Chelsea’s official website currently lists 26 players out on loan, with Gael Kakuta and Nathaniel Chalobah engaged in their sixth and fifth temporary move away from Stamford Bridge. That life was not for Jeffrey Bruma, snapped up by the Blues aged 15 from Feyenoord’s academy.
“I got my debut at the age of 17, and then at the age of 18 or 19 I really wanted to play in the first team. At Chelsea you have to wait, with such big stars in front of you. I chose to go out on loan and get the experience for myself,” Bruma recalled in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “When I was 21 I went to sign a new deal [with Chelsea], and then I could go out on loan again. I wasn’t really looking for that, I wanted a permanent deal, a solid place where I could feel at home. PSV gave me a chance, in my home country, and it’s worked out pretty well so far.”
It has indeed appeared a wise choice by the Dutchman since he sealed a permanent switch to Eindhoven in 2013. The Rood-witten endured a transitional season last year, in Phillip Cocu’s first campaign in charge, finishing fourth in the Dutch Eredivisie. 2014/15 has seen remarkable success, with the side currently 14 points clear of Ajax in second, a feat all the more impressive considering their rivals have won four titles in a row.
“We’re really confident,” said Bruma. “Everyone knows what we have to do to win the title. Everyone is ready to do whatever it takes. It’s clear to everyone that it must be our year.”
With Ajax heading to the Philips Stadion on Sunday, it is a chance for the league leaders to all but confirm the Eredivisie title.
“It will be a big game,” Bruma said. “If we really want to hurt them we have to win, we can punish them. Hopefully we can make the lead a bit bigger.”
PSV’s domestic success this season has been built on solid foundations. They have conceded just 19 goals in 24 games, keeping ten clean sheets in the process. Ernest Faber, PSV’s assistant coach and former defender, has brought his experience to the current cohort. In his four title wins as a PSV player, the team conceded a remarkable average of just over 23 goals per season.
“If you want to fight for the title, the goalkeeper and back four have a really important job,” Bruma noted. “They must be reliable. If we don’t score, the team has to believe that we a have a block behind that doesn’t let goals in too easily. The defence shows calmness and control, for the whole team to be comfortable.”
Despite PSV’s defensive solidity, it’s a player further up the pitch who has everyone talking. Memphis Depay, who shone at the 2014 FIFA World Cup™ as the Netherlands defied pre-tournament predictions to finish third, is PSV’s top scorer this season. Bruma gave a glowing appraisal of the 21-year-old.
“He’s had a good season this year and a good World Cup,” the former Chelsea man said. “He has options this summer for sure. He’s young but he had a good experience at the World Cup, and he’s been starting with PSV for two years now. He’s still young, he’s very eager to learn which is a good thing.”
Bert played a big role, he believed in me at a young age, gave me the chance, I will forever be grateful to him.
The defender watched his PSV teammate’s outstanding World Cup performances from the idyllic Caribbean island of Curaçao last summer on holiday. He admitted he was disappointed to miss out on a place in Louis van Gaal’s final squad, despite playing three games on the road to Brazil.
“When you play in the qualifiers, you want to be in the squad,” Bruma said. “At the same time, you have to respect the decision of the coach. Obviously the team played very well, in a new formation. Nobody really expected us to go as far. I can only look at myself, what went wrong for myself. I’ve done that and tried to improve every aspect of my game.”
Constant self-improvement is a mantra that Bruma has adhered to from an early age. He made his English Premier League debut aged 17, and was given his full international bow less than a year later.
“It all went very quickly. I was only playing in the reserves, and then the next minute I got a call from the Dutch national team. Now I’m 23, have played some games, but I want to add more games to that. Bert [van Marwijk] played a big role, he believed in me at a young age, gave me the chance, I will forever be grateful to him.”
Defender looking to Dutch future
Bruma may indeed have an opportunity to further his international career in the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifiers. He returned to the Dutch side against Latvia in November last year and scored his first international goal in a 6-0 win. The victory was a reprieve for coach Guus Hiddink following defeats to Czech Republic and Iceland.
“[Scoring the goal] felt amazing,” Bruma recalled. “I was really focused for the game. It was a dream come true. My family, my mum were in the crowd so it was great. It’s our job to qualify. Obviously it was a bit of a struggle in the beginning. Normal expectation is that we have to beat everyone. If everyone is fit enough, and we’re in good shape then we expect to.”
It is clear the 23-year-old is enjoying being back in his home country, with the defender speaking positively about the Dutch style of play. But what does the future hold for the former Chelsea and Hamburg man?
“In Holland it’s really about playing football, playing out from the back and winning games with nice football,” Bruma explained. “That is the theory here. When you’re in the Bundesliga or the Premier League, it’s more that you have to win, it doesn’t matter how. Even if defenders aren’t really comfortable with the ball, it’s alright, as long as they can really defend.
“I had a great time in England, I learned a lot. Chelsea has a special place for me, for sure. In the future, if I could go back, if it comes around, I would think about it.”
Bruma says he keeps a close eye on the Premier League, predicting that his former side will win the title if they keep up their scintillating performances. For now though, he is clearly loving life in Eindhoven, and a title win of his own with PSV is very much in his sights.