With all of the money in football these days it is easy to forget about the importance of youth academies and developing young talent. In England, the constant failure of the National team and the revamped and controversial CheckaTrade Trophy has given it some media coverage of late. In recent times, only Man United have had a successful academy in terms of developing truly great players. West Ham and Leeds are well known for bringing through youngsters whereas ‘big’ clubs like Man City and Chelsea were arguably better at it before all the money came in. Liverpool, Arsenal and Spurs are all developing good young players at the moment as are Everton but none of these sides seem to develop the quantity of stars like some of our European counterparts.
In a report in 2015 https://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/feb/26/ajax-most-prolific-producers-young-players-english-clubs?CMP=share_btn_link The Guardian heralded Ajax as having the best/most prolific academy in Europe and it is easy to see why. They have developed not just some of the best Dutch players of all time, but some of the World’s greatest players. Greats like Johan Cruyff and Marco Van Basten all came through the ranks at the Eredivisie giants. Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and the De Boer brothers all also heralded from the Amsterdam Arena. This is not a nostalgic trip down memory lane either as to this day we are still seeing this stream of great talent in the modern generation. Daley Blind (Man Utd), Rafael Van der Vaart ( FC Midtjylland– Ex Spurs), Wesley Schneider (Galatasaray), Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Schalke) and Jon Heitinga (now retired – ex Everton) all earnt their stripes at Ajax too.
It is not just home based talent they develop; Ajax have also been responsible for developing and establishing some of the biggest names in football. Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thomas Vermaelen all played for Ajax as teenagers. Spurs are benefiting massively from the amazing work done in the academy with Toby Alderwiereld, Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen all making names for themselves in the Dutch capital.
You could call it a coincidence, but they seem to be able to develop managers too. Former Man United and Barcelona manager Louis Van Gaal played and manged Ajax as did Frank Rijkaard. Current Everton boss Ronald Koeman is a graduate of the academy and even current Reading boss Jaap Stam is doing a great job in The Championship.
A testament to the success of the youth academy is the Champions League Final of 1995 when over half the team was made up of graduates.
So, who may be next? Ajax are not considered among Europe’s elite anymore sadly. Barcelona, PSG and others have taken that mantle yet still Ajax develop stars for these teams. I have picked out five who, I believe, are likely to be names you will see/hear/read a lot about over the next 18 months.
Kenny Tete – 21-year-old right back – The attack minded full back has already been linked with Man Utd and it is easy to see why. Tete offers everything a modern right back should with pace, stamina, strength, good delivery and likes a tackle. Joining Ajax age 10, Tete only broke into the side in February 2015 but has already progressed into the Dutch National squad.
Jairo Reiderwald – 20-year-old CB –
Barcelona have another graduate of the Ajax academy on their coaching staff in former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars so it is perhaps unsurprising to see them linked with Vaclav Cerny, Matthiss De Ligt, Donny Van der Beek and Riechedly Bozeer – however Riderwald appears to be their top target currently. He has also been linked to Chelsea and in my opinion that could be a good fit. In the Eric Dier mould he is a centre back developing his role as a holding midfielder, comfortable on the ball, good in the air and strong in the challenge are all attributes Conte may look at for another option in his back 3. Joining Ajax age 11 he made his debut in 2013 replacing Daley Blind and has also made it into the National side of late.
Taken from Alchetron
Davy Klassen – 23-year-old attacking midfielder – Klass by name, class by nature. The Ajax captain is possibly the best-known name on this list. The Dutch Internationals style of play is reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp, so it is unsurprising that he has been linked with Man U and Arsenal. The latter is perhaps more likely should Ozil leave.
He made his debut in 2011 against Lyon and scored 42 seconds into his league debut.
Kasper Dolberg – 19-year-old striker – The 6 foot 1 target man has been linked with Everton and you can see why. He is as good with the ball at his feet as he is in the air. Perhaps just needs to work his overall body strength. The Danish International joined in 2014 from Silkeborg IF and has since progressed into the first team.
Taken from Football Oranje
Amin Younes – Left Wing – OK, this one is a cheat as he is not from the youth team but he has plenty of skill and confidence. Not afraid to beat his man, good at crossing, likes a shot and does not mind tracking back to help defend. I have watched him a few times this season an, bar Klassen, is the real difference maker in the current Ajax team.