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Will Suarez be a record breaker?

The Coen Dillen Index sounds like an interesting investment opportunity on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange, but in fact it is a record that has stood for more than 50 years in the Dutch top flight.

With his thundering shot, Coen Dillen was the Ferenc Puskas of the Low Countries, nicknamed The Canon. In the first season of the Eredivisie, in 1956-57, Dillen scored 43 goals for PSV to set a record no player has ever matched.

With just over a third of the season gone, this weekend Ajax's Luis Suarez scored his 17th goal, which mathematically should point at another exciting challenge to the index. Yet so many have failed before him.

Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Romario, Ronaldo: all of them were prolific goalscorers on the international scene with plenty of seasons in the Eredivisie under their belt, but none of them could ever catch the unassuming cigar shop owner from Eindhoven.

In 137 league games between 1953 and 1957 he scored a whopping 152 goals, while his 43 in 1957 would have made him the winner of Europe's Golden Shoe that season. Sadly for him, that prize was not distributed before 1968.

His international reputation therefore remains non-existent. He did score four goals in five games for the Dutch team, but those were different times. His city companion Noud van Melis, playing for EVV, scored 12 times in his first eight caps in the early 50s and still enjoyed only one victory. After his first goalless match in the orange shirt, Van Melis was out and played only four more games for his country. Scoring posed no problem for the Dutch, it was the poor defending that kept Holland from even daring to compete during qualification for the 1954 World Cup.

Not only was there a surfeit of goalscoring competition in the country, Dillen also suffered from the fact that he was not a very good player at all. He was not fast and not suited for flowing football. His only attribute was his fierce shooting technique which frightened defenders and keepers all around the country. One of his shots went through the net in a game at Elinkwijk, another broke the finger of MVV Maastricht keeper Jan Vrijhof.

Team-mate Roel Wiersma even argued that Dillen was lazy and was just waiting for the ball in the box. Despite his impressive goal tally in 1956-57, PSV only managed to finish in sixth position, ten points behind champions Ajax who were a bit more efficient as they won eight of their matches 1-0. PSV conceded a massive 71, while scoring 93, meaning each of their games had an average of almost five goals.

Dillen did not score in 12 matches, most of those games being in the first half of the season when PSV lingered in the wrong half of the table. After Christmas he scored 33, but by then it was too late for a title challenge.

And that is what makes the Coen Dillen Index so treacherous. At the halfway mark Dillen had scored ten. By that point most top scorers in a given Eredivisie season are far ahead of the PSV player and seem to have a fair chance of breaking the record. Yet in the second half of the season, Dillen had all his guns blazing, while over the years a strange curse has stopped most challengers in their tracks.

Henk Groot of Ajax was the first in 1960-61 when he had scored 21 goals in nine games around the Easter period to inflate his total to 35 with a fifth of the season to go. Then Groot had to play 13 matches in eight weeks, including three internationals and five cup games, which was a bit much for a semi-professional. His goal drought caused Ajax to lose the title to Feyenoord and himself the record.

For the next 25 years no one came close to the Coen Dillen Index. In this period, Dillen's successor at PSV, Willy van der Kuylen, shot himself to the top of the all-time goalscorers list in the Eredivisie with 312 goals, most of them made with his equally ferocious shot, while Ruud Geels of Ajax and Sparta became a record five-times top scorer.

Then, in the early 80s, Marco van Basten burst onto the scene. The 1985-86 season was his best in Ajax colours. His equaliser at PSV halfway through March was his 34th goal with 12 games remaining, while he had just scored the only goal in Leipzig as the Netherlands national side secured a surprise win over East Germany in what may have been the mental turning point for a talented young generation of Dutch players. The next week Van Basten suffered an ankle injury in a cup game against RCH, sidelining him for most of the rest of the season. He would never play without pain again.

After Marco van Basten left Ajax for AC Milan the following seasons were dominated by PSV's young sensation, Romario. Although still 20 goals short in the spring of 1990, he had the form to threaten the record in a team that was racing to an unprecendented fifth title in a row. On his way to scoring the seventh goal, his third of the day, against FC Den Haag, he was tackled from behind by Marco Gentile and broke his leg. Without him, PSV lost the championship to Ajax, while Romario and Brazil saw their World Cup hopes evaporate.

In the 1999-2000 season the spectacular pairing of Luc Nilis and Ruud van Nistelrooy made the Eredivisie the most boring in years in competitive terms. With ten games to go, PSV were ten points ahead of second-placed Feyenoord. The only excitement left was whether Ruud would break the Coen Dillen index.

He needed 15 goals in ten games when he injured his knee in a midweek friendly against Silkeborg. Then, when almost fit, a wrong move in a training session set him back a year, putting on hold a move to Manchester United and keeping him from playing at Euro 2000 on home turf. It would take another four years before he participated in a major tournament.

In recent seasons only the enigmatic Afonso Alves broke a record when he scored seven goals in a single game for Heerenveen against Heracles, but no one has come anywhere near the magical threshold of 40 goals. That may well change this year.

Ajax are on track for at least a century of goals as they have already accumulated 45. Luis Suarez has scored 17 and has an advantage of 12 over Coen Dillen at this stage of the season. He now has 20 games to add 27 goals. It seems possible, but Suarez has to stay at Ajax to break the record.

Being a key striker for Uruguay, who have qualified for the World Cup, he will be an interesting prospect for Premier League clubs, while Ajax may not be opposed to selling him during the winter break for pressing financial reasons.

Realism may prevail, but to keep alive the dream of breaking the unbreakable record, please let Suarez finish the season in Amsterdam.


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