Steven Bergwijn – PSV Eindhoven’s fleet-footed force

Steven Bergwijn left Ajax Amsterdam for PSV Eindhoven early in his fledgling career as he was renown as one of the country’s most promising talents at youth level. He took time to adjust to Eredivisie first team football but after the departure of Jurgen Locadia, he has rarely looked back as a leading player in the Eredivisie as well as becoming a starter for the Dutch National Team. At only 21-years-old, he accumulated double figures in goals and assists in his first full season as a starter for PSV Eindhoven as he picked up where he left off the season before.


The winger who was born in Amsterdam and is tending to interest from Ajax Amsterdam has a short but strapping and compact build with long striding legs which allow him to shield the ball and swivel past opposition defenders. He has been on a sharp rise since being voted as the best player at the 2014 U17 European Championships in Malta as he found himself on the PSV bench a year later. The Dutch media dubbed him the ‘New Memphis’ as Memphis Depay drove PSV to the Eredivisie title in the 2014/15 season while he was on the brink of a blockbuster move to Manchester United. Depay added to the hype around the then 17-year-old by stating that he could experience the same growth as him.


"I think we have a very big talent with Steven Bergwijn," Depay noted in De Telegraaf in May 2015"He does a great job at the training. I believe in him. I also believe in Jürgen Locadia. We have many talents. I don't know who should succeed me," 


A few months later, Bergwijn signed a professional contract until May 2020 as PSV Eindhoven showed confidence in him as an emerging talent from their reformed academy. Bergwijn then came off the bench away to Heracles where he had a few moments of brilliance as he played a one-two with Jurgen Locadia for Luuk De Jong to send a shot agonisingly wide. By the end of the season, PSV outlined their investment in the youngster by extending his contract for another year despite limited performances with the first team.


Bergwijn made an appearance in the UEFA Champions’ League group stage opener at home to Atletico Madrid where he came off the bench and added zest to a defeated PSV. He received the ball on the left flank, cut past his fullback and hammered a shot off the crossbar. Cocu began to trust the 18-year-old with game time as against Rostov, he took on a De Jong knock-on and had an opportunity saved. In the next match against Heracles, he cut in with his signature move and had a shot tipped onto the crossbar by Bram Castro. The youngster sent another shot wide and had another opportunity saved by the Belgian keeper as he was substituted to a rousing standing ovation by the PSV fans.


Steven Bergwijn through ball to Donyell Malen.

Steven Bergwijn through ball to Donyell Malen.

The 19-year-old had scored a curled in shot against PEC Zwolle and doubled his tally with a tap in from a De Jong cross against Utrecht as those were his only goals of the season. He continued his role as a substitute and a bit-part participant for PSV, only showing little glimmers of his talent to wet the appetite of PSV fans but failed to create a lasting impression to truly grasp a starting role. In the 2017/18 season, he came on away to Utrecht at the Galgenwaard to play a through ball for Hirving Lozano who was brought down by Giovanni Troupee for a penalty. He then weaved past five Utrecht defenders with exhilarating close control to drive into the box and dribble past the keeper to tap in PSV’s seventh goal of the day. In one moment, he managed to accumulate the most dribbles of all players on the pitch as that moment should have been his catalyst for a starring role.


He would have to wait a few more months as PSV fans were becoming impatient for his breakout season as the departure of Locadia would suddenly catapult him into a starting role. Bergwijn hit the ground running as a goal and an assist against Eredivisie champions, Feyenoord ensured that a fine run of form to begin 2018 was no aberration. Bergwijn was on an electric run of form, surging past players with his pace while his close control was superb as he showed a cold-blooded sense of assurance and calm in front of goal.


At home to Utrecht, he prodded the ball past his marker on the break, shielded possession from Sean Klaiber and drove the ball past the keeper for his seventh goal of the season, his sixth since the departure of Locadia. He was deadly in the big games as in a match against Ajax where PSV could seal the title, a cross was blocked into his path as he trapped the ball and fired past Andre Onana to accumulate 8 goals and 8 assists in the season.


