Branco van den Boomen has quietly racked up some of the best stats in Ligue 1 Uber Eats this season, but what else is there to know about Toulouse FC's Dutch midfield master?
Toulouse may only be 12th in the table, nearer the relegation battle than the European chase, but Van den Boomen has quietly been about the most effective player in the division, with only Paris Saint-Germain superstar Lionel Messi boasting more goal- and shot-creating actions league-wide.
Van den Boomen has been attracting admiring glances from far and wide with his languid but effective style, and Toulouse are understandably keen to tie the 27-year-old down to a longer-term deal with hid current contract expiring this summer.
Van den Boomen was born in Veldhoven, just outside of Eindhoven, on 21 July 1995, but unlike most youngsters from the region who aspire to play for local giants PSV Eindhoven, he joined Ajax's fabled academy from the Willem II youth set-up aged 15.
A Netherlands youth international is his time at Ajax, Van den Boomen never broke into the Dutch record champions' first team, and subsequently embarked on a journey throughout the top two divisions back home, with spells FC Eindhoven, (twice), Heerenveen, Willem II and De Graafschap before his 2020 move to Toulouse.
The first Dutchman to turn out for le Téfécé since one Rob Rensenbrink back in 1981/82, Van den Boomen was soon joined by compatriot Stijn Spierings and the pair helped Toulouse back into Ligue 1 Uber Eats as Ligue 2 BKT champions in 2022.
Countrymen Thijs Dallinga and Zakaria Aboukhlal - the latter of whom plays for Morocco internationally - joined on promotion, but Van den Boomen, who had 21 assists in the previous campaign, has continued to shine brightest.
Style of play:
Van den Boomen is a right-footed midfielder whose nurturing of the ball is more akin to that stereotypically associated with left footers, while at 6'2", the amount of time he spends in wide areas can appear odd at first glance.
But what an effective player he is. Van den Boomen five shot-creating actions per game are second only to Messi this season, while his average of nine progressive passes per game is the most league-wide, as are his 70 key passes so far. He may not have as many assists as down a division last season, but only Messi and Neymar Jr. have bettered his seven provisions.
Van den Boomen assisted Dallinga for Toulouse's first goal of the season in the opening day 1-1 draw with OGC Nice, and opened his own account from the penalty spot in Round 11 as Philippe Montanier's men beat Angers SCO 3-2.
He had a goal and two assists as Toulouse thrashed ESTAC Troyes 4-1 at the start of February, but he really grabbed headlines in defeat to PSG a week later. Achraf Hakimi and Messi scored in a 2-1 win for the champions, but Van den Boomen had opened the scoring with a free-kick that left Gigio Donnarumma with no chance.
Watch: Van den Boomen's goal against PSG
What they said:
"It was a nice was to start the competition. Of course I knew Branco had a lot of assists last year so when he has the ball you know as a striker you have to move and it's possible you get the ball."
- Dallinga on his opening day goal for Toulouse.
"I just give the ball to Branco. He has an amazing right foot. And he has the overview. You see the qualities he has, he's really good and yes, when I need to give the ball to somebody in the team I will give the ball to Branco."
- Spierings on his midfield partner.
"Dreaming's always allowed [but] I'm not really counting on it. If you set goals as a player, that would be nice. Players who do well abroad are always seen, so I hope I can continue like this. Then you never know what could happen."
- Van den Boomen on a possible international call-up.