Recently turned 23, Vestergaard is a tall centre back who plays his football for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. For regular watchers of the German domestic league competition, Jannik Vestergaard is a household name as this is his 5th season in Germany’s top flight but for others he is an unknown quantity.
Who is Jannik Verstergaard?
Jannik Vestergaard was born on August 3rd 1992 in Copenhagen, Denmark to a Danish father and a German mother. Being a city boy, Jannik enjoys the comforts of the bustling metropolis social life, such as the cafes, the markets and the harbour of Copenhagen but what made the most impact on him was the national football team. He was accustomed to watching the Denmark national team play regularly at Copenhagen and he says it was always a dream to play football professionally and one day captain Denmark.
Vestergaard started off his footballing dream at the small junior club called BK Vestia in Copenhagen. He played for 2 other junior clubs till he was 15 years old. He was noticed by Brondby and he joined the club’s youth setup in 2008. He went through the paces at the youth setup, putting in performances worth speaking about. He made the gradual promotion from the U17 squad to the U19 squad at Brondby by 2010. Soon, he became a player closely watched by scouts from neighbouring European countries, mainly Germany. This was when Hoffenheim took particular interest in this young Dane. He was 18 when he made the free transfer move to the birth country of his mother. He first joined up with the reserve squad and played most of his football in the Regionalliga with the youth team but he often earned his spot on the bench with the senior team by the time he was 18.
In his first season in Germany, Vestergaard managed to get his debut in the top flight coming on as a substitute in the 1-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. From then on, his Hoffenheim career rose with gradual pace. He was learning the trade well and was developing into a towering centre back who would be hard to get past. In his second season, he was no more playing for the reserve side. He made more than a dozen appearances for Hoffenheim, just aged 19. He wasn’t making headlines but he was doing his part aptly when called upon. This followed in the same fashion till he was 20, when he started to find more game time at the club with some journalists already dubbing him as the next Per Mertesacker due to the similar style of game play and physical structure.
He was at Hoffenheim till the age of 22, but by then his career at the small town club had stagnated. He had still amassed a total of 73 appearances and scored 5 times, mostly through headers thanks to his height. But with lesser game time, Jannik was worried he wouldn’t be able to fulfil his dream and when things looked bleak, in came Werder Bremen in 2015. It was the winter break and the team from Bremen were looking for a German or German kind of defender to play in defense to suit the philosophy of their new manager, as things were not looking pretty with them sitting in the relegation play-off places.
He made the switch and though he had Luca Caldirola as his competitor for a spot, his Bundesliga experience and style of play gave him the edge and he soon became a regular at Werder. Fast forward 6 months and he’s almost made his dream come true. After racking up 17 appearances for Werder, he captained the Danish U21s in the European Championships in Czech Republic, where he scored against the hosts in the opener. They did miss out on the finals after a loss to Sweden in the semis, but Vestergaard had an impressive campaign and was soon linked with a move to Everton and more recently, Newcastle.
Style of play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Vestergaard is a hard, strong and physical centre back. He has a great tactical view of the game and reads it well to put in a good shift in defence. He isn’t particularly fast but he compensates for it with his positional play and reading of the game. His height makes him a watch tower in defense and he is always present to head away threatening crosses from set-pieces. This aerial ability is not a threat only in defence but also while attacking. Call it the advantages of being almost 2 metres tall and long legs, he is capable of making seemingly impossible tackles.
He never has a hot head on the pitch and always carries himself well. With calmness and concentration when on the ball it is foolhardy to expect any mistake from him except his passing which can be astray regularly but not to the extent of being a precarious flaw in his game. It will become one if he isn’t more careful as he matures as he will be entering the prime of his career soon enough.
The stronger points of his game are obviously aerial duels and tackling. Taking the U21 Euros as the most recent example, Vestergaard won an average of 3 duels per game and averaged the same amount for sliding tackles as well. He commanded his defensive line and put in solid performances starting off with the first game with one of his best ever performances, going on to meet the expectations that were set for him when the competition started. He even made Outside of the Boot’s Team of the Tournament. This also helps in gather some important form for the upcoming season with Werder Bremen.
Speaking about Werder Bremen, he was no newcomer to the Bundesliga when he signed for them as mentioned before. He won a staggering 66.2% of his aerial duels last season and was a defensive rock. He was one of the main reasons for the upturn in form for the team and was a crucial part of the team that finished just below the European Spots after having endured recent horrendous years in the bottom parts of the Bundesliga table. His performances at Bremen earned him call ups to the senior national team of Denmark and he has 3 caps so far with surely more to come. A towering old fashioned centre back who is slightly faster than Per Mertesacker in my opinion, if he keeps performing and developing, there is a big future in European football for Vestergaard.
With him favouring to play on the ground even though his height enables him to be an aerial threat shows that he is capable of being multidimensional. Sometimes he could get caught with few options available but he has the skill to dribble his way out and play a pass to the nearest team mate. This is where his composure comes into play and has helped him on more than one occasion. The only thing standing in his way from becoming a better player is his passing. This should be an area that young Vestergaard works on before taking the step up to the next bigger challenge than with Werder Bremen and who knows, it could possibly bigger than Everton. Maybe even Arsenal considering how similar he is to Per Mertesacker and his ability to play in a system which depends heavily on zonal marking. As of now, both club and player have no interest of moving on, both are tremendously satisfied with each other but the situation may not be the same when the player develops in to a beast of defender, as he is sure to attract some of the better clubs of Europe if not for the best.
Not to mention, his dribbling, composure and reading of the game also earns him a place in the central midfield area. He is predominantly a centre back but can fill in as a CDM when required. Similar to what Sergio Ramos did for Real, but personally I feel Vestergaard lacks the pace and passing ability to excel at that position. He would be better off sticking to the CB slot.
What does the future hold?
Werder Bremen have a brilliant player amongst their ranks. He has plenty of potential but will need to be given adequate time to adapt and grow as a player. Vestergaard still lacks maturity but with another 2 good seasons in the mid table of Bundesliga, he should be ready to make the next big step of joining clubs playing in the champions league if not the clubs competing for titles. In terms of international career, he has made 3 caps for Denmark’s senior team but is sure to become an integral member now that he has made a name for himself in the Bundesliga and also followed it up with an impressive showing in the U21 Euros. Slow and steady is the strategy with Jaanik, he will reap the fruits of his hard work and there is little doubt as to why he can’t fulfil that childhood dream of his and retire back to the city life of Copenhagen one day.
Written by Alankrith Shankar