OPINIONS Peter Zulj is the first real incoming transfer of this winter. Since in recent days and hours a lot of untruths and disagreeable information about the midfielder have come out, Anderlecht-online went a bit deeper. A portrait of 'the best player of Austria' and the role he can play at the biggest club in Belgium.
Het Nieuwsblad called Zulj yesterday "the much-needed new number ten of Anderlecht" and "not the fastest." In 65 games for Sturm Graz he scored fifteen goals and gave 23 assists.
"Not the fastest" is often a cautious description of "slow." In combination with "number ten", this may not only reflect our editorial team on a current Anderlecht player: Ryota Morioka.
The first research did not immediately make us happy. The statistics of Morioka at Waasland-Beveren were in fact a lot better than those of Zulj at Sturm Graz. Although Morioka collected it in a smaller club in a bigger league.
Just like the Japanese, Zulj also only lived in his native country until the age of 25. Usually not a good sign. And the best footballer of Austria? Haven't we had the best footballer in Romania at that position? Yes but…
No pure number ten
However, there are also huge differences between Stanciu and Morioka on the one hand and Zulj on the other. The Austrian is not a pure number ten, as he is announced here and there. In his 65 games for Sturm Graz he was only nine games put on number ten. He usually played with a midfielder next to him and three forwards or with another midfielder (this season often Otar Kiteishvili) and two strikers before him.
Which obviously does not mean that Zulj doesn't have offensive qualities: he has a pass in the legs, has a good position game and ditto vista. He has a dribble in the feet and can keep a ball. He is offensive well, but not extraordinary.
He has Anderlecht DNA, but not the profile of a Pär Zetterberg, Alin Stoica or Ahmed Hassan. Compare with that other (so-called?) Purple-white target Alejandro Pozuelo does not make any sense either. Fortunately, there is another 'but.'
Zulj is in fact a complete or a modern midfielder. He is not a pitbull like Adrien Trebel and will not reclaim as many balls as Sven Kums, but is big (1m85) and physically strong.
Since Kums settled in the Vanden Stock stadium in the summer of 2017, his lack of complementarity with Trebel is a frequent topic of conversation. Not in the least because Hein Vanhaezebrouck already mentioned that problem when he was still at Ghent. "Because both are not pure numbers six or ten. Because they both like to divide the game." Let that also apply to Zulj ...
Since the departure of Leander Dendoncker Anderlecht have no real six anymore. Albert Sambi Lokonga was already played out there, but he's out for the rest of this season due to an injury. Yevhen Makarenko already played a lot more often in his career as a left back than anywhere else in the midfield and did not convince us either.
Then there's, Sieben Dewaele. The 19-year-old midfielder was allowed to participate in winter training camp with the first team. He already sat on the bench this season in the superfluous home game against Spartak Trnava and has a defensive / more defensive profile.
In the two friendly games on the training camp, Fred Rutten choose for a 4-3-3 with a triangle on the midfield with the point backwards. Dewaele and Edo Kayembe got their chance in the friendly games in that point.
So this is not a real number ten, but since Anderlecht might play football without a real number ten, that is not a problem.
Ten, eight, six. In itself, they are no more than figures to keep things a bit comprehensible. But Zulj, Trebel and Kums all have quite some offensive and defensive qualities. One will not (have to) do the dirty work for the other that gives one brilliant pass after another. No, they will have to understand each other and can then change positions indefinitely.
With Yari Verschaeren and Makarenko and possibly Morioka and Dewaele, Rutten still has options enough to adjust more defensively or more offensively or to turn the triangle around.
The Austrian league is really a lot better than the Romanian. The difference with the Jupiler Pro League is not to be underestimated, but also not irreconcilable.
Zulj is 25 and has already played more than two hundred and fifty professional games. He combines the necessary experience with a possible profit margin with a subsequent resale.
We understand the doubt about a player who played in his own country until the age of 25, but sometimes that is just part of a well-defined career plan. Not every player develops equally quickly.
Let us quote two more examples the night after the Gala of the Golden Shoe. Leandro Trossard and Hans Vanaken both played in the Belgian second division at the age of 21 and did not play abroad until today. The first one will be almost 25 if he goes abroad this summer - most likely - Vanaken even almost 27.
Every footballer writes his own story at his own pace. This is not Pozuelo, Morioka, Vanaken or Zetterberg. This is ... Zulj.
Of course he is not the miracle transfer that Anderlecht will suddenly raise next to Racing Genk at the bookmakers. And of course he will need a few weeks to fit in. But the Austrian seems after Kara Mbodj a second added value for the purple-white selection.
Of course, there is still room for reinforcement. Of course, after a series of failed transfer periods, a newcomer may be doubted. But can we at least give him the benefit of the doubt?