Having just turned 18 on August 4th, Finnish youth prodigy Saku Ylätupa joined Ajax from HJK Helsinki. If you know me, you know my affinity for Scandinavian players (especially those at Ajax), so I’m quite pleased with this transfer. Ylätupa has the potential to become a great player for the first team and the signing gives me great hope for our frontline in the coming years.
Saku came through the Helsinki youth academy and made his debut for the reserves as a sprightly 15-year-old striker. After scoring 17 goals in only 31 matches across two seasons for the reserves, Ylätupa made his full debut for Helsinki before being loaned out to fellow Veikkausliiga (first division) club Rovaniemen Palloseura. The Finnish striker tallied three goals and three assists in 17 matches for the club, which isn’t disappointing for a debut season at a top league.
Ylätupa has now made the switch to Amsterdam and it’s easy to see why Ajax’s scouts recommended him. You often hear about a team completely dominating a match, but one moment of brilliance for the opposition sees them sink to defeat. Saku Ylätupa is just the player who can create those moments. He keeps the ball extremely tight to his body when dribbling to avoid incoming tackles and has the flair to fake-out more than one challenger when they close down.
Saku, often deployed as a support striker, has the awareness on the pitch to know where he needs to be to best aid his team. If the situation calls for a cross, or instead a shot, or maybe even a dribble, he knows which one to choose. In terms of weaknesses, Ylätupa needs to become more clinical in front of goal. His goal tallies from the youth level didn’t convert seamlessly to professional football, which is mostly down to the youngster missing easy chances in front of the net. Give him a few years under Ajax’s elite coaches though, and you’ll get a player who maybe, just maybe can rival the icon status of fellow Finnish footballer Jari Litmanen.
The Under-19’s long-tenured midfielder and captain, Dani de Wit looks poised for a breakout season with Jong Ajax this year. The 19-year-old midfielder has featured across the youth ranks for the Netherlands, showing his talents fifteen times for the Dutch U-19’s thus far. Dani is often deployed as a classic central midfielder but more than often roams forward as an advanced playmaker. This makes him a strong asset to any team; de Wit is a link between defense and attack on offense with the capability to get back and defend as well.
Dani de Wit doesn’t wow crowds with his technical ability nor his physical presence. What makes the Ajax youngster so good is his awareness on the pitch. De Wit knows where to be at any given moment in the midfield. Often times what teammates want is space to work, which is something that Dani gives them.
De Wit’s constant running forward often leads to goals. His 6 in 22 U-19 league matches is a good return for a midfielder. De Wit’s passing is also very good – he consistently unlocks wingers for an easy cross in open space. Dani de Wit may not be the most flashy player, but his efforts make the game so much easier for his teammates.
Still only 16-years-old, Hungarian playmaker Szabolcs Schön is the youngest player on this list. The midfielder, who can play on both wings as well, is a joy to watch. Schön had his skills on show during the Future Cup this year where his rapid pace and great dribbling was a joy to watch. The Hungarian U-17 international looks set to join the Under-19’s this season, which really shows how fondly he’s looked upon at Ajax.
Schön looks like an ideal winger for Ajax’s fluid system: comfortable running down the flanks or cutting inside on either flank. He’s a threat from basically anywhere in the final third. The Hungarian’s powerful left foot keeps defenders tight to him, which allows Szabolcs to drive past them with a quick dribble. Schön’s crossing is also threatnening, while his speed on and off the ball makes him a dynamic threat when Ajax has the ball.
It’s early days for Szabolcs Schön, but the player who recently transferred from Budapest Honvéd to Ajax (with fellow Hungarian youngster Olivér Horváth) is being backed by many to be the next best thing at the Johan Cruijff Arena.
One of the Under-19’s bright spots last season was 18-year-old midfielder Noa Lang. The former Feyenoord youth player has risen through the ranks in Amsterdam, finding himself the scorer of eight goals in 29 appearances for the U-19’s. What immediately sticks out when watching Lang is his supreme physical ability. His strength on the ball, stamina throughout the match, and speed on and off the ball are all seemingly miles ahead of his youth counterparts.
— AjaxDaily (@ajaxdailydotcom) 8 maart 2017
Noa Lang’s technical abilities don’t waver too much in the face of his physicality either. Lang has shown a great finishing ability, as well as tackling and passing. He always seems to pop up in the big moments, exemplified by his goal in the UEFA Youth League at Real Madrid. Lang will likely spend another year with the U-19’s but don’t be surprised to see him with the first team within a couple seasons.
When a club like FC København requests €3.5 million for one of its 17-year-olds, you know he’s a good player. When a club like Ajax that looks for the best possible deal on young players is satisfied with paying that fee, you know he’s a special talent. That’s exactly what happened with Danish playmaker Victor Jensen this summer as he made the move from the Scandinavian giants to Amsterdam.
When speaking to AjaxTV following his transfer, Jensen noted “I shoot good with both of my feet and I’m fast. I have good dribbling ability,” Jensen continued, “I’m a very aggressive player”. While this is evidence of Jensen’s good self-awareness, there’s certainly more to his game than just his physicality, finishing, dribbling, and confidence (although these are all very high).
Something that surfaces immediately after watching clips of Victor is his great awareness on the pitch, especially in the box. He loves to take on and beat his marker, but is also very good at positioning himself for an open shot in threatening positions. Jensen’s well-weighted through balls have an uncanny ability to break defensive lines, as well as the hearts of those supporting opposing teams. Victor Jensen is one to watch as he joins up with the Under-19’s this season.