Feyenoord striker Santiago Giménez showed on Wednesday evening against Lazio (3-1 win) that he can also score at the highest level. It will put the striker even more on the international map, on the way to a record transfer.
Ruim een uur na de Champions League-wedstrijd, waarin de 22-jarige Giménez maar weer eens een hoofdrol opeiste, kreeg Arne Slot de vraag of de Mexicaanse spits een fenomeen aan het worden is. “Daar had hij deze wedstrijd niet voor nodig. Voor de Feyenoord-supporters was hij al een fenomeen”, zei de trainer.
Slot bekeek de vraag logischerwijs vanuit Rotterdams perspectief. Maar trek je de vraag breder, is het vooral interessant of de Mexicaan in het buitenland ook als dat ‘fenomeen’ wordt gezien, nu hij zijn Champions League-debuut opluisterde met twee doelpunten.
“Om de volgende stap te kunnen zetten, zal Giménez ook in Europa indruk moeten maken”, zei Slot daar recent al over. Want natuurlijk, het bizarre aantal van dertien competitiegoals in negen duels haalt ook buiten Nederland het nieuws. Net als zijn historische hattrick tegen aartsrivaal Ajax (0-4-zege) en zijn reeks van negen duels op rij met een doelpunt.
Niet voor niets is de gedeeld Eredivisie-topscorer volgens de gerenommeerde voetbalwebsite Transfermarkt.com 40 miljoen euro waard. Maar internationale topclubs als Real Madrid, dat sluimerende interesse zou hebben, zullen desondanks kijken naar de weerstand van ploegen waartegen die goals zijn gemaakt.
No starring role against AS Roma
Goals against Go Ahead Eagles and PEC Zwolle weigh less heavily than those at the highest level. That is precisely where Giménez had not consistently shown it so far. He scored three goals against Lazio last season. But he paled in the quarter-finals of the Europa League against AS Roma, for example.
Giménez was unable to cope against the robust Roman defenders and was even sent off in the return match at Stadio Olimpico after a hard charge. It haunted the striker as it forced him to miss the Champions League matches against Celtic and Atlético Madrid.
It won’t have helped his status with the Mexican team; Giménez is a bencher for the national team. “The Eredivisie is not competitive,” 120-time Mexican international Cuauhtémoc Blanco said earlier. There are also doubts in his homeland about the resistance that Giménez has to endure.
The striker himself seemed to convert his doubts into a drive to show himself to the world audience. He wrote on Instagram on Monday that he was happy to finally be able to compete with the best. And once on the field of De Kuip, Giménez went on a rampage, in the good sense of the word. His first goal was disallowed for offside.
Shortly afterwards he cleverly scored his first Champions League goal. Sixteen minutes before the end he even tapped in his second. “The fact that he persevered after that disallowed goal is what makes Santi so good,” says Slot. “He has a very strong personality. After such a disallowed goal, he is immediately there again to finish the next ball.”
‘Santi gets a chance and shoots it in’
After goals fourteen and fifteen in eleven matches, teammates could also barely comprehend how easily Giménez scored. “What else do I have to say about him?”, Calvin Stengs wonders out loud. “Every game I have the feeling as if he is going to score. He always wants the ball and almost always makes runs. It is nice to play with him.”
Slot seemed to want to say on Wednesday that having Giménez under your wing is also special. The 45-year-old coach said the Mexican is the best striker he has ever worked with. “Myron Boadu, Bryan Linssen and Cyriel Dessers were also good. But with Santi you know: you set him up, he gets opportunities and he shoots them in. And he has done that non-stop for us since he became fit.”
The question is whether Giménez will continue to do that in the Champions League in the coming matches. In that case, there is no doubt that the Rotterdammers will break the transfer record (25 million euros excluding bonuses for Orkun Kökçü) in the summer. Or even in the winter, as a top club offer you can’t refuse leaves with Feyenoord.
In the meantime, the ‘phenomenon’ itself wants to keep both feet on the ground. Giménez: “This was a dream debut in the Champions League. A childhood dream comes true. I am working hard to achieve this. This is a confirmation that with the support of God everything is possible.”
The post first appeared on www.nu.nl