For Donny van de Beek, a transfer to Manchester United from Ajax will have been the reward for years of hard work, dedication to his craft and multiple sacrifices.
Signing for an initial €39m, the Dutch midfielder didn’t take long to pick a number to wear next year, choosing 34 as a tribute to Abdelhak Nouri, often referred to as Appie, who collapsed in July 2017 from cardiac arrhythmia and was left with severe and permanent brain damage.
Now out of a coma and capable of communicating with those around him by moving his mouth and eyebrows, the 23-year-old was told of his former teammate’s transfer to Manchester United by Van de Beek himself on the phone, as explained to De Telegraaf by Nouri’s father, Mohammed.
He said: “Appie’s eyes looked very sharp suddenly, he had tears of joy on his cheeks and was clearly moved when he heard Donny’s voice. Donny is like a son to us. Everyone at our house was very emotional, happy with Donny’s wonderful transfer. It was a special day.”
Van de Beek is the latest in a growing list of Nouri’s former teammates to have adopted number 34 on the back of their shirts, which Mohammed thinks is ‘great’.
He continued: “It’s another sign that Appie is not being forgotten. All these beautiful gestures give us a lot of strength, but with Donny it creates a different feeling. He’s the same person as Appie, with a beautiful character and a real Ajax football player.”
Mohammed also revealed Van de Beek didn’t waste time in inviting the Nouri family to come and see him play at Old Trafford once that’s possible again.
He said: “We will definitely go to Manchester. The three of us won’t all go together because Appie needs help, so someone must always stay with him.”