Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk says that he would feel confident stepping up for the Netherlands at Euro 2020, amid Virgil van Dijk’s absence.
Struijk has yet to choose his final footballing allegiance on the international stage; Belgium are also vying for the services of the rising Premier League star. However, respective bosses Frank de Boer and Roberto Martinez have both cast admiring glances the 21-year-old’s way throughout the season.
The centre-back by trade can also play in defensive midfield, hence the interest in his international decision.
Overall, however, he has stepped up admirably to the Premier League after entering Leeds‘ first-team plans last January. He has appeared in 24 top-flight games, playing every minute of the last four at the back.
Struijk has previous international experience as a Netherlands Under-17, but Belgium have become firm battlers for his allegiance.
With Netherlands captain Van Dijk confirming that he will sit out Euro 2020 to work on his rehabilitation from a knee injury, a place in the squad has opened up for Struijk to potentially fill.
But the player wants his final decision to reflect the “bigger picture”. He told De Telegraaf (via Sport Witness): “As you know, my big goal is to play for the first team. That is also the reason that I did not want to opt for Jong Oranje [the Netherlands U21] before.
“Because then I may not be able to represent Belgium anymore. I still have this position at the moment.
“It’s about the bigger picture, what is best for my career in the long term rather than the short term.
“Roberto Martínez knows English football well. In addition to being national coach, he is also the technical director of the KBVB [Belgium]. During our conversation it turned out that he knew me very well as a player.
“He’s been following me since I started playing regularly at Leeds United under 23. Of course, it’s a compliment that he would like me to play for Belgium and call me personally.”
Nevertheless, the chance to represent the Netherlands remains, if he picks the country and De Boer picks him.
Struijk keeping Netherlands option open
“I know that I am being followed seriously. Every week I show that I can perform in the strongest competition in the world,” the defender added.
“It is up to the national coach to determine who will be called up.
“The KNVB [Netherlands] is in contact with my management [Forza Sports Group]. I myself have not spoken with the national coach yet.
“I did call Erwin van de Looi [Netherlands U21 coach] a number of times before the group stage of the European Championship with Jong Oranje.”
Strujk added that he would feel “honoured” to represent the two nations, which are both “beautiful football countries”.
He added that he has begun work on acquiring a Belgian passport, but that the coronavirus crisis has delayed that move.
But what has not been slowed down is his fantastic progression at Leeds. Indeed, Struijk revealed confidence in himself to reach exciting levels.
Struijk confident with Leeds development
“I know that the position where I play [left central defender] is a very interesting one in today’s football. I think I am a complete player: physically strong and good on the ball,” he said.
“In addition, I can also work in midfield. At Leeds I have played in the No. 6 position several times this season.
“So, I can be deployed in multiple positions and in multiple systems.”
Struijk will look to impress once again when Leeds return to action on Saturday to face Burnley.