Normal players would rest on their laurels but Bergwijn was hungry to improve and surprised the new PSV coaching staff led by Mark Van Bommel by showing up in peak physical condition for pre-season. It showed as he scored in two consecutive pre-season games exhibiting a Memphis-like sense of confidence in driving past players and manoeuvring into goalscoring positions to take opportunities. By the time the season began, Bergwijn was prepared to become a leading Eredivisie player. In the season opener against Utrecht, a corner was deflected into his path for him to take a touch, dribble past his man and drive a shot past the keeper to open his account for the season.


Bergwijn and Memphis may be similar in terms of their development at PSV, but the former shows a more heightened sense for creativity. In the match against Utrecht, he weaved past a glut of defenders to drive into the box with the goal gaping but instead of having a strike on goal, he squared a pass for De Jong for a defender to recover and clear. In the Champions League qualifiers away to Bate Borisov, he threaded a through ball for the striker to blast over. In the second-leg, he left no doubt as he took on a header from De Jong early in the game to control the bobbling ball, beat his man and calmly finish to put PSV in the lead.


Steven Bergwijn’s assist against Ajax.

Steven Bergwijn’s assist against Ajax.

Bergwijn ensured that 2018 was his year when he scored his second goal of the week against Willem II, he cut past his man with his trademark move and curled a shot past the keeper. He soon added to his tally as he spread a pass for Angelino who crossed for Bergwijn to head in his second goal of the game. Bergwijn’s ability to cut past his man is facilitated by his penchant for opening his body when he receives the ball and is one-on-one with his marker as the fullback has no idea whether the winger will drive to the by-line, cut inside, cross or play a pass. The 21-year-old preys on this uncertainty by driving inside where he can play a through ball or slide rule pass into a teammate making a run in behind or attempt to bend a shot past the keeper.


He exhibited his mastery of this playing sequence away to Barcelona at the Nou Camp, taking on a diagonal from Lozano to cut in and send a shot wide. Against Inter Milan at home, he weaved past a glut of players with poise and grace to cut back into an area where there were no PSV players. Van Bommel has added another dimension to his game as there is an increased demand on him moving into the centre to receive possession. Bergwijn is gifted at receiving possession in tight spaces and connecting play in the final third. Away to FC Emmen, he received a pass to tee-up Angelino to smash in a goal. At home to Fortuna Sittard, he showed astonishing vision to play a cross-field pass for Cody Gakpo to cut past his man and finish.


For the Dutch National Team, Ronald Koeman played him in a more central role against Germany to give Memphis liberation which nearly altered the outcome of the game. At home to PEC Zwolle, he had proved himself a one-man counter-attacking force when he took on a ball, beat Daryl Lachmann for pace, drove into the box and opened his body to score his 12th goal of the season. Bergwijn had accumulated 12 goals and 12 assists during the season as he became a Dutch National Team regular and one of the Eredivisie’s leading performers.


Steven Bergwijn goal against PEC Zwolle.

Steven Bergwijn goal against PEC Zwolle.

"The development that Steven is going through is going faster than normal with a talent of his age," said Van Bommel after a match against Heracles last year. "I can't judge his last season under Phillip Cocu, because I didn't see him daily, but you see that Bergwijn takes steps every time, makes progress quickly and learns a lot. He is a player who is very conscious of his development, physically and he is getting stronger. He easily makes goals and knows where to run, when to hit the ball or to stay away, and also sees the game between the lines."

Bergwijn developed a close and trusting relationship with Van Bommel even referring to his Head Coach as ‘mate’ or ‘buddy ‘around the training ground. Van Bommel trusted the 21-year-old because of the work the youngster put in on the training ground as during pre-season, he did intensive work with his uncles including gruelling two-hour sessions in the morning and evening to be at his best for the new coach. Bergwijn who once referred to Memphis as an ‘example’ is now a component of the reformed Dutch National Team with him. PSV have suitors in the Bundesliga and English Premier League as they would rather not strengthen a competitor in Ajax as Bergwijn possesses the requisite tools and competitive mentality to play at a higher level.