Danilho Doekhi took the next step in his career by signing for Union Berlin in summer 2022. - © IMAGO / Pro Shots Rome
Danilho Doekhi took the next step in his career by signing for Union Berlin in summer 2022. - © IMAGO / Pro Shots Rome

Danilho Doekhi: Who is Union Berlin's new Dutch central defender?


Danilho Doekhi has opted to make the German capital his new home, with Union Berlin getting their hands on a centre-back who brings precision tackling, steel and in-game know-how.

Danilho Doekhi

Age: 23
Club: Union Berlin
Position: Central defender
Country: Netherlands (five U21 caps)

Key stats

A powerful presence and an impressive tackler, Doekhi made significant strides from his Eredivisie debut with hometown side Excelsior Rotterdam - aged 17 in March 2016 - up to captaining Vitesse Arnhem. A Dutch top-flight regular over four seasons with the latter club, Doekhi scored five goals in 139 appearances for Vitesse. 

The 6'3" centre-back was once part of the famous Ajax youth academy, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of current Bayer Leverkusen full-back Mitchel Bakker and ex-RB Leipzig loanee Justin Kluivert. Having moved to Amsterdam from Excelsior in summer 2016, he featured 33 times for the Ajax reserve team as they won the Dutch second-division title in 2017/18.

Doekhi never played for the Ajax first team, though, and he switched to Vitesse in July 2018. The promising defender was sent off in his debut top-flight appearance for the club against Feyenoord, but - often playing in a a back three - he soon settled in after that nervous start. He helped Vitesse reach the Dutch Cup final in 2020/21 and the last 16 of the inaugural UEFA Conference League, where they lost out to eventual tournament winners Roma.

On the international scene, Doekhi rose through the Netherlands youth setups. He debuted for the Dutch U18s in 2015 and made the last of his five U21 appearances in a 5-0 European Championship qualifying win against Belarus in November 2020.

Plays a bit like: Virgil van Dijk

Much like his compatriot, the Liverpool central defender Virgil van Dijk, Doekhi appears ultra calm when assessing all around him and leads with authority from the back. His height and physical strength mark him out as an imposing figure, and he likes nothing more than tracking tricky attackers before timing tackles to perfection. Once in possession, he can quickly reverse the passage of play by using his impressive range of passing.

Danilo Doekhi is similar in style to another cool and stylish Dutch defender: Liverpool and Netherlands centre-back Virgil van Dijk. - IMAGO/Liverpool FC v Real Madrid/IMAGO/ANP

Did you know?

Union's latest signing has a famous footballing uncle: Winston Bogarde. The 51-year-old former full-back also spent part of his early career at Excelsior before going on to represent Ajax, AC Milan, Barcelona and Chelsea. Bogarde won 20 senior caps for Holland. Hoffenheim youngster Melayro Bogarde, meanwhile, is a cousin of the Union man.

Doekhi also has something in common with his Union teammate Sheraldo Becker. Both players hold dual Dutch and Surinamese citizenship.

What they're saying

"I am proud that I have been able to play so many matches for Vitesse. This club has offered me a lot of opportunities, which has allowed me to develop enormously as a footballer, and also as a person. Vitesse will always have a place in my heart." – Doekhi appreciated his time at Vitesse

"Danilho has the ideal conditions for a modern central defender: he has a strong physique but at the same time is also very agile." Union Berlin managing director for professional football Oliver Ruhnert

"Union is a huge opportunity for me and I want to take the club forward. I've also heard a lot about the stadium and the atmosphere here, and I'm especially looking forward to it." – Doekhi on his excitement for what lies ahead.