Football News

Rafael van der Vaart: Xavi Simons has world-class potential

By Ben Green

Published: 22:14, 6 March 2023

Former Real Madrid and Tottenham playmaker Rafael van der Vaart believes teenage sensation Xavi Simons has all the hallmarks of a world-class player in the making.

The 19-year-old rose to prominence during his very embryonic years at Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, generating mass attention after clips emerged of him online dominating youth matches with his slippery feet and creative wizardry.

Such was the hype around Simons that PSG offered him a bumper contract to trade Catalonia for the French capital in 2019, and the Amsterdammer duly accepted, pitching up at Camp des Loges four years ago surrounded by some of the best names in the business.

However, with such a traffic jam of elite talent ahead of him in the pecking order, the fleet-footed attacker returned to his homeland in the summer to sign for PSV. His move was initially expected to be a loan, but the Ruud van Nistelrooy’s side ultimately picked him up permanently — though PSG do have a buy-back clause.

It may be a case that the Parisians will now follow through on that option to bring him back to the Parc des Princes as the talented tyro is absolutely terrorising opposition defenders in the Eredivisie this term, bagging 11 goals and registering a further five assists in just 24 matches.

Simons has been electric, culminating in a first cap for the Netherlands national team in October and earning a subsequent place in Louis van Gaal’s Oranje squad for the World Cup. He didn’t manage to feature, but Van der Vaart believes his time will come in a Dutch shirt.

Analysing his potential following PSV’s 1-0 win over RKC Waalwijk on Sunday, Van der Vaart said: “It’s starting to get a bit boring that it’s about him every week, but it’s nice to have a player like that.

“Very few players can do this: in such a small space: accept, turn and shoot the ball on the bar.

“I look at the potential. How good can someone become in the future? With Xavi Simons, everything makes me very happy.”

On whether he can become world class, Van der Vaart commented: “Absolutely.

“There are always smarties walking around who say: yes, nice against RKC, but he didn’t show it against Sevilla. Believe me, in a few years we will all say: how nice that we can use this boy for the Dutch national team.”

Simons is the only teenager in Europe’s top seven leagues to achieve a double-digit tally this season (11 goals), while he has also registered the most assists by those same parameters. He is also the only teenager to register over 100 touches in the opposition box (106), while only Matchoi Djalo of Pacos de Ferreira (61) and Jude Bellingham (58) have won more fouls than him (52).