Eddie Howe has backed summer signing Sven Botman to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s best-ever defenders following an impressive start to his Newcastle career.
The 22-year-old Dutchman is already being compared to illustrious compatriot Virgil van Dijk after settling into English football impressively in the wake of his £35million arrival from French club Lille in June.
Asked how good Botman – yet to finish on the losing side in 12 appearances for the Magpies ahead of Sunday’s trip to Southampton – could be, head coach Howe replied: “I would not be here saying Sven can’t do anything because that would be wrong of me.
“He has the tools to be as good as any other centre-half talked about in Premier League history.”
With Liverpool’s Van Dijk having set new standards while the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic have graced the Premier League in the recent past, Howe’s assessment may prompt raised eyebrows.
However, he is confident that the former Ajax youngster has all the tools to compete at the same level if he can produce the required consistency on a sustained basis.
He said: “I’m not saying those names, I’m just saying I wouldn’t put a ceiling on what he can achieve. He’s got everything, in my view, I don’t see a weakness in his game.
“Of course, he’s very young, he’s only had a handful of games in the Premier League, so he hasn’t had the longevity that he needs to say that over a longer period of time, and that’s the challenge for him, to hit those consistent levels that he needs to.
“On the ball, he is outstanding. Technically he is very high level and can play short and long passes. He has all the tools.
“He has got an understanding very quickly and picked up the pace of the Premier League very quickly, the physicality.”
Botman has been included in Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal’s 39-man provisional squad for the World Cup finals despite attracting criticism when he opted to withdraw from Under-21s duty in September to concentrate on his club commitments.
Howe played down the importance of the work carried out on Tyneside during that international break, although he has started every game since.
The 44-year-old said: “When there are fewer players, you can get more detail into the individual and Sven’s attitude to that work was excellent.
“Since he has come back into that team, he has been very good.”