Sitting five points behind league leaders PSV with ten games to go, Vitesse have recovered from their worst run of the season, but the latest news to come out of the Arnhem club could see them fall back down the rankings once again, writes Peter McVitie.
With the return of Wilfried Bony from the Africa Cup of Nations, Fred Rutten’s Vitesse look to be back in tip-top condition and have brought an end to the rough period which lasted from the tail end of 2012 and has immensely hindered their chances of glory. FC Hollywood on the Rhine picked up just five points from seven matches between early December and mid-February, but the two victories since then have brought them to within five points of the frontrunners. Luckily for the gold & blacks, they managed to beat Ajax and draw with PSV during that period, allowing them to maintain pressure on those sides. Just as it looked like Vitesse’s title chances were dead and buried, they have hauled themselves back into contention and now sit five points behind league leaders PSV with ten games remaining.
A hat-trick from Bony and a brace from Marco van Ginkel – one of Europe’s most exciting young midfielders – saw off the incredibly unpredictable Heracles on Saturday night, beating Peter Bosz’s side 5-3 in Almelo. After his match winning display, Bony revealed that he wants to leave the club immediately. “If I have the opportunity to go, I want to do it as soon as possible… I think it is possible,” he told Eredivisie Live. He continued to reveal that he had received a lucrative offer from a Russian side (the name of which he insisted he didn’t know) and hoped a deal could be struck between the two clubs before the close of Russia’s transfer window on Wednesday.
His words were like a dagger to the heart of any Eredivisie fan who has watched and enjoyed his displays in this remarkable Vitesse side throughout the current campaign. The thought of him leaving in the summer is depressing enough, but his apparent desperation to leave within the next few days will drive any spectator of the Dutch top flight to a pit of despair.
It is important to note, however, that, not only do Vitesse have no desire to sell their talisman, they have no need to cash in on him either. The club are well backed by owner Merab Jordania who, upon taking over the club, revealed he wanted to see the team lift the Eredivisie title by 2013. Jordania’s money and desire to hoist the East Holland side to domestic glory means it is not in their best interests to see Bony go and, crucially, they are in a strong enough financial position to reject any offer emanating from Russia, perhaps even if it comes from the likes of Anzhi or Zenit.
An immediate departure of the Ivorian striker who has scored 22 goals in 21 Eredivisie matches so far this season, will have massive implications for Fred Rutten’s side. Bony isn’t just a targetman for Vitesse, he plays a crucial part in all of their attacks. His first touch, athleticism, strength, link-up play, creativity and leadership are all on show throughout the 90 minutes of any game he is involved in.
No matter what the outcome of this remarkably long transfer saga is, Fred Rutten could have a difficult task on his hands. Even if Bony doesn’t go, he seems so eager to depart the Gelredome in the next few days that failure of a move materialising could dishearten the 24-year-old and affect his performances, and thus those of Vitesse, between now and the end of the season, especially if it is his current club who deny him the move. It will then be up to Rutten to ensure Bony remains professional, keeps performing well and continues to battle as hard on the field as he has done throughout the campaign. It must be noted that Bony has always acted with the utmost professionalism, but his insistence that he wants to leave suggests he feels very strongly about fleeing the Netherlands within the next few days and if this deal falls through, his emotions and disappointment could overshadow his desire to do well on the field as well as his professional attitude.
If a move is finalised between now and Wednesday, then it will be detrimental to Vitesse as they cannot bring in a replacement for him and are losing the heart and soul of their side. While Jonathan Reis now operates as the main striker and Renato Ibarra and Mike Havenaar have offered a lot of support on the wings with Van Ginkel adding extra pace and boosting the attacking potency of the side, it is Bony who pulls it all together and makes Vittesse such a fluent, flawless and enticing unit. Amongst this unrest hangs the balance of Vitesse’s campaign.
With Bony, Vitesse have a chance of making Jordania’s and the entire city of Arnhem’s dream a reality. Without him, their decline is imminent. It’s as simple as that.