Donny van de Beek’s predicament at Manchester United is a truly bewildering one.
The Dutchman’s arrival had always looked like overkill with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba already leading United‘s midfield, but nobody could have predicted things to play out like this.
Sure, no one was expecting Van de Beek to start every single game at Old Trafford, but the fact that he has effectively been exiled by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has left United fans in a state of confusion.
Van de Beek’s Man Utd exile
Despite evidently being one of the finest young midfielders in Europe, the former Ajax prodigy has been reduced to just five minutes of Premier League action from a possible 900 this season.
Marry that to starting just four league games during his debut campaign and Van de Beek’s bizarre situation is guaranteed to go down as one of the strangest exiles in modern football history.
And that got us thinking here at GIVEMESPORT: just how unique is Van de Beek’s scenario?
Well, actually, there are more than a few examples of top-level footballers having either being frozen out, cast away or swiftly axed in ways where it wouldn’t be unfair to whip out the ‘exile’ label.
Atalanta 2-2 Man Utd Reaction (Football Terrace)
Examples of footballing exile
So much so, in fact, that we decided to draw up an ‘exile’ XI that looks back on some of the instances in football where players have fallen off the map at their clubs for a multitude of reasons.
Now, at the end of the day, only those behind the scenes at United will know the full story of Van de Beek’s quandary, so we’re not trying to throw around accusations or definitively attribute blame.
And we’re not necessarily making strong, concrete comparisons between Van de Beek’s present situation and the players that will feature alongside him in our ‘exile’ XI.
Football’s exile XI
In fact, as you will see, there are a number of situations that we look back upon in the line-up where some might argue that the blame for the player’s exile lies very much at their own feet.
In other words, don’t read too much into any potential connections between players who, whether through Jose Mourinho ruthlessness or refusing to play, endured a period of exile at the top level.
However, that’s enough with the disclaimers because we know that you’re here for the XI, so be sure to check out our line-up of high-profile footballers who have been exiled down below:
GK: Victor Valdes
When Valdes arrived for his second season at United in 2015, he came back to discover that he no longer had a locker to his name, meaning that he would have to train and change elsewhere.
Louis van Gaal explained that Valdes had refused to play in an Under 21s game, leading to his exile from the club’s squad photo and pre-season tour with the Spaniard not even allowed to eat with his teammates.
DF: Winston Bogarde
Bogarde reportedly pocketed £40,000-per-week in wages at Chelsea despite only making nine Premier League appearances in his four years at the club, happily hoovering up his pay cheques.
The Blues repeatedly tried to encourage Bogarde to leave by demoting him to the youth teams, but in the words of his autobiography: “Why should I throw €15m away when it is already mine?”
DF: Wayne Bridge
The arrival of Roberto Mancini spelled the end for Bridge at Manchester City as he was reduced to just eight appearances in his final two seasons and forced to train away from the first-team.
After Mancini’s Euro 2020 triumph, Bridge remarked: “It really hurt me because I hate Mancini, everyone knows I have no love for him. I wouldn’t say he’s the worst I’ve had, but tactically he isn’t that great.”
DF: Mamadou Sakho
Sakho spent six months in relative exile at Liverpool having been sent home from their pre-season tour for breaking club rules, playing with the Reds’ reserves until an eventual Crystal Palace move.
MF: Florent Malouda
Despite submitting a transfer request in the summer of 2012, Malouda ultimately refused to leave Chelsea because he didn’t want to take a pay cut and saw out the final year of his contract in exile.
The Frenchman was chopped from all of the club’s registered squads, forced to train with the Under 21s and was released the following June, joining Trabzonspor after an entire year without playing.
MF: Donny van de Beek
Ah yes, the reason we’re here. It doesn’t half feel scandalous that Van de Beek has still only played 520 minutes of Premier League football, which is the equivalent of less than six entire games.
MF: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Described by the man himself as a “weird and difficult situation,” Schweinsteiger played just four times under Mourinho at United with the World Cup winner often forced to watch from the stands.
MF: Mesut Ozil
Ozil was never really the same player for Arsenal after his infamous £350,000-a-week contract renewal, but it was his frayed relationship with Mikel Arteta that devolved his situation into exile.
The German was dumped from Arsenal’s Premier League squad for the 2020/21 season and reduced to tweeting about the club’s games before eventually securing a move to Fenerbache.
MF: Yaya Toure
For the first few months of Pep Guardiola’s reign, Toure wouldn’t even make City’s Premier League squads due to comments from his controversial agent, Dimitri Seluk, and refusing to leave the club.
FW: Carlos Tevez
After feuds with Mancini escalated to allegedly refusing to warm-up against Bayern Munich, Tevez spent months of exile out in Argentina where he hung up his football boots and turned to golf.
The six-month absence reportedly cost Tevez more than £9 million in lost wages, but he ultimately reconciled with Mancini and helped Manchester City to their first Premier League title weeks later.
FW: Nicolas Anelka
Anelka found himself frozen out by Andre Villas-Boas in the 2011/12 season with the Frenchman banned from Chelsea’s changing rooms and car park before being moved on to China in January.
What next for Van de Beek?
Whatever is going on at United for Van de Beek will ultimately be a situation so individual and personal to him that we could never solidly make comparisons or assumptions about every detail.
However, even if all the examples in our ‘exile’ XI aren’t necessarily deserving of sympathy, it’s clear that examples like Schweinsteiger and Valdes have some level of commonality with Van de Beek.
Who knows, maybe one day everything will come out and Solskjaer’s seeming distrust of the Dutchman will suddenly make sense, but you’d be forgiven for doubting that as things stand.
Regardless of who might be to blame or what the reason may actually be, the moral of the story is that Van de Beek’s move to United hasn’t just pumped the brakes on his career, but brought it to a complete stop.