Goalkeepers were a big focus of the 2016 summer transfer window, and Ajax found themselves in the middle of a chain of shifting keepers.
Dutch number one Jasper Cillessen left for Spanish giants Barcelona in the summer, after Claudio Bravo departed for Manchester City, after Joe Hart left for Torino on loan. This left Ajax in a precarious situation, but they did have options. Diederik Boer (36), Cillessen’s number two and Jong Ajax goalkeeper André Onana (20), signed from Barcelona.
The main issue Ajax seemed to be facing was that one of their options was too young, and the other too old. They needed a replacement, and they sought one in the form of Newcastle’s Tim Krul.
The Dutch keeper joined Ajax on a one season loan, and I for one was left scratching my head. A one season loan? A short term solution? For new manager Peter Bosz this felt like a cheap move, when he really should have considered a better solution for the long term. Little did he know that the long term solution was there all along. André Onana.
Tim Krul arrived in Amsterdam to much applause, but he has yet to play for Ajax, after being declared unfit to play. Onana was given the opportunity, and so far he has impressed me. It wasn’t an easy start for his career in the first team, but this was at a time when the rest of the eleven were struggling, too. The 16/17 season had a sluggish start, and Onana was no exception.
Fortunes have changed, however, and Ajax have come into form, and the young Cameroonian keeper has found his footing, too. Four clean sheets in a row in the league showed that he truly is ready to become Ajax’s number one. It’s not only the results that show Andre’s abilities, however, as he has impressed me with his presence inside the box, and his strength and speed.
Even his passion to improve and push on after disappointing results has impressed me. He’s a welcome change to Cillessen, who in recent weeks has had nothing but bitter words to say about his time at Ajax.
As for Tim Krul, I don’t know why he joined Ajax on loan, and I do believe it’s a mistake. With Onana showing that he’s capable of holding down the fort, it’s clear that Ajax should be looking to keep him in the sticks to develop a permanent goalkeeper, rather than give the time to a loanee. Goalkeepers hit their peak potential later than outfield players, and Onana is still only 20, so he has plenty of time to improve and become great – he just needs the chance.
Barcelona didn’t want the young star to leave, but he wanted first team football, and we owe that to him now.