Kasper Dolberg’s rapid ascent from his hometown club IF Silkeborg through the Ajax U19s and now to being the first team’s young talisman and a National Team call-up for Denmark has been remarkable. He is a throwback to the Johan Cruyff era with his long blond locks bobbing around the pitch while he is draped in the famous red and white. Dolberg may be prominent in Peter Bosz’ intense pressing and ultra attacking Ajax but was also a footnote towards the end of Frank De Boer’s tenure as few could have predicted the young Dane’s rapid rise.
Discovered and brought to Ajax by John Steen Olsen, the legendary scout who scours Scandanavia for talent while also being influential in the recruitment of players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Christian Eriksen and Viktor Fischer for Ajax. Dolberg had risen through the IF Silkeborg academy and made three appearances for the first team before joining the Ajax Under 19. A player who featured primarily as a right winger before being converted into a striker for the Under 19 side grabbed his chance to make an impression on Frank De Boer during the winter break in January.
“He makes a very good impression for anyone who participates for the first time. It is not that he stands terribly, but all he does is good. Almost all of his balls arrive. He plays as if he belongs there for 10 years,” said De Boer in January to Voetbal International.
Fast forward six months and Dolberg made a similar impression on Peter Bosz, so much so that when Arek Milik departed for a bounty, Dolberg casually moved above Richairo Zivkovic and Mateo Casierra in the pecking order. Bosz was initially cautious in using him after the young Dane scored in the UEFA Champions League Qualifying Phase, Europa League Qualifying phase and Eredivisie believing that he was too young to play week in, week out. Dolberg’s impeccable grace and calm persuaded Bosz that he was worthy of a starting role with Chelsea loanee Bertrand Traore moved to the right flank.
Dolberg is set apart from his peers with a clean and measured finishing ability inside and outside the box while being incredibly multi-faceted for someone of his tender age. He can receive the ball with his back to goal and play a neat one-two with a teammate but it is poetry in motion to watch his mind and body work when he receives the ball on the half turn as he can glide past his markers like a swan or nudge past defenders in a more ferocious manner. The timing of his runs in the box are a work of art and that of a more experienced striker as his attributes are astonishingly well developed for someone who is only 19-years-old.
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) November 20, 2016
He has 11 goals in all competitions with 8 goals in his first 12 Eredivisie games with Ajax unbeaten since the 28th of August and the team from Amsterdam already qualifying for the knockout phase of the Europa League. Dolberg scored a brace against Roda JC and PEC Zwolle a month apart before he ran onto a through ball and placed a ball past the Standard Liege goalkeeper before tumbling over. He then showed grace and composure to run in behind and delicately chip over Brad Jones against Feyenoord in Der Klassieker.
Against a Celta Vigo side who had beaten Barcelona 4-3, he was a thorn in their side as they couldn’t handle his mobility and movement before he took on a Traore pass and flicked it past his marker to lash a low strike into the goal. This has culminated in him skipping past the Danish U21 side to the National Team for his debut and a brilliant 37-minute hat-trick against NEC Nijmegen. Something that espouses his talent is his ability to anticipate headers by spinning to hit them with the back of his head to direct them goalward at pace as he did against Celta which forced a save from the Celta goalkeeper and which he did to score his third goal against NEC.
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) November 20, 2016
His first goal was a Lasse Schone chip he took on to drive past three players and strike his opportunity into the roof of the net before he timed his run perfectly to convert a Davy Klaassen cut-back into the back of the net. He may not be scoring from game to game but he has become such a pivotal part of Bosz’ energetic and fluid high pressing football that it is unlikely that he will be displaced. His hat-trick against NEC was even more remarkable given that he was a doubt as he was struggling with a foot injury from the international break. The man who scouted him believes that he is in the right place to continue to develop.
“I remember when I saw him one of the first times in Silkeborg Under-17 games against FC Copenhagen. Kasper was so good, fell with actions, assumptions, gears, not to mention a shot into the top corner. Since then I have often seen him for over a year, and I knew he would be a perfect player for Ajax. There was more interest, but Kasper himself had a good feeling at Ajax,” said John Steen Olsen to Voetbal International.
“In Denmark, he played a lot as a left winger, as he can play fine, but as a striker I see he is making great strides. That is promising. That’s why I’m also sure they have a lot of fun to go see him at Ajax,” Steen Olsen continued.
Dolberg also has 3 assists to add to his bounty of goals while he averages three shots per game with 1 key pass and 2 dribbles. His spontaneity is akin to many great Ajax players and will continue to keep him on the radar of Europe’s top sides. He hit a long-range strike that cannoned off the crossbar against ADO Den Haag while he also has an ability to create space and lead counter attacks with subtle through balls to runners on Ajax’ devastatingly quick breaks. At only 19, it is important that Ajax and Bosz manage him accordingly and not rely on him too heavily like they have done in the past.
“He’s so young but already so well. We must surely be very careful with him, ” said the head coach, Bosz to AjaxTV . “I think he’s a real striker, someone who loves good depth, so we do not just get into the ball. He sometimes does help as handball, but also in time for the goal. Moreover, he is such a young player already physically very strong and he will only get stronger. ”
Dolberg’s rise has been rapid but the level-headed Dane has passed every obstacle laid in front of him till this point. Bosz’ Ajax is brilliantly unorthodox and just so quirky that a neurotic, floppy-haired Dane has found himself as the talisman of a team on the rise. His talent has set a path from his hometown club to Ajax as the sky is the limit for such a precocious talent. His growth and ascension has become an entertaining sub-plot to an intriguing Ajax season and one hopes he can keep his feet firmly on the ground to fulfill his immense potential.