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The unlikely hero: Wout Weghorst saves the best for last, after a shaky career with the Netherlands

2022 has truly been a whirlwind of a year for Dutch striker Wout Weghorst. A regular at VfL Wolfsburg and one of the most consistent scorers in the German Bundesliga, he was subject to a $20 million transfer by Premier League side Burnley, in a desperate attempt to avoid relegation and end the side’s goal scoring drought.

Eventually, Burnley was relegated and Weghorst needed to find another club due to his high wages and a bust-up with teammate Connor Roberts, during an international match between the Netherlands and Wales. In the end, Weghorst was loaned to Turkish powerhouse Besiktas, making another step back.

His FIFA World Cup dream was in tatters, as Weghorst, aged 30 years old, looked set to miss the last train to fulfil his lifelong dream of representing his country on the biggest of stages. However, a three-goal salvo in October convinced manager Louis van Gaal that Weghorst could be a super-sub, a striker that can change the outcome of a game, provided he has the chance.

And that prophecy, the thought that enabled van Gaal to select Weghorst in the 26-player squad for the Netherlands, came true in the quarter-final against Argentina, where Weghorst completed a brace in less than 22 minutes, scoring the same amount of goals he had at Burnley in six months.

Unfortunately for Weghorst and the Netherlands, they lost at penalties and were subsequently eliminated, but the powerful centre forward will remain in the FIFA World Cup’s history, with his second goal of the game, a perfectly timed strike in the tenth minute of injury time, after a mind boggling free kick routine that saw Argentina’s defence collapse entirely.

But who is Weghorst and how did he reach this heights in his career?

In his own words, the tall and powerful striker, albeit not as skilled on the ball as his teammates, is a player that gives everything on the pitch, irrespective of the game or the opponent.

“It is always difficult to describe yourself but first and foremost I am a hardworking footballer, and I will give 100 per cent every single time I play. I will do everything to help the team be successful. I am a striker with a strong mentality, I score goals and that is my biggest quality. I am good in the penalty box and I can link up play,” said Weghorst during a press conference at his unveiling at Burnley.

He started his career at small clubs in the Netherlands, before finally making his debut at the second-league side FC Emmen, being snatched by Heracles Almelo, a well-known feeder club in the Netherlands, who usually delivers excellent players with potential.

He was then snatched up by AZ Alkmaar, reaching the 50-goal mark in the Eredivisie, the first Dutch league, when VfL Wolfsburg, a strong club in the German Bundesliga came calling and paid a $10 million fee for Weghorst.

With 53 goals in his first 100 games in the Bundesliga, Weghorst found it hard to break in the Dutch national team when Ronald Koeman was the manager, as the team tried a style less direct, based more on possession, which really did not suit Weghorst.

But when Weghorst started playing better and better, he was impossible to overlook. His natural goal scorer instinct was superb, while also he delivered constantly in assists, helping his teammates shine.

“He’s the most dangerous player in front of goal that I’ve ever coached – at least as head coach,” said Wolfsburg coach Oliver Glasner in 2019.

Scoring 59 goals in 110 matches, Weghorst became the third top scorer in Wolfsburg’s history in the German Bundesliga, only seven goals less than Edin Dzeko, the all-time goal scorer in the league for the German side.

“He feels very settled here and you can tell that by the level of commitment he shows. He’s a player who sacrifices himself for the team, and someone who covers an unbelievable amount of ground to help out defensively. He’s becoming increasingly involved in our game, and that’s a good thing,” added Glasner, Weghorst’s former coach.

Now at Besiktas, Weghorst is still scoring and setting up goals, becoming a key cog in the machine for the Turkish side. He is also hailed as a hero in the Netherlands, albeit it would have been there, between the greats, if the side completed the comeback against Argentina.

He only has five goals under his name in 19 matches for the Netherlands, but Wout Weghorst has definitely become one of the real stars and the scorer of one of the most beautiful goals in the Dutch team’s history.

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