6 years ago, a young Dutchman with heaps of potential and ability secured a dream move from hometown club Feyenoord to Real Madrid. Such was his talent, he commanded a £12m fee. I say he secured fairly confidently; Feyenoord didn’t want to let him go, and Drenthe threatened legal action if the door to Spain was shut in his face.
That string of words safely summarises Drenthe as a player and a person: he can play, but he has a temper with a fuse not too long.
To put it bluntly, Drenthe has the ability to tear the Championship apart. I mean that. We’ve seen it from his time spent on loan at Everton, his ability to create as well as score is undoubted, where he scored 4 and assisted 8. Had he not reported late for training in March 2012 and had his season cut short, he would have been one of Everton’s best and most consistent performers. But that’s the issue: he reported late for training. Under David Moyes. It something you just simply do not do. He didn’t play another game all season. And that isn’t the only time he’s had run-ins with management. When he was on loan at Herucles, he more or less put himself out of squad contention after claiming the management wasn’t up to scratch. Sometimes, as a player, especially one who is very very expendable like Drenthe was, it’s best just to play your game, know your role, and shut your mouth. And yet he couldn’t. While at Real Madrid, he suffered from anxiety issues caused by criticism from the crowd, and he reacted very poorly, requesting the next few games off. Hardly the most professional response.
Drenthe’s strong yet strangely fragile personality is an obstacle Nigel Adkins must overcome if he is to get the best out of him. We all know he has the ability, and is a missing link most Championship clubs can only dream of having in their midfield. Reading, while gutsy and spirited, lack quality, especially at centre back and creatively in midfield: Drenthe addressed the creativity problem. Adkins and co must be careful with him though or risk setting him off. Look at a player like Mario Balotelli; he couldn’t keep his name out of the papers at City, now he’s a much more subdued character at Milan.
It’s going to be very interesting from a fan’s perspective to see how Drenthe’s stay at Reading pans out. Will he slide right into the squad and settle? Will he be the sharp blade that provides Reading’s cutting edge? Or will he polarise opinion, spout criticism of his colleagues, and unsettle the dressing room that Reading have spent so long bringing together? Only time will tell.