Jonathan de Guzman's Dutch dream comes true at Swansea City
JONATHAN de Guzman has travelled the world in pursuit of a Dutch cap — and at Swansea City he caught the national team's eye.
Holland assistant manager Danny Blind was recently at the Liberty to see arguably de Guzman's finest moment so far in a Swansea shirt.
The midfielder netted twice against Stoke last month, curling a delightful free-kick into the near corner before collecting Danny Graham's pass and finishing past Asmir Begovic.
And it is not just the Dutch coaching staff who have been keeping tabs on events in SA1.
With Michel Vorm already a regular squad member, de Guzman's new team-mates have also been watching Swansea's progress with interest.
"Everyone knows what we're doing and how we're playing — even the guys playing in the Dutch league know we're a good side and that we're good to watch," said de Guzman.
"They watch our games and know we play attractive football. That's a great feeling when people talk like that, it makes you proud. It's great to be a part of this club."
Though he is eligible to represent Jamaica, the Philippines and Canada, de Guzman had his heart set on playing for Holland.
That goal looked a long way off when he arrived in South Wales last summer with his career stalling a little after a difficult year at Villarreal.
But last Wednesday he made his Holland debut, coming on as a second-half substitute in the Netherlands' 1-1 draw with Italy in Amsterdam.
And afterwards national coach Louis van Gaal was full of praise, suggesting de Guzman had been "playing perfectly" on his first appearance for the Oranje.
"I could have taken the easy road a couple of times, many times actually, but I waited out for a long while because this is what I wanted," added de Guzman.
"Louis van Gaal gave me the opportunity, I got my debut and it went well I felt.
"It was a great experience. I got treated very well by the other guys in the squad.
"It's a talented team and perhaps it can be daunting to come in, but I was made to feel at home and I loved every minute of it."
The 25-year-old's international odyssey began in Canada, where he was born.
His father hails from the Philippines while his mother is Jamaican, so de Guzman already had a multicultural background before he moved to Holland at just 12 years old.
There he joined Feyenoord's academy and by 2005 was in the first team.
After his contract ran down, de Guzman moved to Spanish side Real Mallorca, then managed by Michael Laudrup, on a free transfer in 2010.
He was controversially sold to Villarreal on transfer deadline day in August 2011, but struggled for game-time last season.
The set-piece specialist made just 11 La Liga starts during a frustrating campaign and was allowed to join Swansea on a season-long loan after Villareal were relegated.
He has been improving ever since.
Pursued by Canada, for whom his brother Julian has played since 2002, de Guzman resisted the temptation to give up hope on one day pulling on an orange shirt.
He was granted citizenship in 2008 and last week become the first naturalised Dutchman to play for the country when he replaced Jordy Classie at half-time in the Amsterdam Arena.
"It vindicates my decision to come to Swansea, where the team suits me and the manager believes in me," said de Guzman.
"From last year, Swansea put themselves on the map in their first year in the Premier League.
"This year was always going to be more difficult, but we've carried on playing our football and it's worked out well for me. Everyone is delighted with the way we are going."
Laudrup identified de Guzman as the kind of creative, hard-working player who could bolster Swansea's engine room.
After settling in at the Liberty, de Guzman scored his first Swansea goal in a Capital One Cup triumph at Liverpool in late October.
Other strikes against Newcastle, Norwich and Fulham followed before the former Dutch Under-21 international twice put past the Potters.
"It's not been a bad week. First there was my debut and then we knew we had to get the points against Queens Park Rangers in a challenging game," said de Guzman.
"We got the job done, we played very well as a team and made it a great few days."
Swansea cantered to victory against Harry Redknapp's strugglers as Angel Rangel, Pablo Hernandez and Michu twice hit the target to end a three-game winless run.
The squad then jetted off for some warm-weather training in Dubai ahead of Sunday's trip to Liverpool and the following weekend's Capital One Cup final.
Anfield will hold good memories for de Guzman as it is the ground where he broke his Swansea duck.
Swansea go into the game a point and two places ahead of Brendan Rodgers's side, who are again fending off flak following Monday's 2-0 defeat to West Brom.
"It would be great to get that win and claim some points up there because we had a great win up there earlier in the season," added de Guzman. "But we cannot underestimate them.
"It will be a very different game, they've been playing well and played some great football if not always with the results.
"But it's a game we're looking forward to.
"The confidence we have as a team is great and, although we hadn't scored for a couple of games, we felt we looked back to our best last Saturday.
"It's going well, I can't complain. I'm a happy camper and very grateful for the opportunities I'm getting.
"I don't want this to end, I'm enjoying my football and want that to last as long as it can."
Laudrup has already expressed a desire to keep his new Dutch international on board for next season — so de Guzman may see another wish granted in the near future.