The best Ajax academy youth players in history

Throughout its history, Ajax has developed a reputation for producing top-quality young players, some of whom have gone on to become amongst the world’s best at club and international level.

Here are the players we believe have been amongst the best Ajax youth products:

(Please note there were too many to name every quality youth product of the club. These are our favourites)

Johan Cruyff

When talking about Ajax youth academy graduates, where else could you start than the master of Dutch football, Hannes Johan Cruyff? The hometown boy went on to become one of the best footballers to ever grace the beautiful game.

Cruyff first broke into the Ajax team in the 1964/65 season. He spent the next decade tearing defences apart in an Ajax shirt and making his mark on history in the Dutch capital.

The iconic forward is the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, having scored an impressive 194 goals in 287 appearances.

During his trophy-laden career with the club from the Dutch capital, he won the Eredivisie title on eight occasions and also the European Cup three times.

Cruyff’s managerial career included a short spell as Ajax’s head coach. However, it was his work at former club Catalan giants Barcelona that is acknowledged as the most influential of his coaching career.

He resurrected the Blaugrana’s fortunes and was the man who promoted a certain Pep Guardiola to the first team in Catalonia. Guardiola’s coaching career would later be highly influenced by Cruyff’s own style.

Marco van Basten

Many consider Van Basten to be one of the best number nines in football history.

He broke into the Ajax squad in 1981/82. However, the forward did not enjoy a breakthrough season in Amsterdam until the following season.

Van Basten had just five full seasons with Ajax but scored 154 goals in 174 appearances in all competitions. His goals helped his team to three Dutch top-flight titles, three domestic cups, and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987.

The forward moved to Milan in 1987, along with compatriot Ruud Gullit. The pair played influential roles in the Netherlands, winning their only international trophy to date in 1988 when they won the European Championships.

The forward’s volley against the Soviet Union in the final of the competition is still looked at as one of the most memorable goals in the international game.

Van Basten’s career was cut short by injury, and he was just 30 when he cut short his illustrious playing career, having not played since he was 28.

He would later return to Ajax to have spells as a youth and then first-team head coach in the Dutch capital. However, he will be best remembered for his playing days.

Frank Rijkaard

The versatile Rijkaard made his Ajax debut in the 1980/81 season and stayed with the club from the Dutch capital for seven and a half seasons.

He also finished his playing career with the club, spending the 1993/1994 and 1994/95 campaigns in Amsterdam.

The central defender/central midfielder enjoyed a trophy-laden career with Ajax, winning the Dutch top flight on five occasions, including in his last two seasons with the club.

Rijkaard couldn’t have finished his playing career in better style either, as in his last season as a player, Ajax lifted the Champions League trophy.

During his international career, Rijkaard, alongside Van Basten, helped the Oranje to glory at Euro ’88.

He later went into coaching, starting his managerial career with the Netherlands national team. However, his most successful spell as a head coach came in Catalonia with Barcelona.

Piet Keizer

The popular left-winger was a one-club player, making 490 appearances in all competitions for Ajax between 1961 and 1974.

Keizer was a player who enjoyed enormous success during his career in Amsterdam, winning the Eredivisie on six occasions while also helping the club to win three straight European Cups from 1971 to 1973.

At international level, Keizer enjoyed a 12-year career with the Netherlands, with the highlight being finishing as World Cup runner-up in 1974, when the Oranje were beaten by 2-1 in the final by bitter rivals Germany.

Ruud Krol

The full-back was another member of the great Ajax team of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Krol first joined the first-team squad in 1968 and didn’t leave until 1980.

As well as playing his part in winning the three European Cups, Krol also helped the club to six Dutch top-flight titles and the KNVB Cup on four occasions.

The versatile star enjoyed a long international career with the Netherlands, making 83 appearances from 1969 until 1983. Alongside clubmates Cruyff and Keizer, he was a losing finalist in the 1974 World Cup final.

Edwin van der Sar

Like many on our list, Van Der Sar could have claimed to be one of the best players in his position in his prime.

Although he played youth football elsewhere, the giant goalkeeper signed for the club in 1990, initially joining the club’s reserves.

He made his Ajax debut in the 1990/91 season, but it wasn’t until the 1992/93 season that he really established himself as a regular in the first team.

During his time in Amsterdam, he won the Eredivisie title on four occasions, as well as the Champions League in 1995.

Van der Sar made 312 appearances for Ajax before moving to the Italian giants Juventus in 1999.

At international level, Van der Sar is the Netherlands’ second most-capped player of all time, having made 130 appearances for the Oranje.

Frank de Boer

The defender is one of the few players in Ajax’s history to be successful as both a player and head coach of the Amsterdam club.

De Boer was in Ajax’s first team from 1988 until 1989, when he left to join Barcelona.

The defender won the Eredivisie on five occasions, as well as playing a crucial role in the team becoming European champions in 1995, among other achievements in a glittering playing career.

De Boer also made 112 international appearances for the Netherlands. He is the third most capped Oranje player after Van Der Sar and Wesley Sneijder.

De Boer also enjoyed enormous success as Ajax coach, winning the Dutch top-flight title on four occasions from 2010 until 2014.

Who are your favourite Ajax academy graduates?