IN THE SPOTLIGHT . . . Luciano Narsingh

7th February 2017
In The Spotlight

Mention Wembley and Luciano Narsingh's face lights up.

There is a grin, too, when talk turns to Manchester United.
Swansea City's new right-winger savours a couple of past experiences which involved English football.
Now, having fulfilled a long held ambition by signing for a Premier League club, Narsingh is intent on enjoying a few more memorable days.
He may have joined a team who are struggling at the bottom end of the English top flight, but that does not affect his positive outlook.
Narsingh, whose upbeat attitude borders on the infectious, is convinced there are good times ahead at the Liberty Stadium.
What is it like coming to a club who are fighting to avoid relegation?
"It's not a problem," Narsingh declares. 
"Maybe some people think it would be better to join a team who are higher in the table, but I believe Swansea can move up the league.
"The first game I saw was against Arsenal. I thought the players did very well in the first half and were unlucky. I believe in this team.
"If we can play for 90 minutes the way the team did in the first half against Arsenal, we will win games I think. The lads showed that with a great performance against Liverpool, and then again against Southampton.
"We have a new trainer and we have some good tactics. He knows what he wants and we know what he wants.
"Of course it is difficult when you play against some of the big clubs in the Premier League, but everything is possible."
Narsingh's story serves as a reminder of what can be achieved even when doubters exist.
Born in Amsterdam, he joined the mighty Ajax as a child and spent several years learning his trade in the club's famed youth set-up.
But when the time came to start thinking about life as a fully-fledged professional footballer, Narsingh suddenly found himself without a club.
"I was at Ajax when I was a young boy, from seven years old," he explains.
"At Ajax I played well, but they said I was too small. After I left them (at the age of 16), I spent some time with an amateur club in Amsterdam.
"Then one year after I left, I went to Heerenveen and things went well for me there."
Narsingh did not walk straight into Heerenveen's first team. He was forced to bide his time, waiting for a chance to impress even at one of the Dutch top flight's less celebrated clubs.
Eventually, that opportunity came - and Narsingh seized it in spectacular fashion.
After two seasons as a fringe figure, he broke through into the first team in 2010-11, turning heads thanks to his pace, dribbling skills and crossing ability.
In the following campaign, he delivered a remarkable 22 assists, the most in the Dutch top tier.
Christian Eriksen, Tottenham's Danish playmaker who was then at Ajax, was second in the list with just 17.
"I think that season I got the record for assists in the Eredivisie," Narsingh recalls.
"I had a good striker playing alongside me, Bas Dost, who scored lots of goals. I crossed a few to him and he put them away."
Dost, a 6ft 5in frontman who has since turned out for Wolfsburg and Sporting Lisbon, may have played his part in his team-mate's success at Heerenveen.
But Ron Jans, the coach who gave Narsingh a chance at the club, was a huge fan of the wideman. 
"Luciano is one of the quickest players to have ever played in Holland, his speed is simply phenomenal," he said of the Swans' recent recruit.
"His vision is absolutely incredible. He can spot the smallest openings and pick out the runs of the other forwards and execute passes with pinpoint precision."
Praise indeed.
Inevitably, Narsingh's feats in Heerenveen colours attracted admiring glances from elsewhere.
Fulham, who were still in the Premier League at that stage, and Liverpool were among the sides mentioned as possible suitors.
So too were Ajax, the club who had told Narsingh he was not good enough only a few years earlier.
Rather than returning to Amsterdam, he opted to join PSV Eindhoven in a 4million euro deal in 2012.
Initially, he thrived in Eindhoven, where former Rangers and Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat was in charge.
By now a part of the Netherlands' national set-up - he went to Euro 2012 but did not feature - Narsingh very quickly made himself a prominent figure in the PSV team.
But in the last game of 2012, disaster struck. Narsingh suffered a cruciate ligament injury which kept him out until October the following year.
Even when he returned to action, he struggled to recapture his best form for quite some time.
It was all of 18 months after surgery on his knee, in fact, when Narsingh announced that he was back to his best by setting up a goal for Memphis Depay and then scoring one himself in a memorable PSV victory over Ajax.
Now better times were ahead.
In 2014-15, Narsingh made himself a pivotal part of the PSV team - alongside the likes of Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum - who delivered the club's first Dutch title in seven years.
A year later, they were celebrating their second Eredivisie triumph in a row.
"At first things at PSV went really well for me, but then I got an injury in my knee, a bad injury which kept me out for 10 months," Narsingh says.
"When I came back it was difficult for me for a while, but we went on to win the title for the first time in quite a few years and then we won the league again the following season.
"They were very good times - it was a great part of my career.
"We also played in the Champions League and that was another good experience."
It was in European competition that one of the most cherished moments in Narsingh's career came along.
It was September 2015, and PSV hosted Louis van Gaal's Manchester United, who took the lead through returning old boy Depay.
But after Hector Moreno had levelled the scores, Narsingh headed in what proved to be the winner.
"I scored against Manchester United," he says through a smile.
"I also got a goal against Bayern Munich. To score against those clubs meant they were special times for me."
Narsingh's strike against a star-studded Bayern side came a little over three months ago and, as it turned out, helped seal his switch to South Wales.
Because in the home dugout on that October night in Munich was Paul Clement, who at that stage was assistant to Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti.
The Swans had been monitoring Narsingh before Clement arrived in SA1 last month.
In fact, he has been on the club's radar since his days in the Dutch Under-21 set-up.
But when Clement took charge, he swiftly gave the Narsingh move his blessing having seen him at first hand.
The fact that Narsingh picked up a minor calf injury just days before sealing his switch to these parts was not ideal, but he is already getting used to life in new surroundings.
The presence of some fellow countrymen in the Swans squad - including international colleague Leroy Fer - has made the task of acclimatising a little easier.
Now Narsingh is raring for an opportunity to sample a division he has long watched from afar.
"I have been waiting for the chance to come over and play in the Premier League," he says.
"It's a great time for me now that I am here. I always wanted to play in the Premier League, and when Swansea came in for me, I knew I wanted to play for Swansea.
"I have known about Swansea for a long time. There have been a lot of Dutch players here, for example Jonathan de Guzman who I know.
"I have known for a long time that Swansea want to play good football. That appealed to me. I felt this was the right moment for me to come."
It is generally accepted that players who swap Holland for the Premier League have to handle a significant step up in standard.
But Narsingh believes his experience of European football will stand him in good stead for life at his new club - and his early displays have suggested he will thrive on these shores.
"In the Champions League, the game is faster. The players are stronger," he says.
"It is all about the small details - there is one chance and they score.
"I think the Premier League, from what I have seen of it, is the same sort of level. The tempo is similar to the Champions League - and it may be more physical."
Narsingh is just starting to find out. His tastes of English football until now have been brief.
Having played in that home win over van Gaal's United, he featured in the return - a goalless draw at Old Trafford in November 2015.
Before his recent Swans debut, his most recent appearance on these shores came last March, when the Netherlands chalked up a notable friendly win over England in front of more than 82,000 at Wembley.
Jamie Vardy had put the home side in front, but Vincent Janssen levelled from the spot before Narsingh netted a late winner.
"It was a special moment, especially because I wanted to play in the Premier League," he says.
"I hope now there will be some more good memories. I will work hard every day to make that happen."