RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Daley Blind apparently is so wrapped up in the World Cup that Father’s Day passed him by.
“I forgot about it,” he said Sunday after going through a light training session because of a sore knee. “I didn’t do anything.”
No matter. He’d already given his dad Danny — who is also assistant Netherlands coach — two gifts to savor on Friday when he launched a pair of pinpoint long passes to set up the first two Dutch goals in the 5-1 thrashing of defending champion Spain in Salvador.
His commanding play in that match has sparked intense speculation in England that Blind could soon be playing alongside Robin van Persie in the red of Manchester United. Current Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal will take over at Old Trafford next season and attempt to rebuild the team after a disastrous season by the club’s standards.
He said he was proud of the attention, particularly from England.
“I understand there’s a lot of attention because of Robin playing there and Louis van Gaal,” he said. “But now I’m totally focused on the Netherlands.”
If Blind were to make the move to England, it would mean him playing for only the third club of his 24-year-old life.
He joined Ajax when he was eight — although he kicked balls around the Amsterdam club long before that as Danny captained the team and led it to the Champions League title in 1995 — with Van Gaal as coach.
Rising up through the Amsterdam club’s famous youth program, Blind signed a professional contract in 2007 when he had just turned 17. He extended it last year to the end of the 2016 season. His only football in another shirt came in a brief period on loan to Dutch club Groningen.
While Blind could be parting company with Ajax, he looks likely to stay close to his father.
While Van Gaal is leaving the Dutch national setup after the World Cup to head to Manchester, Danny will remain as assistant under his replacement, Guus Hiddink, and has already been appointed to take over as head coach after the European Championship in 2016.
His son is a versatile left-footed player equally comfortable in defense or midfield and looks likely to be a mainstay of the Dutch team for years to come.
On Friday afternoon in Salvador, Louis van Gaal played Blind as a left back, but with orders to press forward down the flank whenever Spain gave him room.
He did it in style, launching two long passes from the left for the first two Dutch goals — first Van Persie launched himself to head Blind’s pass over Iker Casillas and then Arjen Robben deftly controlled an almost identical pass, twisted inside Gerard Pique and fired a powerful shot past Casillas.
Blind said the pass for Van Persie’s goal was pure instinct.
“We haven’t trained much for that,” he said. “I know he makes those runs ... I looked up and saw Robin go and I didn’t think. I tried to deliver it as well as possible and it worked out.”