In the summer, Celta Vigo swapped one Danish midfield star for another: Michael Krohn-Dehli departed and Daniel Wass arrived.
While losing the outstanding Krohn-Dehli came as a massive blow to the club, Daniel Wass, despite having a rather different profile to his countryman, has certainly filled the void left by the now Sevilla man.
The way the former Evian dynamo has settled into life in Vigo and seamlessly adapted to Eduardo Berizzo’s ideology has been nothing short of impressive.
With Celta flying high in La Liga, sitting fourth on equal points with Real Madrid, Wass will be extra thankful things have worked out for him in Spain, especially considering his horror end to life in France.
On the final day of the 2013/14 season, in Evian’s winner-stays-up relegation battle against Sochaux, Wass played a crucial role throughout his side’s emphatic 3-0 triumph, even scoring an unbelievable bicycle kick. Wass assumed he’d made the perfect farewell to the club, after they assured him that he would be allowed to leave in the summer if the €3 million asking price was met.
After three years of brilliant service for Evian, the Dane had every right to think the club would do what they could to fulfill his wish. As Wass recently explained, however, this was certainly not the case.
“Evian promised me a move last summer. But when clubs came willing to pay the €3 million, Evian suddenly rose up the price. So then I suddenly cost €6 million,” he said.
“I felt powerless to do anything. We tried to screw down the price. We tried everything. But Evian just sat on its hind legs and was completely indifferent and their price would depend on the interested clubs’ size.
“I knew there were lots of clubs interested. They were just not ready to pay six million.”
With the likes of Saint-Etienne, Rennes, Schalke 04, Hamburger SV, Newcastle, Tottenham and West Ham all interested, Evian refused to budge, forcing Wass to stay put for another year.
To his credit, Wass continued to star for the lowly club, in spite of the unfortunate predicament, and provided them with a real chance of avoiding the drop. Come the winter break, though, the Evian manager, Pascal Dupraz, and many of their players turned their back on him after a crisis meeting in January, believing he didn’t want to play for the club anymore and should therefore not be selected.
“Pascal Dupraz went totally crazy after the meeting, talked bad about me and threw me out of the team, so I could not do anything,” he recalled.
“I was completely in shock. I thought: ‘How can the whole squad just go against me?’ I could not understand it.”
Relegated to a spot warming the bench for the remaining five months of the season, Wass cut a desperately lonely figure, with only his fellow Danes, Jesper Hansen and Nicki Bille Nielsen, offering him any form of support. Dupraz even dropped him completely from the squad for Evian’s last two fixtures of the 2014/15 campaign.
“I lost everything for the other players – of course, not the other Danes. I can not help thinking that it is the coach who has been behind the meeting. So you just have to look at what it resulted in. Evian relegated, he (Dupraz) was even fired – a very ugly firing even – and all respect for the club disappeared,” he said.
“Pascal Dupraz had no respect for people. He destroyed everything for the club.”
So in essence, the set piece specialist went from being the star and driving force behind Les Roses in the first half of the season to a forgotten man in the second. It cost Evian dearly too, as the club ended up being relegated.
Some justice was done when the club fired the cantankerous Dupraz, but the whole episode undoubtedly had a huge effect on Wass.
Fortunately for him, Celta came to the rescue in the summer and the talented Dane hasn’t looked back since. A smile has now returned to his face, and as a consequence, The Sky Blues’ number 18 has successfully recaptured that fine form that saw him dominate Ligue 1 in his happier Evian days.
Contributing 23 goals and 12 assists over his 133 games with Evian gave testament to his quality. At the same time, he also evidenced his adaptability and versatility by successfully converting into a domineering midfielder after starting out as a fullback.
Celta’s recent match against Barcelona posed another huge challenge for Wass and his Celta teammates, but the way things panned out was indicative of how happy the Dane is in his new surroundings. Celta spectacularly won 4-1, Wass’ joy apparent every time he celebrated one of his team’s goals. The way he slid in to embrace Nolito and Iago Aspas for Celta’s second and subsequently gave the same duo a great big bear hug for Celta’s third depicted his joy aptly.
From his attacking midfield position, the bold, energetic Wass did plenty of decisive work himself too.
When Celta had possession, the former Brondby and Benfica man looked compact as ever, tidily knocking the ball around with the utmost precision. In addition, his sharpness and cleanness when using the ball, while being key for his side in keeping the ball, also saw him create four clear cut chances. Statistics from StatsZone suggesting he completed 15 out of his 17 attempted passes in the final third tell the story suitably here.
While Wass was a key cog in Celta’s attacking forays, his defensive contribution held an ever greater importance. Charged with marking Barcelona’s deep lying lynchpin, Sergio Busquets, Wass performed his duty absolutely superbly. He’d mark him tightly, press him relentlessly and follow him all over, with a clear view to shutting down his effectiveness when Barcelona were passing out from the back.
It must be said the tactic worked swimmingly. Busquets struggled to gain any respite, only managing to complete 80.5% of his passes, which is in stark contrast to his average pass completion rate of 91.7% last season. As a consequence of Wass’ exploits, Luis Enrique felt it necessary to take Busquets off in the 66th minute, just as he did in Celta’s tremendous 1-0 win over Barcelona in the previous season. A nice bit of correlation, but more than that, it displayed Berizzo’s aptitude of getting his setup spot on, in order to nullify the gifted Spaniard.
Moreover, alongside his fellow attackers, Iago Aspas, Nolito and Fabian Orellana, the Celta front four won the ball back a staggering 28 times in their own half. Berizzo, who first worked under Marcelo Bielsa when he was only 14, surely would’ve loved seeing his well structured pressing game executed so beautifully.
“We’ve honoured football,” Berizzo said after the game. Luis Enrique then added: “If I have to lose, let it be against a team that plays like Celta.”
In a match where Nolito and Aspas deservedly drew the headlines, there could be no doubt that the Danish dynamo’s unheralded efforts were every bit as important. Significantly, upon leaving the field on 85 minutes, the rousing ovation he received from the fans inside a rocking Balaidos added a nice touch, demonstrating the fans’ clear appreciation. He could certainly be satisfied with the job he’d done for the team. Covering a whopping 10.5km gave a tangible figure to attach to his strong exertions.
After such a promising start to life at Celta, it’s great to witness the stars once again align for the Danish international. Now happy again after that forgettable episode at Evian, he looks a revitalised figure, and his on-field showings are certainly proving just that.
Just don’t compare him to Krohn-Dehli whatever you do.
“When I arrived everyone expected me to play like him, but I warned them that I am not Michael. I’m a different player and I hope people see me as such. It’s hard to say what I do compared to Michael, I’m just different and I hope people see,” he explained to La Voz de Galicia.
This clever little player is well and truly his own man. A unique, selfless presence that Celta were only too happy to secure.
Costing a measly €2.7 million, Wass is quickly looking like one of the most astute signings of the summer.
His plight at Evian now appears a distant memory.
About the author – Edward Stratmann
Edward Stratmann writes regularly about the on-field aspects of the game, with a particular focus on tactics and analysis. In addition to featuring on These Football Times, Inside Spanish Football, Anfield Index, Just Football, The Eagles Beak, Think Football Ideas and JuveFC, you can also find Edward’s work at Licence to Roam, a football blog he started with his brother in 2013.