Last month, I highlighted some of Ajax’s top attacking prospects in the academy including Frenkie de Jong and Che Nunnely.
In this article, I will take a look at some possible transfers this summer. Some would be quite outlandish, and others pretty common. Despite the signing of David Neres this January, I think we should still be looking to improve on the wings. Amin Younes has been poor recently, and Bertrand Traore is only on loan until the end of the season. Neres should be starting by next season, but Vaclav Cerny is rumored to be leaving. This would cause some concern on the right side, unless Hakim Ziyech moved back there from central midfield. Youngsters Jairo Riedewald and Kenny Tete are also rumored to be pushing their way out of the club. If this is the case, defensive signings would be a priority this summer. There’s no guarantees that any of these three players will leave, but we should be prepared nonetheless.
José Izquierdo (Club Brugge)
Colombian left winger José Izquierdo has been nothing short of spectacular in Belgium for Club Brugge over the past 3 seasons. Since moving from his native country in 2014, Izquierdo has recorded 29 goals and 17 assists in 77 league matches. The speedy 24-year-old was a key player in the side’s domestic double last year, winning the First Division and Belgian Cup. One look at a Club Brugge will show you that Izquierdo is a massive part of the club’s success. He’s one of their main attacking focal points and their main threat when pushing forward. Izquierdo is right-footed, so he is great at cutting inside from the left. He has a powerful shot, proven by his 9 goals this season. José Izquierdo is a pretty good passer also, but can sometimes be a little selfish. He’s good at finding open spaces for teammates to feed him with a through ball to finish off bits of attacking play.
These attributes are all well and good, but that’s not the reason why Izquierdo is in this article. This man is one of the best dribblers I’ve seen outside of the top 5 leagues. He is constantly running at and successfully beating multiple defenders at once. Defenders in Belgium aren’t world class, but it’s certainly a top 10 European league. This shows just how brilliantly talented Izquierdo is. By beating his man so easily, José creates so many opportunities for him to take a shot or cross the ball in for a teammate. His play style is a little selfish for such a teamwork-driven squad like Ajax, but I believe his talent is too high not to consider him. The Dutch giants would be hard-pressed to get him though; Transfermarkt has Izquierdo valued at €10 million. The Belgian champions certainly wouldn’t be too happy to see their star man move north to Holland, with them closing in on first place in an attempt to become back-to-back Belgian champs.
Rasmus Nissen Kristensen (FC Midtjylland)
Right-back has been a spot of uncertainty for Ajax this year. Joel Veltman has been converted from center-back by Peter Bosz and has performed well. Kenny Tete has played decent as a backup but seems to be on his way out this summer. The one major flaw in both of these players’ games is their attacking prowess. Veltman is a natural center-back, but has done a pretty good job of adapting to a more attacking role. Nevertheless, his crossing and dribbling skills aren’t quite up to scratch when running at Europe’s best defenders in European competition. Rasmus Nissen Kristensen, or Rasmus NK, would solve this problem. The 19-year-old Danish right-back plays for Midtjylland in Denmark and has been in the club’s starting lineup since March of last year. He’s capable of also playing on the left or middle of the defense, but I believe with the attributes he possesses he is best utilized in his natural position. Nissen is a great crosser of the ball; he’s sure to pick out a teammate in the box when running down the flank. The Danish Under-21 international is extremely comfortable bringing the ball forward, especially for a player of his age.
Rasmus NK has played 47 times for Midtjylland, scoring 2 goals, providing 7 assists, and keeping 17 clean sheets in the process. He’s a major threat on set-pieces despite standing at only 1.76 meters (5’9”). All his attacking play is well and good, but Rasmus really needs to improve his defensive ability. The man he’s marking always seems to be involved when the opposition scores a goal, whether he’s dribbling past Nissen to whip in a cross or beating him to a pass for an easy shot at goal. Having a smart and skillful defender next to him like Davinson Sanchez would certainly help, and Bosz would surely get him to improve his defensive awareness if he was to join Ajax. We’ve seen young Scandinavians make the move to Ajax in past years, most notably Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Christian Eriksen, and Kasper Dolberg. I think Nissen Kristensen has the potential to play on the right side of defense for Ajax, and it probably wouldn’t cost too much to get him either.
Noah Joel Sarenren Bazee (Hannover 96)
After making his first team debut for Hannover 96 last spring, Noah Joel Sarenren Bazee has gone on to be one of the club’s crucial players in the 2. Bundesliga this season. At only 20 years of age, Noah has made the right wing position his at the German club. He’s recently been called up for the Nigerian national team, but was also eligible to play for Germany. Sarenren Bazee is naturally a support striker, similar to Davy Klaassen, but has played on the right for Hannover this year. 10 assists and a goal in only 19 all-time appearances for the club shows just how impactful he is on the pitch. Besides possessing an awesome-sounding name, Sarenren Bazee has bags-full of pace and skill. He blows by defenders with ease and is an accomplished crosser of the ball. Being comfortable playing behind the striker, Noah has great positional awareness of when to make a run past the forward and strike the ball. Overall, he’d be a great addition to compete with Neres for a starting spot next season.
Hannover has stated their intentions to keep the young winger this summer, but if the club isn’t promoted back to the Bundesliga then Noah may feel he needs to move on to advance his career. What better club to use as a stepping-stone than Ajax? Also, Sarenren Bazee will be playing with young Nigerians like Kelechi Iheanacho (Man City) and Alex Iwobi (Arsenal) for the national team; his ambitions will surely be set to reach the playing levels of his compatriots. Noah Joel Sarenren Bazee’s contract only runs until 2018, which can be used to bargain for a low transfer fee. In my opinion, this transfer would only occur if Hannover don’t move back to the Bundesliga at the end of the season.
Léo Santos (Corinthians)
Léo Santos is currently one of the hottest commodities in Brazilian football, but not so hot that Ajax wouldn’t be able to afford him. The 18-year-old center-back has been scouted by Real Madrid, according to Spanish publication AS, but nobody has made an offer to his club: Corinthians. The youngster made his first-team debut near the end of last season and has appeared for the Brazil Under-20’s squad five times to date. Santos is capable of defending well, especially for such a young age. He can also roam forward and contribute to attacks with passes or longshots if needed. This is a key trait for a defender in Peter Bosz’s system; his ability on the ball will allow him to press up and contribute to attacks.
As a Brazilian youth teammate of David Neres for years, Léo Santos may be persuaded to join him in Amsterdam. Neres hasn’t quite made the first team breakthrough yet, but he’s still getting accustomed to our play style in the Eerste Divisie with Jong Ajax. Santos would probably cost around the same as Neres and has just as much potential for the future. If Jairo Riedewald leaves this summer, Léo Santos would be a perfect backup behind Sanchez and Viergever at the back. With good mentors like Veltman, Viergever, and Westermann, Santos could become a high-quality player at Ajax Amsterdam.