When Afonso Alves joined Middlesbrough from Dutch side Heerenveen in 2008, big things were expected from the Brazilian striker. Only a year later, however, the Brazilian ‘goal machine’ had to leave English shores; moving to Qatar and playing for Al Sadd, Al Rayyan and Al Gharafa.
His early departure was indicative of his poor debut season at Middlesbrough. In the five years that Alves played after leaving Heerenveen, he scored less goals than in his two seasons spent playing for the Dutch side. And it was actually the remainder of his career too.
In Alves’ first season playing for Heerenveen, the return was 34 goals in 31 league matches. That’s simply mind-boggling. The Brazilian sensation was actually only a hat-trick away from finishing the first season with 37 goals. If he had done, it would equal the number of fields on a wheel of roulette. Why is this important? Well, Roulette games are known for being largely reliant on luck and the Brazilian’s early career seemed to be guided purely by luck and nothing else as Middlesbrough fans would soon find out.
Truth is, ever since they bought Afonso Alves, Middlesbrough have been in a steady decline. This is not much down to the Brazilian throwing a curse or something, but it has more to do with Middlesbrough buying players from the wrong places, such as the Eredivisie. Let’s look at why it is wrong to buy a striker from the Dutch top tier.
It is easy to be fooled by the fact that Afonso Alves was the third Brazilian top scorer in the Eredivisie. Only the legendary Romario and Ronaldo can boast more goals. These are two of the best football players to have ever kicked a ball. So, seeing Alves’ Eredivisie goals next to their ones gives immense credibility to Afonso’s goalscoring potential.
The chances are, however, that Romario and Ronaldo would have scored goals in any league they would have played. And, in fact, they later did really. That can’t be said about Afonso Alves though; his dismal record in the years that came after his breakthrough season in Heerenveen simply prove that what might be true for one player is not always true for everyone.
This doesn’t mean that the Eredivisie has not produced top quality strikers. Just look at Ruud van Nistelrooy or Robin van Persie. As successful as these two were in the early 2000s, however, players such as Mateja Kezman and Afonso Alves were the same or even better goal scoring numbers in about the same period of time. This means that comparing strikers in the Eredivisie is like comparing apples and oranges.
One of the primary reasons given for the success of strikers in the Dutch first division is the poor quality of the defensive players there. Dutch games are famous for being full of goals and defensive errors. This certainly helps men like Alves get a better goal scoring reputation.