Mark Van Bommel used a plethora of midfielders in his first season as PSV’s Head Coach, but Pablo Rosario was a constant presence at the base of PSV’s midfield. Rosario played for Feyenoord’s academy as a youth player before being pulled out by his father as he joined DWS where he was discovered by Ajax. He joined De Toekomst where he was one of the most standout players in an age group involving Donny Van de Beek, Abdelhak Nouri and Noussair Mazraoui. Injuries proved to be a setback in his development as he joined Almere City while he impressed with the Eerste Divisie club and Dutch youth teams before joining PSV.
Rosario’s winding journey to PSV and the Dutch National Team was caught in a documentary which exhibited the hardships he faced as a child. He was born to divorced parents as his father was an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and eschewed the values of hard work and focus in his son. His father believed that he could have been a doctor or a skilled worker if he was not led astray by girls, alcohol and an infatuation for gang affiliations as he dedicates his life to making sure that his children do not veer from their path like he did. Rosario cut a lithe and scrawny figure in the documentary as his passion for football was one of the themes. The Amsterdammer has now developed into a lumbering and busy presence at the heart of PSV’s midfield.
Rosario joined PSV as a multifunctional player who could play at centre-back, fullback and in midfield as he had moonlighted in midfield and at centre-back for Jong Oranje. In a match against Andorra, he began the game in midfield as he showed great positional awareness to move into space, so his centre-backs could play the ball to him centrally. He then moved to centre-back where he played a lovely ball to Bart Ramselaar in behind who failed to capitalise on the opportunity. At the end of Cocu’s final season at PSV, he committed to playing youngsters as Rosario played a game away to Roda at right-back. He was poor at defending his flank and stopping crosses as he was at fault for a goal as Gyliano van Velzen latched onto a cross to slip in Jannes Vansteenkiste to fire past Eloy Room.
The appointment of Van Bommel allowed Rosario the opportunity to show his traits as a midfielder as the 42-year-old started him at the base of midfield at the beginning of pre-season where he constantly impressed. In the opening game of the season at home to Utrecht, Rosario was constantly looking to play Gaston Pereiro in the central pockets as the 22-year-old and his midfield partner Hendrix worked brilliant combinations in possession while they fought to regain possession with tenacity.
The confidence of regular first team football was apparent when Rosario started in midfield for Jong Oranje against the English U21s. He was comfortable in receiving possession under pressure in the six space before he slipped a pass through for Arnaut Danjuma to have a shot blocked and play a well-weighted chip for Guus Til who was brought down in the box for what should have been a penalty. Rosario excelled in playing the ball through pressure, pinging accurately chipped passes behind the England defence while always scanning the field and looking to break central lines with his passes.
Rosario continued his mature performances as he was unfazed by the UEFA Champions League as at home to Inter Milan, he took on a pass from Hirving Lozano to strike a shot past a hapless Samir Handanovic from range. Rosario struggled against Tottenham Hotspur where he and Hendrix were left outnumbered in midfield as the young Dutchman grappled against the burly Moussa Dembele who used his patented move of using his body to shield the ball and turn away from his markers. Away to FC Emmen, he had a moment where he played an elaborate switch ball to Steven Bergwijn who worked a one-two with Angelino to cut back for Luuk De Jong for the striker to spread the ball for Dumfries and get in position to head in the fullback’s cross.
Rosario has played with Michel Sadilek and Erick Gutierrez while Gaston Pereiro and Mohamed Ihatteren have played in front of him in the attacking midfield position. Rosario has been the only constant in midfield as his importance is underlined by his highly developed technical sense. Van Bommel’s PSV seek to play through the middle into the central pockets as Rosario is gifted at playing through balls into the ten space to instigate attacking moves. He also featured in wall-passing moves that allowed Daniel Schwaab to evade pressure and play line-breaking passes to the attacking players.
For a player of his size and stature, Rosario has astonishingly quick feet as well as mobility when he pushes forward as a passing option in the opposition half. He can burst forward with long-stridden driving runs in attacks, use a subtle croqueta to create an inch of space for himself while also being involved in passing moves in the wide areas. He is one of Van Bommel’s most trusted on field lieutenants as he grasped his opportunity in pre-season and has rarely been left out of the team since. Rosario also shows a creative sense as a deep-lying midfielder by being a gifted through ball player as he can launch breaks with well-weighted balls into space.
Rosario also executes his defensive responsibilities with aplomb as he covers for fullbacks when they move higher up the pitch. He also shows a sound positional sense to cut out crosses by dropping into the box when the ball moves out wide. He frequently wins possession in the six-space with key interceptions and tackles, shielding his centre-backs with rigour and authority. His qualities are specialised for the midfield position more than any other position as he covers small spaces well while his positioning in PSV’s zonal defence is exemplary.
“I’m not surprised that Rosario is doing so well,” exclaimed PSV legend, Willy van de Kerkhof to Voetbal International. “I had actually expected him much faster in the first team and I wanted to see him play much more under Cocu. But where Van Bommel immediately gives youth a chance, Cocu was a bit more reserved. In this case that was unjustified. Rosario has stood still for a year, his development stagnated last season. This boy adapts effortlessly to every level. Whether it is the Eredivisie, Oranje or the Champions League. He is technically very good and physically very strong. I think Rosario is a type – Paul Pogba. He has the ability to always be in the right place at the right time and to look for the solution. He has football intelligence. And when you hear him talking to the camera, so calm and modest, he seems to have the understanding of someone who has been playing in the top for years.”
Rosario’s life and football career to this point has been about utilising his opportunities and showing grit to wriggle out of trying times. De Kromme, Willem Van Hanegem – who was an excellent midfielder for Feyenoord and the Dutch National Team in his day – described Rosario as ‘a boy for the future of our football’ in his column for the Algemeen Dagblad last September. The 22-year-old midfielder is one of the first names on Mark Van Bommel’s team sheet as he could be a candidate to partner Frenkie de Jong in midfield for the long-term future of the Dutch National Team.