Keeping Kenny Tete is of paramount importance

Marc Overmars is the highly-criticized Technical Director of Ajax and after what has been one of his best seasons in the role, he faces a dilemma with both his right-backs, Joel Veltman and Kenny Tete running out of contract. Interest has been growing in Veltman so the prospect of him signing a new contract and continuing at Ajax are unlikely, which makes the decision not to sign Tete to a new contract all the more confusing. Tete has spent most of the season on the periphery with Veltman starting in the right-back role but has the potential to become Ajax’ starting right-back next season.

Jairo Riedewald and Tete’s injuries at the beginning of last year – which led to Veltman moving out to the right back position and Nick Viergever getting increased game time – turned out to be big hindrances in their careers. Both have played bit-part roles as rotation options or options when players were suspended or injured. Tete’s past at centre-back with Jong Ajax made him a defensively sound option at fullback, with his energy and strong running style to burst forward, and the youngster has improved his decision making in recent times too.

Near the end of pre-season, Bosz tried Tete as a wing-back in a 3-4-3 against Marseille which proved to be quite catastrophic, as his sense of positioning as a wing-back was still to be developed. He left his back three vulnerable by pushing higher while he could not time his runs to overlap Anwar El Ghazi well, leaving the right winger isolated on his flank at times. Tete also needed time to adapt to having Davinson Sanchez as his right-centre back. In the game against Roda JC at the start of the season, the two left gaping spaces in between each other that Roda attacked to great effect, while Tete also played a part in the 4-1 loss to Rostov in the UEFA Champions League Qualifier. After that, he wouldn’t play for the first team again until November.

Tete played in the Europa League group stage home match against Panathinaikos where he won a tackle outside the away side’s box and slammed a shot into the back of the net to make it 2-0 to Ajax. He finished that game with an 83% pass succession rate, 1 shot, 1 dribble, 1 aerial won and 7 tackles. The 21-year-old Dutchman then played away to Legia in the Europa League last 32. Although he finished with 3 tackles, an ill-advised back-pass in the first half nearly cost Ajax a goal before he was sent off after two yellow cards.

Tete played again away to Kobenhavn in the last 16 where he was dragged out of position in the opening stages as Daley Sinkgraven, Donny Van De Beek and him failed to cover a pass that led to an early goal. Matthijs De Ligt and him on the right side of the defense then recovered and went on to put in an accomplished performance, with Tete driving the ball forward and making important interceptions for Ajax to construct attacks. He always played better as a passing option to beat Kobenhavn pressure in the right back role, with Ajax settling in the game before conceding again. He finished with 2 tackles and 11 ball recoveries.

One of Tete’s better performances came in the second leg against Kobenhavn where he came on for an injured Joel Veltman. He was diligent in possession and drove the ball forward in an attacking sense but never seemed to lose the gritty side of his game that makes him so different to his peers. He finished with an 86% pass succession rate, 3 tackles, 1/2 take-ons and winning 3 aerial duels.

Former Ajax wingbacks Gregory Van Der Wiel and Ricardo Van Rhijn shone with the attacking side of the game, while Tete has nurtured the defensive side from an early age as his battles against Eljero Elia in last season’s Klassieker proved. He seems to enjoy the intense physical battles against pacy wingers whereas Veltman has struggled against more complete wingers at times. Tete has begun to develop the attacking side of his game as well, and could grow into one of the most well-rounded fullbacks that Ajax have produced in the modern era.

Against Schalke, with Joel Veltman sent off in the second-half, Tete came on for Bertrand Traore and held his own in the position, making 4 tackles and driving forward to great effect with a late cross leading to the all important Nick Viergever goal. Tete will also be playing from the start against Lyon where he has an opportunity to prove how important he is to the Ajax team going forward.

“I must prove my worth myself. In the meanwhile, the boss knows that when he needs me, I will be there. I think you shouldn’t overestimate yourself as a player. It’s not up to me to demand a spot in the starting line-up. Should the manager consider me to be good enough, he will play me. I won’t act like some primadonna. That doesn’t fit my personality and would only generate negative energy,” said Tete in a cover story with Dutch magazine Voetbal International at the beginning of this month.

“If Ajax want something, they have my number and that of my agent,” said Tete in regards to signing a new contract. “We have already spoken on a new contract with his agent,” said Marc Overmars in reply to the earlier Tete quotes. “But then he got dropped from the starting eleven and was no longer interested in extending his contract.”

Tete wins 2 aerial duels while making 3 tackles, 2 interceptions and 3 clearances per game according to WhoScored. The 21-year-old has won 20 tackles at a success rate of 65%, made 11 interceptions and 23 clearances. Last season, he won 53% of his duels with 5 defensive actions per game and created 11 chances. He has an 87% pass succession rate of 52 passes, with 3 long balls and 1 key pass per game according to Squawka. As Tete’s game becomes more well-rounded in shouldering defensive and attacking responsibility, it would be unwise for Tete to take the risk of stunting his progress at another club and for Ajax to lose such a unique prospect.

Overmars has not been on good terms with Tete’s agent Mino Raiola, since the agent facilitated a move for one of Ajax’ top prospects Donyell Malen to Arsenal and the way he was outspoken in regards to Ricardo Kishna’s departure. Raiola could certainly find Tete a club at a higher level, but the youngster has shown an interest in staying in Amsterdam and Ajax should have a vested interest in keeping him. If both Tete and Veltman leave this summer, it could prove to be one of the biggest mistakes that Overmars’ makes in his role as Technical Director after his best season in regards to sales and acquisitions.

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