James Peacock meets Albion’s new signing who will be going for gold when his colleagues launch their top-flight campaign.
Gianni Zuiverloon summed up in one succinct, sentence why West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Mowbray thought he was perfect for the club. “I am an attacking defender who wants to bring the ball out and play football, not kick and rush,” he said, unprompted.
The right-back, who signed from Heerenveen for £3.2million last week, admitted to being a target of several Premier League and top European clubs but chose the Baggies due to Mowbray’s footballing ethos; not that his new manager’s propensity for preaching the beautiful game has been too evident in the week of pre-season training he has so far endured.
Zuiverloon said: “We run a lot in training. In Holland, we do everything with the ball; here, we do everything without the ball. I hope we see a ball soon - but I am really excited to be here.
“I’ve been here since Wednesday and my first impressions are that the players are very nice and very good. The training ground is also nice and so is the manager.”
Mowbray has every reason to be nice to a player he describes as a “very talented individual”. The Holland under-21 international has been an Albion target for the past 12 months, since he lined up against them before the start of last season.
Having watched DVDs of his new team in action before signing and speaking to close friends including Liverpool’s Ryan Babel about Premier League football, the 22-year-old was determined to secure a move to England. He was not short of options.
“I have always wanted to play in the Premier League,” he said. “You get to play against the best players in the world and they are stronger and quicker, so it is a big challenge.
“My manager [at Heerenveen] told me that there were some other Premier League clubs after me and some clubs in Europe, but I felt the chances to play here were greater and I wanted to prove myself. I am only 21 years old and I want to play games. I will have to compete for my place and show what I can do in training but if I train well, I should be okay.”
The bad news for Albion supporters is that they will have to wait until a few games into the season, at least, before seeing their new acquisition in action. Zuiverloon will be representing Holland at the Beijing Olympics next month and, as a result, will not be going on Albion’s pre-season tour to Germany next week.
He added: “I am going to miss the first two games and the first one is against Arsenal, which is one of the greatest games in the competition - but you can only play in the Olympic Games once in your life.
“Holland have a very good team and we are going for the [gold] medal. It is a shame to be missing the games. They say that you should never change a winning team and if the players do well when I am away, then I will have to work hard [to get back in].”