RAYMOND van Barneveld looked ahead to facing Michael van Gerwen at the BIC and then predicted his compatriot could become a darts legend.
Van Barneveld and van Gerwen will lock horns in a potentially mouth-watering showdown when the world’s leading stars return to Dorset tonight in front of an expected sell-out crowd for the popular McCoy’s Premier League event at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Five-time world champion van Barneveld is the only player to have won both of his Premier League games so far this season, defeating Gary Anderson and Wes Newton with a brace of ton-plus averages.
Last year’s Grand Slam of Darts winner and World Championship semi-finalist has been in fine form but he admits he will face his biggest test yet in the all-Dutch battle.
Van Gerwen, 23, has soared to fourth in the world rankings over the past year, winning the World Grand Prix, reaching the Grand Slam and World Championship finals and hitting two televised nine-darters.
And van Barneveld has been hugely impressed with the youngster’s rise since watching him emerge as a teenage prodigy almost a decade ago.
“What we have seen of Michael in the past 10 years is unreal,” said van Barneveld.
“I remember he was a youth player in Finland and he won the youth event and then took part in the men’s singles event and won that too, and he did it again in Norway.
“He is exceptional – a great player – and he could win many World Championship titles from now. He could be one of the best players ever.”
Previewing tonight’s clash, van Barneveld added: “My head is right and I am saying to myself that I love the game again.
“I have got Michael van Gerwen this week and, behind Phil Taylor, he is the player in the best form and he was in the World Championship final, so there is a lot of pressure.
“He is a fellow countryman so this week we are going to see who the best Dutchman is at the moment. It is exciting.”
Tonight’s showpiece is set to be the third McCoy’s Premier League sell-out in as many weeks this season, with just a handful of tickets remaining.
For further information on tonight’s McCoy’s Premier Leauge fixture , contact the BIC Box Office on 0844 576 3000.
Matches: James Wade v Adrian Lewis, Robert Thornton v Wes Newton, Simon Whitlock v Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld, Andy Hamilton v Gary Anderson. All games are best of 12 legs.