If Ladbrokes were running a book on who Pep Guardiola’s first Manchester City signing would be, PSV left-back Jetro Willems wouldn’t be anywhere near the sharp end of it.
The Citizens have been linked with a host of household names since the current Bayern Munich manager was confirmed as their next boss, but, all of a sudden, Willems’ name has cropped up.
Talksport, in a report citing Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, believe the young PSV defender could be Guardiola’s first purchase, claiming that both the Spaniard and his future employers have held a long-term interest in the player.
In fact, City aren’t the only Premier League club to have pursued Willems. A Google search of the 21-year-old’s name reveals links, however tenuous, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Newcastle.
As a key part of the PSV squad that strolled to the Eredivisie title last season, Willems stands as one of the few remaining cogs in that well-oiled machine. But like former teammates Georginio Wijnaldum, Memphis Depay and Karim Rekik, seems destined for a switch away from the Boeren.
Although not held in the same company as some other possible first-Pep purchases, Willems has actually been a well-established senior player for some time, despite his young age.
He was signed by PSV on the final day of the 2011 summer transfer window and quickly asserted himself as the first-choice left-back.
Impressive athleticism and physicality served him well in his early days, but the fruits of his growing experience and development were displayed last term when he registered 13 assists (more than any of his teammates) and two goals in the league-winning campaign.
Based on those numbers, Willems is a full-back that adds to a team’s attack. However, from a defensive standpoint he also appears rock solid.
He has registered 2.6 and 2.3 interceptions per 90 minutes in the last two Eredivisie seasons, ranking second in the PSV squad with those marks each time.
During the same time frame, Willems was the third-most efficient PSV player in blocking crosses, snuffing out 0.6 per 90 in each campaign.
His quick ascent in stature hasn’t been isolated to the domestic scene either. Willems made his Netherlands debut as long ago as 2012, becoming the youngest player ever to play at a European Championships that year. To date, he has collected 16 caps.
Injuries are responsible for the Rotterdam native missing large chunks of the current campaign, but he remains a hot prospect nonetheless.
If Guardiola sees the left-back position as one in desperate need of freshening up – with Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov both 30 – then doing so with Willems would be a shrewd move.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.