In modern football, there has been a clear evolution as to what is expected from players in the defensive midfield role.
It has gone from a role that would be held by a big, physically dominant player whose job was purely to win the ball back and go again when the side lost possession.
However, as time has gone on the role has evolved and now a lot more is expected of a player in that role.
It is now expected that a player should be able to win the ball back, dribble forward with the ball and start off attacks from deep, even contributing a few goals and assists along the way.
As the role has progressed, defensive midfielders have become one of the most vital players in their clubs.
The best example of such a player is Chelsea star Ngolo Kante. The Frenchman wins the ball back 5.2 times per game for the Blues, while completing 0.9 dribbles and 3.4 long balls to start attacks.
A team such as Liverpool doesn’t look as stable without Fabinho holding down the midfield and the drop-off in Manchester City as Fernandinho has been replaced with Rodri is astronomical.
Despite this, some teams such as Juventus lack a world-class defensive midfielder, despite one being available for what is a very reasonable price.
Teun Koopmeiners is a 22-year-old midfielder who plays in the Netherlands with AZ Alkmaar, and is currently valued at just £13.5 million on Transfermarkt.
The Dutchman has contributed 11 goals and four assists in 17 league games this season, contributing to 36% of AZ’s goals this term.
Koopmeiners is one of the core of young players propelling Alkmaar to fifth place in the Eredivisie table, along with left-back Owen Wijndal and winger Calvin Stengs.
The midfielder completes almost 3 tackles and interceptions per game for his side, which when compared to the 3.3 of Fabinho and the 4.4 of Kante, is still very impressive.
Koopmeiners is 5 years younger than Fabinho and 7 younger than Kante, both of whom are in their primes, so it is very impressive that the youngster comes close to their ball-winning stats.
The thing to bear in mind with Koopmeiners though is his creativity.Embed from Getty Images
While Fabinho and Kante are great ball winners, neither are great at creating or scoring, an area where Koopmeiners shines.
Koopmeiners takes just over 2 shots a game on average with Fabinho coming in with 0.5 per game and Kante’s 0.25 per game this season.
All of this means that Koopmeiners averages 0.88 goals and assists per game, combined with his just under 3 tackles and interceptions.
These stats show that the midfielder could become one of the most complete players around if allowed to develop with the correct manager.
It just shows the Eredivisie produces some really overlooked talent, some that could make a big impact for some of the biggest teams in the world.