ATTRIBUTES: Pace, skill, composure
PLAYS (A BIT) LIKE: Memphis Depay
LINKED TO: Arsenal, Barcelona, Liverpool
Not since the proper emergence of Memphis in 2013-14 has a league seemed too small for the talents of a prodigious Dutch forward, and like Mattijs De Ligt in defence and Frenkie De Jong in midfield, Donyell Malen has his sights set on reaching the very pinnacle of the game.
Malen is the worst-kept secret in the Netherlands, and since his international debut, where he arrived off the bench to score in a superlative victory over Germany, PSV are already preparing themselves for the day that their latest prized asset moved on. Having lost Steven Bergwijn to Tottenham in January, Malen could well be the next to move on, though how the coronavirus situation affects the transfer market is, at this point, anyone's guess.
For reasons not yet explained, the 20-year-old was rejected by Arsenal as a youth despite scoring regularly for the U18s and being selected to travel on the pre-season tour in the summer of 2017. Just weeks later he was sold to PSV and the Gunners’ loss is very much PSV's gain.
Malen’s skillset is one that is coveted by every major club, primary among them the ability to turn, progress through the gears and terrify defenders with his acceleration, close control and composure in front of goal. Equally effective either deployed as a wide forward or given licence through the centre, Malen is comfortable with his back to goal or when facing up to full-backs, and as well as his raw pace, there are definite comparisons to be made to Memphis in terms of his range of tricks.
In 18-19 Malen made just six starts and 25 sub appearances as coach Mark van Bommel introduced him gradually into first-team football, but he recorded 10 goals and four assists in just 965 mins of Eredivisie action, the equivalent of a goal contribution every 69 minutes. And in his role as undisputed starter in 19/20, his statistics across the attacking board rank with anyone else in the league.
MALEN: Eredivisie STATS
|On Target P90||2.4||1st|
|Non-Pen Goal P90||0.68||2nd|
|Non-Pen xG P90||0.58||2nd|
|Non-Pen Contribution P90||0.83||6th|
|Shot Accuracy %||56.2%||3rd|
With the likes of the 17-year-old Mohammed Ihatteren and Pablo Rosario, PSV are developing a solid Dutch base to their side but they know their place, like rivals Ajax, as a club renowned as a conveyor belt for talent. Malen has already been linked with Liverpool and the obliteration of Vitesse last year, where he scored all five goals in a 5-0 victory, had all the hallmarks of the type of all-round striking display that deserves, with all due respect to the Eredivisie, a higher standard of competition.
The fact that he wanted to leave Arsenal to ensure he could show what he is capable of speaks volumes of a player who is confident in his own ability and also that football is for the playing, not the collecting of pay checks.
He said last month: "I still had a contract for a year and Arsenal even wanted to extend that.
"I don't play football for the money. I never did that. Otherwise I would not have left England.”
The worldwide situation has actually helped a player who was expected to miss the remainder of the season thanks to surgery just before Christmas on a knee problem that went well, who now may not miss that much time at all if the Eredivisie restarts. He was also a doubt for Euro 2020 and has a full year to get ready for that now, too.
Not a bad situation. He's likely to start 2020/21, whenever it comes, still in Eindhoven, but a similar start to next season may make him a target for the recalibrated budgets of Europe's big guns.
⚽ Watch Donyell Malen in action: