Tottenham’s long search for a left-sided central defender has settled on Micky van de Ven, a young Dutchman drawing comparisons to Virgil van Dijk with his performances last season at Wolfsburg.
Van de Ven is 22 years old and recently captained the Netherlands in the Under 21s Euros. He is tall and strong with extreme pace, hence the Van Dijk comparisons, and naturally left-sided.
Wolfsburg have made it clear they want £34.3million (€40m) for the player they signed under the radar from the Dutch second tier and insist there had been no bid from Spurs as of Tuesday, despite reports in De Telegraaf that personal terms are already agreed.Ange Postecoglou placed a left-sided centre-half among his top priorities when he arrived in north London from Celtic. There is plenty of surgery required on a defensive unit built for Antonio Conte’s 3-4-3 formation and they are in the market for two central defenders.
Postecoglou likes to play with a back-four and still push his full-backs forward, which means centre-halves with pace are vital.Clement Lenglet has returned to Barcelona after a year on loan and there are no talks ongoing to revive that deal, while Ben Davies, who proved reliable on the left side of a back three for Conte, probably lacks the pace to fulfil the central role in a back-four.
Conte was keen to sign Alessandro Bastoni from Inter last year but the Italian club refused to do business so they took Lenglet as a stop-gap. This summer, Tottenham have turned their focus to Germany, and Burkina Faso international Edmond Tapsoba at Bayer Leverkusen and Van de Ven as they look to satisfy the demands of the new boss.Van de Ven emerged from the youth ranks of Volendam, where he played from the age of 12. He made his senior debut at the age of 18 against Jong PSV and became a key figure as boss Wim Jonk, a former Dutch international, built a successful team.
He was voted as the best talent in the Dutch second tier after his impressive performances in 2020-21 and quickly became a transfer target for many bigger clubs.
Jonk, a star of Ajax and Inter who also had an injury-hit three years at Sheffield Wednesday at the end of his playing career, led Volendam into the top flight in 2022 for the first time in 13 years but Van de Ven had already moved on.
The young centre-half left in August 2021 for Wolfsburg, where Mark van Bommel, another former star of the Netherlands midfield was in charge.
Van de Ven commanded Volendam’s record transfer fee of £3.5m following a dispute about his desire to leave the club.
‘I am very happy and proud with the transfer,’ he said, at the time. ‘I’ve made a huge development as a player in the last two years. I am very grateful to the trainers and staff of FC Volendam for this. Without them I wouldn’t be here. I look forward to the next step in my career.’
He signed a four-year deal at the Bundesliga club and made little impression during his first season at Wolfsburg. Hindered by a hamstring injury, he made only five appearances, three of them at left-back.
In his second season, however, he started to excel, and imposed himself as one of the best young players in the competition. He was usually deployed by latest boss Nico Kovac as the left centre-half in a back four although at times in a back-three near the end of the season.
His performances soon attracted admiring glances from wealthier clubs, some of those in the Premier League, including Liverpool, and he extended his contract at the Volkswagen Arena until 2027.’A great boy, a really good footballer, what he’s showing is extraordinary,’ said Kovac of Van de Ven, while Marcel Schafer, Wolfsburg’s managing director for sport said: ‘Left foot, extreme speed, plays every second. He’s a player with huge potential and this season in particular has shown incredible development.’
At Wolfsburg, they noticed a parallel with Maxence Lacroix, another young central defender signed quietly in 2020 from Sochaux, then in France’s second tier. Lacroix followed similar developmental curve to Van de Ven, taking time to adjust to German football in his first season before impressing in his second.
Strong interest from Leipzig in Lacroix was rejected, however, and when his form then dipped they realised the chance to cash-in for a big profit had gone. It may convince Wolfsburg to do business on Van den Ven when demand is high this summer but they will hold firm on the valuation of £34.3m (€40m).
Wolfsburg held out successfully when Borussia Dortmund came in for Felix Nmecha with an opening bid of only half their £25.7m (€30m) valuation. In the end, Dortmund returned, paid the full asking price and signed Nmecha. Tottenham know what it will take.
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