Even before he made his senior debut, Xavi Simons was hyped up as a star for the future. The Dutchman joined La Masia at the age of seven, made the switch to Paris Saint-Germain, and eventually made his professional debut for the Parisian side at the age of 17.
Debuting at such a young age for a star-studded outfit like PSG showed just how talented he was, but over two seasons in Paris, Simons only started three senior professional games and played just 330 minutes for the club. In the summer of 2022, he chose not to renew his contract and instead signed for PSV in search for more playing time. In 2022-23, he got just that, playing 48 games in all competitions, scoring 22 goals in the process.
Simons was undoubtedly the major highlight at PSV last season and we didn’t have to wait long to get a taste of what he could do. In PSV’s season opener, Simons came on as a sub in the Johan Cruijff Schaal to score despite only playing a short 17-minute cameo.
After that he became a regular.
Playing in a variety of attacking positions, Simons scored 10 goals in the first 22 matches of the season prior to the World Cup break and assisted three more. Most of those games saw with play with Cody Gakpo and Noni Madueke in attack but after the duo left for Liverpool and Chelsea respectively in the January transfer window, Simons suddenly became PSV’s focal point in attack. The pressure was on to perform.
In 2023, Simons played almost exclusively as a left winger, where he added 12 more goals and eight further assists in 26 games in all competitions.
Simons ended the campaign as the division’s joint-top scorer with 19 goals, as well as firing off the second most shots (93).
For a player his age, that output was certainly impressive. So much so that the 20-year-old became the youngest (joint) top goalscorer in the Eredivisie since a certain Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima – also at PSV – in 1994-95 (18 years old).
As well as his goals, Simons provided eight more assists, bringing his total amount of goal involvements to 27 in the league. Over the course of 2022-23, he was the youngest player with that many goal involvements in the top seven European leagues last season.
Simons was a vital outlet in PSV’s direct style of football last season. The Dutch side had the the most fast breaks in the Eredivisie (36), while only AC Milan (52) and RB Leipzig (44) had more across the top seven European leagues.
Only former teammate Kylian Mbappé (six) scored more goals from these sort of attacks than Simons (five, tied with Mohamed Salah).
Simons is a real threat when he has the opportunity to run at defenders with the ball at his feet. Eight of the goals he scored this league campaign came after a carry, with no player registering more in the top seven European leagues in 2022-23 (Rafael Leão also eight). The Dutch international also provided four assists following a carry, and only Vinícius Júnior could match his 12 goal involvements following a carry last season.
That ball-carrying skill also translates to Simon’s ability to beat a man. Only Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus (94) completed more dribbles in the Eredivisie last season than Simons’ 74. Often, his markers had no option but to simply bring him down, winning the fourth-most fouls in the division (78), with a league-high 25 of those coming in the final third. Nineteen of those 78 fouls resulted in a card for the opponent, the most for any player in an Eredivisie season since Hirving Lozano (23 times for PSV in 2018-19).
Despite being subject to some rough justice, Simons was Mr. Reliable for PSV. Across 2022-23, he played the most league minutes for his club (2,819) and started all 34 games in PSV’s league campaign, becoming the sixth youngest player to do this for any club in the competition. In total, he played 48 of the possible 52 games in all competitions, with only Joey Veerman (3,942) topping Simons’ 3,796 minutes played as an outfield player for the club.
Despite 2022-23 being his first season with meaningful minutes, PSV instantly leaned on Simons to carry the side. He ranked fifth among all Eredivisie players for total involvements in open-play shot-ending sequences (211), and his tally was more than any other PSV player.
But as well as his attacking output, Simons works extremely hard without the ball. Only Luuk de Jong (14.7) contested more duels per 90 last season among PSV players than Simons (14.1), and no other teammate won more duels than him on a per-90 basis (7.6). Only three colleagues recovered possession more often than Simons (155), with 30 of these coming in the final third.
When we compare all of his qualities across players from any top five European league season over the last 15 years, we can get a snapshot of who Xavi Simons profiles like. A quick glance suggests he is keeping some very good company.
Blending style, talent and substance, Simons is a thrilling prospect for any club. After helping deliver the Super Cup, the KNVB Cup and Champions League qualification, Simons will surely also earn PSV a nice transfer fee.
From the looks of it, he’ll be worth every penny.