In the past Ajax has not only been great at producing talent through it’s youth academy, but also by way of bringing in talented youngsters to hopefully work their way up the system. A perfect example of this is in Ajax youngster Kasper Dolberg. After being purchased from the Silkeborg IF youth academy in Denmark in the summer of 2015, Dolberg has broken through to the first team and has scored some crucial goals continentally and domestically. Ajax employ scouts to scour across Europe to find these young prospects and will occasionally deem them worthy enough to enter the academy.
This is a sound financial strategy because clubs will typically settle for relatively small fees for a youngster in their youth academy. Dolberg joined for a fee around €270,000 which has the potential to be an absolute bargain. Some other recognizable names that were brought in from other clubs at a young age include Christian Eriksen (€1,000,000), Thomas Vermaelen (Undisclosed Fee), Richairo Zivkovic (€1,900,000), and Riechedly Bazoer (Free). Players who are bought for a small fee can turn a huge profit for the club, either through becoming a star player at the club or by being sold to a larger club for a big profit.
With Ajax looking to get back to winning ways in the Eredivisie and the Champions League we will probably see more of this investment in youth in the future. A portion of the sale of Arkadiusz Milik to Napoli for over €30 million will surely be spent investing in youth. This article will feature a few prospects who are not linked with a transfer to Amsterdam but very much fit the profile of players the club should look to bring to the academy.
Ágúst Edvald Hlynsson
After Iceland’s superb performances at Euro 2016 many people took notice of the nation’s youth structure. Iceland has built many indoor pitches and certified countless numbers of youth coaches to help it’s young prospects get the proper training to succeed at a high level. Ágúst Edvald Hlynsson has the potential to be a great product of Iceland’s youth structure. Hlynsson is a 16-year-old midfielder for Breidablik, a club with one of the most successful academies in the nation that produced Iceland star Gylfi Sigurdsson. He’s already made his first team debut and even scored in a cup quarter-final match. Hlynsson isn’t quite the “finished product” but if given the chance to train in some of the highest quality facilities in Europe he could grow into a quality player.
Turning out for one of Europe’s elite youth academies is 18-year-old goalkeeper Adrian Semper. Adrian is a tall, athletic shot-stopper who has played for Dinamo Zagreb his whole youth career. The Croatian U-19 Adrian Semper international has great awareness and reflexes in net and also possesses the ability to rush out and clear a dangerous pass. Semper is touted as a big prospect with the potential ability to be first choice for many big clubs. A potential transfer to Ajax is quite unlikely, however, recent purchases of Colombian youngsters Davinson Sánchez and Mateo Cassierra for at least €5 million each shows that the club is willing to part a fair amount of cash to secure youngsters with good potential. In the past, Dinamo have parted with Robert Murić to the Amsterdam giants for €250k in 2014. Although Ajax was able to secure Murić for cheap, Dinamo would have to receive a massive bid to let the wonderkid leave the club. It is reported that Chelsea submitted “a big offer” for Semper but were turned down. With Jasper Cillessen set to leave the ArenA, could management be eying up a big move for Semper to sure up the position? It would be risky to place so much trust in an 18-year-old but if there is any club that’s willing to take that risk it is Ajax.
Partnering van Drongelen in Sparta’s defense this year is Sherel Floranus, another 17-year-old. Floranus can play as a right-back or center-back but seems to be better utilised on the right due to his presence on the balSherel Floranusl. A cousin of PSV star Jetro Willems, Sherel Floranus is a very capable defender for this level and also has the speed and skill to push higher up the pitch. He hasn’t exactly secured a starting role for Sparta, but look for him to play a big role in Sparta’s attempt to survive the Eredivisie this season. The Rotterdam-based club might be less hesitant to sell Floranus than Rick van Drongelen, but they still see him as a future first-team star nonetheless.
Rick van Drongelen
Sparta Rotterdam has a history of producing quality Dutch talent but hasn’t been competing in the Eredivisie since 2010, until now. Rick van Drongelen was a key player in securing last season’s promotion despite his tender age of 17. The defender is comfortable playing at left-back and center-back which makes him a versatile asset for his club. He is good with both feet and can play the ball out of defense with his decent passing and ball control, something that very much suits Peter Bosz’s style of play. This season will be a big test for van Drongelen as he will be competing against the best of the best in Dutch football. It is possible that if he has a great season that Ajax could try to convince Holland’s oldest club to sell the promising youngster. Ajax legend Danny Blind was bought from Sparta when he was 24-years-old and went on to flourish in Amsterdam. More recently, Anwar El Ghazi made the switch from Sparta to Ajax and is now a regular in the first team squad.
Nedim Hadzic is a 17-year-old Bosnian forward who plays for the FK Sarajevo Academy. He hasn’t yet made his debut for the senior club but looks like an amazing prospect for the club and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s national team. Hadzic has everything scouts look for in a striker: he is fast, strong on the ball, adept with either foot, and most importantly a clinical finisher. He loves to press the opposition’s defensive line and takes his chances when presented with them. Nedim Hadzic is more of a poacher-type forward so he would need to get more comfortable with playing his teammates through on goal as is the Ajax philosophy. There is little chance that Sarajevo would want to see Hadzic leave the club so Ajax would likely have to muster up a good offer to see the Bosnian at De Toekomst.