A Nigerian attacker could finish top of the goalscoring chart in Europe’s third-tier club competition
Former Netherlands international and Benfica striker Pierre van Hooijdonk believes Cyriel Dessers’ style of football resembles his during his playing days.
A prolific goalscorer and one of the most outstanding free-kick specialists of all time, van Hooijdonk enjoyed brilliant spells playing for and winning prizes with clubs across Europe.
The Steenbergen-born striker lifted the 1995 Scottish Cup with Celtic, the 1998 Football League First Division with Nottingham Forest, and two Super Lig titles with Fenerbahce.
And despite not being particularly blessed with supreme skills and technique, van Hooijdonk memorably finished as the competition’s top scorer to help Feyenoord win the 2002 UEFA Cup.
Twenty years later, Nigeria international Dessers has smashed in eight goals – nobody else has scored more – to inspire Feyenoord to the semifinal of the Europa Conference League.
Van Hooijdonk, who also spent time earlier in his career at NAC Breda, just like Dessers, sees similarities between the physical Super Eagles striker and himself.
“We do look a little bit alike,” van Hooijdonk told De Telegraaf as per FR12.
“Both of us strikers with not such a very polished style, who also throw their physique into the fray. And we have both shot NAC to promotion, so there are some parallels.”
Van Hooijdonk confesses that he has met with Dessers, who he finds to be a pleasant chap. And the ex-Celtic man sees the 27-year-old as one of the reasons why Feyenoord are having a successful campaign.
”I spent a long time talking with Cyriel at the promotion party of NAC; a very likeable guy,” van Hooijdonk added.
“I think it’s great to see him doing so well at Feyenoord. Without wanting to do anyone short, I think Dessers and Luis Sinisterra have been the most important this season.”
Later today, Feyenoord will play their first semifinal in a European tournament since 2002, when they host Olympique Marseille at De Kuip.
52-year-old van Hooijdonk charges Feyenoord to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and give their all against the French giants.
“For most players, you only get one chance in your career to play for such an award. For us, that UEFA Cup win is the pinnacle of our career. We were certainly not sated with prizes. The current team must also realize that such an opportunity does not come again.”
In terms of possessing a ‘true winning mentality’ and a good mix of experience and talents, van Hooijdonk sees similarities with the current Feyenoord.
“This is also a group with character,” the ex-Vitesse ace continued.
“And it is important that with Bryan Linssen, Dessers, Jens Toornstra, and Gernot Trauner, you also have older guys in addition to the young talents. It is amazing what Slot has managed to achieve in such a short period.
“Feyenoord is fun to watch again, which has not been the case for several years. Slot has acquired a completely different way of playing football, and he has done that very well.”
Feyenoord play host to Marseille in the first leg of their semifinal showdown on Thursday before facing the same opponents next week in the return leg.