By Richard Hinman
On 13 October 2012, Kevin Strootman made history. He became the youngest player ever to captain the Netherlands in a competitive game against Andorra as well as the youngest in more than a century. He was 22 years and 240 days old. Nine months later he made, in his own words, an ‘easy’ decision to join As Roma.
Strootman began his career in Holland with Sparta Rotterdam and Utrecht before he secured a big move to PSV in the summer of 2011 with fellow Utrecht star Dries Mertens. That was Strootman’s break through year as he made his debut for the national side and went onto represent the Oranje ten times.
While at PSV, Strootman impressed and built a reputation as a powerful box to box player. He attracted the interests of European giants and when it became clear that he was set to leave Dutch football in late 2012, it seemed certain that he would join Manchester United.
Yet he was unveiled at the Stadio Olimpico in July for a reported €20 million and claimed he joined the ‘perfect midfield’ alongside Daniele De Rossi and Miralem Pjanic, also both United targets.
David Moyes sought to strengthen the midfielder and in Strootman, he missed a golden opportunity.
“I’ve only been at Roma for a short time, there is still so much more to prove. I’m clearly satisfied with what I have done, but I could have done even better.” Kevin Strootman
The former PSV star has gone on to shine for As Roma this season. Strootman has played in all but one of Roma’s Serie A games to date, scoring twice and setting up five goals. He has complimented De Rossi, who sits deep like a third centre back, and Pjanic, who often advances forward, and has perfectly settled in Italian football seamlessly.
Moyes had several midfield targets over the summer including the likes of Thiago Alcantara and Ander Herrera before United completed the deadline day signing of Marouane Fellaini from Everton for £27.5m.
However, Strootman would have been a much cheaper option than the Belgian international and he has already shown in games for Roma that he can effectively break up the play and create chances going forward.
Meanwhile, Fellaini is still to settle in at Old Trafford. He has failed to produce the inspirational performances that the Goodison Park faithful were used to during his time at Everton. Fellaini is yet to score or provide an assist at United.
Many people have claimed that United have missed a leader in the centre of the park in recent years and Strootman could have filled that void. He is not simply a captain figure, he has a constant desire to receive the ball and put himself wherever he needed to be for the team.
Amidst a disappointing transfer window for United, Strootman should certainly be seen as the one that got away given how well he has played at Roma.