Gravenberch better than Bellingham? Dutch legend stands by controversial comment

Rafael van der Vaart raised eyebrows last year when he described Ryan Gravenberch as better than Jude Bellingham 'in every way'

At the time Gravenberch was on the fringes of the Bayern Munich team, enduring a difficult spell on the sidelines, while Bellingham was starring for Borussia Dortmund.

The England man faces his former club at Wembley this weekend in the Champions League final having completed a sensational transfer to Real Madrid last year and is in the running for the Ballon d'Or if reports are to be believed.

A one-time Liverpool transfer target, Bellingham has surpassed the wildest expectations at the Bernabeu during his first season in Spain, scoring 23 times in 41 games overall and winning the LaLiga Player of the Year award.

By contrast, Gravenberch's gains have been modest.

The 22-year-old Dutchman showed flashes of real promise in starting 26 Premier League games following a big-money move to Liverpool from Bayern last year.

Gravenberch moved to Merseyside in a bid to re-align his career after his breakout move from Ajax to Bayern went awry.

He has been consistently linked with a transfer to Turkey this summer but said earlier this week he wanted to remain.

'One career runs differently than another'

He managed a total of 38 appearances for the Reds in his debut season and was included in the Netherlands squad for the upcoming European Championship.

A year further down the line, ex-Real Madrid midfielder Van der Vaart was given the opportunity to revise his opinion by Voetbal International but the 41-year-old pundit is not changing his mind.

Trent Alexander-Arnold Jude Bellingham

Trent Alexander-Arnold Jude Bellingham

"I didn't expect him to have such a good season at Real Madrid," he admits. "But I stand by my comment from then. 

“Bellingham is of course also a great player, but he also has a golden cock. One career simply runs differently than another. For me, that doesn't take away from Gravenberch's enormous qualities.”

Van der Vaart advises Gravenberch to change position

Competition for midfield places promises to be fierce under Arne Slot next season and in order to garner game time, Gravenberch has been advised to drop deep by the Dutch World Cup finalist. 

“I advise Ryan to opt for a role as a defensive midfielder,” he said. 

“That will not be an easy choice for him, because he can do much more. You can compare it with Nigel de Jong in the past. Nigel could do much more than the subservient controller he eventually became. 

“But in that specific role he reached an absolute top level. Nigel decided he was going to be a pitbull and that's it. 

“Ryan is also very versatile and I recommend him to make a similar choice. In a role like Patrick Vieira once played at Arsenal and France.”

'Time to deliver' - Van der Vaart warns Gravenberch

Having been called up to the Dutch squad for Euro 2024, Gravenberch has a real chance to enhance his career and take momentum into his second Liverpool season. 

However, Van der Vaart admits he was surprised the midfielder was called up, citing a lack of minutes at club level. 

“Because he doesn't play enough for his clubs since he left Ajax,” the ex-attacker said. “He really needs to become a regular starter at Liverpool now. You don't always stay young, it's time to start delivering.”

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