Called up just once by Bert van Marwijk during the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers, the young Hamburg winger won his place in the Netherlands squad for South Africa thanks to an excellent season in the Bundesliga. Having earned himself a first-team spot with one of Germany’s leading clubs, the 23-year-old was a logical choice to make the trip.
Originally taught the game at Den Haag, the Voorburg native was still only 17 when he made his Eredivisie debut. He made four appearances in his first season and followed that up with 55 over the next two campaigns before falling out with the team’s new coach, Lex Schoenmaker. That convinced him to leave, but although Ajax quickly showed their interest, they insisted on loaning the youngster back to his previous club. Rejecting that option, Elia signed for Twente instead.
It proved a shrewd move and after a mere two goals from 30 outings in his first year, he plundered nine in 2008/09 to emerge as one of the most promising new talents in the division. His value soared and when Hamburg came in for his services last summer, they were made to part with €8.5m. Two months into his Bundesliga career, Elia then earned his first Oranje selection, having previously represented his country at Under-19 and U-21 level. His maiden international goal came in his second appearance, against Scotland on 9 September 2009.