Karel Brandsma has retired from his role as the scouting chief at Heerenveen, but he still has fond memories of one of his most significant discoveries
Heerenveen’s Strategic Adviser Karel Brandsma has hailed Nigerian winger Chidera Ejuke as one of the finest gems he discovered as head of the Dutch club’s head of scouting.
Brandsma was a scout at Heerenveen since 1989 and became the club’s chief scout in 2014, a position he held until last August.
And having watched tens of thousands of matches, handled hundreds of football players, and managed tens of millions of euros, Brandsma is not a man to be easily impressed.
But the 54-year-old admits he could not believe his eyes at the raw talent on display the first time he set his eyes on Super Eagles star Chidera Ejuke.
Ejuke was in Norway with Valerenga then and would eventually cost Heerenveen a princely two million euros. But Brandsma had a good feeling about the youngster from the off and went with his hunch.
“Peter Maas and I saw Ejuke play football in Norway with Valerenga,” Brandsma told Leeuwarder Courant.
“We both thought the same: this is it! Ejuke was an expensive purchase for us. But he was so special.”
Brandsma is as impressed with Ejuke’s technical quality as his personality. Close to joining Heerenveen, other notable clubs tried to hijack the deal, but the Nigerian youngster kept his promise to sign for the Eredivisie side.
“Just before he signed with us, big clubs came in between, where Ejuke could earn much more. That was very exciting. Ejuke and his agent kept their word. He came to Heerenveen,” Brandsma added.
In just one season in the Netherlands, Ejuke showed that Brandsma made the right call.
The 24-year-old contributed nine goals, four assists, and several magical moments in 25 Eredivisie games. The ‘Nigerian Iniesta‘ was even among the best dribblers in the Dutch top flight.
CSKA Moscow were convinced of Ejuke’s talent, and the Russian giants paid Heerenveen almost €12 million in 2020 for his signature.
It is a deal that still gives Brandsma the thrills.
The veteran scout said of Ejuke and his move to Russia: “A very special boy, who we sold to CSKA Moscow after an unusual poker game.
“Everything was right with him, from the very first time we saw him and his arrival at Heerenveen until the season that he played with us and the sale.”
After two years in Russia, Ejuke has earned a controversial loan switch to Hertha Berlin in the German Bundesliga.