Ajax has built it’s reputation as one of the best youth academies in world football because of it’s attention to detail. The young players are taught to act as professionals, live as professionals, and most importantly play as professionals. This all-around footballing education has helped produce some of the beautiful game’s most prized possessions. Johan Cruijff, Dennis Bergkamp, Wesley Sneijder, Frank de Boer, Patrick Kluivert, and Edwin van der Sar are just a few of the many famed graduates of the club’s amazing youth system.
Although the club hasn’t experienced nearly as much success in recent years as the teams of the 20th Century, Ajax can always look to it’s academy for new prospects ready to help contribute to the first team. The club has used a “buy low, sell high” philosophy for many years and the best way to continue this philosophy is to produce your own players from the youth level for no transfer fee at all. This year, three special talents seem to stand out as potential stars.
Donny van de Beek
At only 19 years of age, Donny van de Beek looks as though he is already suited for professional football. He plays as a central midfielder, but can perform a variety of roles. Van de Beek is a very creative playmaker and knows where and how to pick out the perfect pass. Having been at the club since a young boy, the Dutch Under-19s International is accustomed to the short-passing, high-pressure playing style of Ajax.
Donny is no stranger to the art of the tackle either. His skill in both defending and attacking allows him to quickly transition the ball from the midfield to other attackers once the opposition loses possession. Van de Beek’s weakness is the physical side of his game. He is definitely not the fastest of players, although his passing skill can make up for a lack of speed in most situations. At 1.81 meters (5’9″) he won’t win many aerial challenges, but if he plays in a more advanced position then this shouldn’t factor too much into his role.
Donny van de Beek has a very bright future in this game. With transfer rumors linking him to the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona, we will have to wait to see if that future is at Ajax or elsewhere. Look for Donny to be a rotational player for Ajax this season.
You may only know him from highlight videos on YouTube, but Abdelhak Nouri is more than just a player with amazing dribbling skills. He is a player with incredible vision for such a young age, 19, and he has the technical ability to put the ball where he wants it. Like van de Beek, Nouri has come through the youth ranks at Ajax and is now looking to break into the first team.
Abdelhak Nouri is an attacking midfielder with enough flair and speed to burst past any defender in the Eredivisie. He looks very comfortable and composed with the ball at his feet and is widely regarded as the academy player with the highest potential. He featured in 17 matches with Jong Ajax last season as he helped our B Team finish in 9th in the Jupiler League (2nd division).
Abdelhak is also gaining some attention from Europe’s biggest clubs. There are many rumors linking the youngster with a move to Arsenal and Manchester United. Nouri is yet to debut for the first team, but watch for him to make his breakout in the next season or two.
The youngest player out of the three is Vaclav Cerny; an 18 year old winger from the Czech Republic with great speed, dribbling, awareness on the pitch. Cerny was bought from Czech club Pribram for around €750,000 at the age of 16. Just like van de Beek, Cerny has already made his debut for the first team and has also scored in a Europa League match.
Although he is left-footed, he plays primarily on the right and cuts inside. Cerny is very good at moving the ball on quickly once he receives a pass, as his small stature doesn’t allow him to win many challenges with defenders. Just like Nouri, Vaclav Cerny has the pace to blow by many defenders.
Although he wasn’t brought through the youth academy from a young age like the other two, Cerny has been in the system for a few years now and has gotten to understand Ajax’s style of play and what is expected of it’s players. Vaclav is probably too young to challenge for a starting position for now, but he will more than likely get many chances in the league this season.