie a lot about pressuring during a game, for example.
Eventually he became one of the most important players in Koeman's Feyenoord. Southampton is the right choice. He is not ready for the absolute top yet, and this is a good club to adapt to a stronger league.
SMM: It won't be long until Clasie returns to De Kuip with Southampton in a preseason friendly next week. How are Southampton seen by Feyenoorders; ruthless vultures, or a popular club with Koeman, Pellè and now Clasie?
MLA: The Saints are a popular club, I think. Or at least people liked what Koeman and Pelle accomplished last year. Koeman was the man who took Feyenoord from the worst season in the club history, including a 10-0 defeat to PSV, to the second spot in the Eredivisie. He basically brought back pride to Feyenoord. People haven't forgotten what he meant for Feyenoord.
Graziano Pellè was a prolific goal scorer for the club and was extremely popular, a popularity not many footballers have been met with at Feyenoord. Last season, many fans travelled to Southampton to see how Koeman and Pellè were doing. I think it will be a friendly match in its truest form.
SMM: Finally, Clasie will fill the position recently vacated by club icon, Morgan Schneiderlin. Have Southampton fans got anything to worry about with the Dutchman replacing Schneiderlin, even with his diminutive stature?
MLA: Clasie might have some problems at first adapting to the physically stronger play of the Premier League, but he'll adapt soon. With his qualities and football intellect, I expect him to become a very important and strong player in the Saints' squad. Koeman knows his qualities and flaws and he'll know how to play him right. Clasie will be loved.
We thank Mark for his time, and wish him all the best in his studies and writing. You can follow Mark on Twitter at @Markla94.