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.