Simons wasn't the only baller...

Where are they now? The Netherlands under-21 XI from Xavi Simons’ debut

Xavi Simons’ rise to stardom has been nothing short of spectacular, but perhaps that was because he was surrounded by ballers from so early on in his career.

The hype has been incredibly real around the Dutch wonderkid essentially from the very first moment we all learned about the teenager with the shaggy hair at Paris Saint-Germain in 2019-20.

It’s been a strange but steady ascent since then, leaving Paris and then returning after an exceptional year with PSV and most recently ripping apart the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig.

Now 21, Simons has the world at his feet and is developing at an alarmingly impressive rate. Just a few months before his senior debut at the 2022 World Cup, where he was a surprise inclusion under Louis van Gaal, Simons made his Oranje Under-21 debut, starting in a 2-1 win over Belgium that September.

It was a rather stacked XI – we’ve checked in to see how they’ve been getting on since.

GK: Kjell Scherpen

Scherpen was a regular at youth level for the Netherlands, making no less than 18 appearances for the under-21s. Now 24, though, he’s yet to to receive full international honours.

He’s been on the books at Brighton since the summer of 2021, but spent last season on loan at Sturm Graz in Austria, making 27 appearances in total.

CB: Lutsharel Geertruida (Mees Hilgers, ’46)

One of the brightest young talents in the Eredivisie, Geertruida went on to win the league with Feyenoord that season and is one of the club’s key players now, winning the Dutch Cup in 2024.

The 23-year-old made his senior Netherlands debut in early 2023 and is currently with the Oranje at Euro 2024.

Hilgers, now 23, made his one and only appearance for the Netherlands’ under-21 side that day and is yet to reach the senior team. He’s a regular at FC Twente.

CB: Micky van de Ven

A behemoth of a man and also rapid despite his size, Van de Ven is the perfect modern defender and was always destined for more.

He’s been capped five times by the senior team and was picked for Euro 2024 in Ronald Koeman’s squad.

The defender also enjoyed a fantastic debut season with Tottenham since signing in the summer of 2023, winning their Player of the Season award despite missing a few months over Christmas with a hamstring injury.

We weren’t lying about the pace, either. At 23.23mph, he was recorded as the fastest player in the Premier League since data began to be collected in 2020-21.

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the preseason friendly between Liverpool and Crystal Palace at National Stadium on July 15, 2022 in Singapore.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the 25 Dutch players with the most Premier League appearances?

CB: Sepp van den Berg

It’s been a strange old time for Van den Berg, who joined Liverpool as a 17-year-old in 2019 and seemed to arrive with the idea of developing into a world-class player.

By the time he was playing alongside Simons at under-21 level, however, he’d already become lost in the shuffle and continues to be, having been on loan to Preston, Schalke and most recently Mainz.

The 22-year-old impressed in Germany last season and is supposedly on the market, having told De Telegraaf that he demanded to leave the club when he realised he wasn’t going to get a chance to break in.

READ NEXT: The top 10 teenagers with the most goals & assists in Europe in 2024

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player with 5+ European Championship assists?

RWB: Jeremie Frimpong

On the books at Manchester City as a youngster, Frimpong has always been viewed as a player with potential, but it’s been his move from Celtic to Bayer Leverkusen which has truly unlocked it.

Now one of the driving forces behind somehow making full back the sexiest position on the field (even though his role at Leverkusen is barely that) Frimpong is set to be one of the most sought-after players of the summer, proving crucial to Xabi Alonso as they won the Bundesliga unbeaten.

He heads into Euro 2024 having scored 14 goals and assisted 12 at club level this season. Ridiculous stats.

CM: Ryan Gravenberch (Elayis Tavsan, ’61)

The youngest ever Ajax player to play in the Eredivisie, Gravenberch was the crown jewel of the Erik ten Hag era and his potential earned him a move to Bayern Munich in 2022.

It didn’t quite work out in Bavaria, however, and when Liverool came calling last summer with a £38million bid, Bayern were happy to sell the Dutchman. It was a steady first season at Anfield, but Gravenberch feels like a signing for the future and will no doubt play a part at Euro 2024.

Tavsan swapped the Netherlands for Italy in January 2024 after four years at NEC, joining Hellas Verona in Serie A. He’s yet to make his senior Netherlands debut.

CM: Quinten Timber

Twin of Jurrien, Quinten Timber captained the young Oranje side as they edged past Belgium and earned his first senior Netherlands cap in March 2024, but missed out on the final squad for the Euros.

He won’t mind, though, as he continues to make fine progress at Feyenoord. The 22-year-old has already won an Eredivisie and a Dutch Cup, and finished this season with eight goals and 10 assists in all competitions.

LWB: Mitchel Bakker (Ian Maatsen, ’75)

Playing at just about every age group for the Dutch national team at youth level and breaking through at Ajax, Bakker earned a move to Paris Saint-Germain in 2019, but only lasted two years before being sold to Bayer Leverkusen, which is where he was when featuring here.

The 23-year-old moved again in 2023, this time joining Atalanta, and has just won the Europa League with the Italian side, but is still waiting on his first senior cap for the Oranje, which feels somewhat surprising considering his experience so far and his glistening career at youth level.

Maatsen showed his potential in a fantastic loan spell at Burnley, but didn’t get a chance upon returning to Chelsea and thrived again on loan at Borussia Dortmund, with whom he reached the Champions League final.

He now looks set to complete a move to Aston Villa, securing more Champions League football for himself.

Rhian Brewster is now at Sheffield United.

READ: 10 players you totally forgot ever won the UEFA Champions League

RW: Jurgen Ekkelenkamp

Another who represented the national team at various youth levels but has so far been unable to earn a senior cap, Ekkelenkamp spent one season in Germany in 2021-22 after leaving Ajax, before moving to Belgium to sign for Royal Antwerp.

He won the league title in his first season and remains there today.

ST: Brian Brobbey (Joshua Zirkzee, ’61)

Bagging the all-important brace on the day, Brobbey’s career has been stop-start since leaving Ajax in 2021.

His only season at RB Leipzig in 2021-22 didn’t work out and he was back in Amsterdam on loan by the beginning of 2022, re-signing permanently that summer. He’s been capped twice at senior level.

His substitute endured a similar tough start, but has since bounced back tremendously. Joshua Zirkzee broke through at Bayern Munich in late 2019 and spent about a year in the first team before leaving on loans to Parma and Anderlecht in 2021.

Zirkzee signed for Bologna in 2022 and after a modest first campaign, he blew up under Thiago Motta, scoring 12 goals and assisting 7 in all competitions, helping them to a top-four finish in Serie A. He’s now the subject of a transfer saga between Manchester United and Milan.

LW: Xavi Simons (Thijs Dallinga, ’85)

The star of the show.

With all the expectation on Simons, it would’ve been incredibly eas for him to cave under the pressure and fizzle out, but he’s thriving. He finished the 2023-24 season with 10 goals and 15 assists in all competitions for RB Leipzig and made the Bundesliga Team of the Season.

PSG will have a fight on their hands to keep hold of him this summer.

Dallinga was exceptionally prolific with Excelsior after signing on a free transfer in 2021, finishing his one and only season with 36 goals and firing them into the Eredivisie before signing for Toulouse.

He’s been similarly prolific in France and is quietly turning into a rather exciting forward.