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Xavi Simons: The Netherlands boast ‘next Mesut Ozil’ in battle for Euro 2024 Best Young Player crown

By Will Evans

Published: 16:30, 10 June 2024

Xavi Simons is a man in demand — and a strong showing at Euro 2024 will only increase the clamour for his signature.

The Paris Saint-Germain starlet has drawn admiring glances from across the continent, after an outstanding campaign on loan at RB Leipzig.

Now he’ll be looking to make his mark at international level, as the Netherlands target a first European Championship triumph since 1988 at Euro 2024.

Star qualities

Plays like: Mesut Ozil

Arsenal are reportedly keeping tabs on Simons, who has drawn comparisons with Gunners legend Mesut Ozil.

He certainly has the creative skills to emulate the German, having conjured the joint fourth-most chances in the Bundesliga this season (79).

That has resulted in an impressive 11 league assists, which was only bettered by Bayer Leverkusen’s Alex Grimaldo (13).

Much like Ozil, Simons is adept at playing defence-splitting passes — attempting (19) and completing (10) the second-most through-balls in the division.

But the 21-year-old is arguably a more well-rounded player than Arsenal’s former No.10.

For starters, he possesses electric pace and sublime dribbling skills, which saw him complete a notably-high 84 Bundesliga take-ons in 2023/24.

The versatile attacking midfielder is adept at regaining possession, too, having won the ball 29 times in the attacking third — the fourth-most in Germany’s top tier.

And it would be remiss not to mention Simons’ goalscoring ability.

He racked up a remarkable 19 goals in 34 Eredivisie games while on loan at PSV in 2022/23, and chipped in with a commendable eight league strikes in the Bundesliga.

The Dutchman will be looking to improve on that tally next season, though, after amassing a high volume of shots (81) and shots on target (33) without reaching double figures.

Nonetheless, Simons’ broad skill set makes it unsurprising that the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea and Arsenal are monitoring his progress.

Parent club PSG will also be watching on with interest, when the prodigious youngster lines up for the Netherlands at Euro 2024.

International pedigree

Simons has won 13 caps for the Netherlands, with the majority of his appearances coming in European Championship qualification.

The Netherlands finished second in Group B to secure passage to Germany, with the Amsterdam native starting seven matches and coming off the bench once.

Notably, the Oranje won six of those eight fixtures, as Simons primarily featured in a central attacking midfield berth or out on the left wing.

And his ability to defend from the front was evident at international level, with a record of 1.54 possession regains in the attacking third per 90 putting him inside the competition’s top 20 players for that metric during qualifying.

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Simons was also involved in both the Netherlands’ matches at the 2023 Nations League finals and — perhaps most significantly — became the youngest Dutch player to appear in the knockout stages of a World Cup, when he came on as a substitute in the 3-1 round of 16 win over the USA at Qatar 2022.

That was his only appearance of the tournament, though, so he will be determined to make a greater impact this summer.

The talented youngster appears to be a favourite of current Netherlands boss Ronald Koeman, so it would be surprising if he didn’t feature regularly in Germany.

Group stage fixtures against Poland and Austria should offer Simons a chance to shine on the continental stage, while a match-up with France represents an opportunity to showcase his ability against one of Europe’s best outfits.

 

Club season snapshot

Simons will be able to reflect on a job well done ahead of Euro 2024, having helped RB Leipzig secure Champions League qualification.

Die Roten Bullen finished fourth, two points ahead of Borussia Dortmund, despite drawing all of their final three matches.

Simons ended the campaign strongly on a personal level, too, registering assists against Wolfsburg and BVB in April, before scoring a penalty in the 2-2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on the final day.

That will be music to the ears of Koeman and all Oranje supporters, as will some of his performances in the Champions League this term.

The former Barcelona youngster scored twice and assisted two more goals in the group stage, including a pair of ‘goal of the season’ contenders.

A sumptuous long-range strike in the home clash with Crvena zvezda was followed by an even more memorable effort in Belgrade, when Simons charged into the box before lifting the ball majestically past goalkeeper Omri Glazer.

And that penchant for the spectacular has continued, with a wonderful turn-and-shot against Bayer Leverkusen catching the eye in January, before another sensational hit from distance against Borussia Monchengladbach the following month.

The challenge now for Simons is to bring those game-changing attributes to this summer’s tournament — and help the Netherlands challenge for Euro 2024 glory.