Europe focuses on youth: Ajax leads the way

Dear reader, the blog techno geeks have updated the blog software for some reason but as a result I cannot get images to work :-(. I’ve spent three days hassling and trying and calling and what not. But I didn’t want to stop the progress of the posts.

So here is a post without images. Apologies. I will go after the bad guys.

The European top clubs are fed up. They do not want to pay top dollar anymore. They don’t want to pay top dollar to the “agents” and they need to prepare for the Financial Fair Play code coming up. Most clubs spend more on player-agents than their own youth academy. And now, the top clubs suggest a prohibition of under-aged transfers (trade).

One of Michel Platini’s supporters at the UEFA hq to implement the sane measures to make (keep) football healthy is Maarten Fontein. Dutch, former Unilever Asia CEO, former Ajax general manager and currently board member at AZ and UEFA strategy committee member.

Fonteijn presented his Youth Academy Strategic Plan last year to top officials of the major clubs in Europe and got a standing ovation. But not from his former club Ajax. The representative of Ajax left the room prior to Fonteijn ending his presentation.

“They are angry. We had to have some parameters, some place to start and we decided to start the youth CL with the youth teams of the clubs who qualified for the senior CL so to speak. Ajax was not happy, as they do not qualify every season. I understand their position, but Ajax was part of this whole project plan and during earlier meetings they never said anything….”

Ajax’ position is indeed understandable. Hardly any club in Europe spends so much on youth as Ajax does: 6 mio euros every year. More than – say – Bayern Munich or Inter Milan. Today, the youth competition in Europe was organised by NextGen and Ajax did so well in those competitions. Ajax went on a rampage in Europe beating the likes of Barcelona and Liverpool but bravado. This season, led by Danish talent Victor Fischer, Ajax has started where it left off.

The UEFA has executed a studies to compare the youth strategy of the different clubs and Barcelona is seen as the ultimate example. The only club to spend more on youth than Ajax, with 10 Mio euros per year. The authors of the report give kudos to Johan Cruyff as the architect of the Barca Academy. And the same foundations are now put in place in Amsterdam.

It’s remarkable how clubs like Bayern and Arsenal only spend half of Ajax’ spendings on their youth system. IT’s probably less lucrative to do? Although Ajax made 20 mio euros this summer out of the sale of Vertonghen and Anita. Not a bad result. Eclipsed by Inter, though. The Milan club made 74 Mio euros last year, with 24 Mio of that amount for one Balotelli.

Most clubs rather spend money transfer fees and agent commission, apparently. Instead of developing a culture and an academy, some clubs don’t mind their euros leaking away to Monaco or Zurich.

Among the authors of the report are famous names, like Liam Brady ( youth system manager at Arsenal) and Bodo Menze ( Schalke 04). The authors seemed to be infused with Cruyffian wisdoms: scouting needs to be part of the technical heart of the club….

Ajax is mentioned a lot. Any club delivering talents like Cruyff, Van Basten, Keizer, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Kluivert, Davids, Van der Vaart, Sneijder and now Eriksen would get attention.

Wim Jonk is interviewed for the report and says: “I never pay attention to who won or what the results was. I look at the way a player runs. When he makes the decision to press or in what circumstance he tracks back. The will to go and play. Their creativity… These factors are key for their development. I know at Inter, youth academy is set up to prepare boys to become men very quickly. Pushing iron, running, etc.”

Another factor the report brings up is the borderline slave-trade aspect. Young kids lured to come to European cities for money. Poor families in Brazil, Uruguay, Nigeria or South Africa are highly keen to facilitate. But there are many stories of how these things can go wrong. Leonardo, signed by Feyenoord at a young age, complete got derailed. And Ajax does this too… There are as many foreign kids in Amsterdam as there are in London (Arsenal) or Munich.

Signing young players is a bit like doping in cycling. Everyone does it, no one wants to talk about it. Chelsea was banned from making more transfers when they signed Gael Kakuta some time back. The player got a 800,000 euro fine. Kakuta has seen different clubs in England and France and is now on loan at Vitesse. If you’d like to go and watch a youth game of a good level (say, at Feyenoord, Ajax or Sparta) you will see many expensive cars on the parking lot. Agents, scouts, managers….

And the big clubs spend money like there is no tomorrow. Man City and Chelsea have more than enough players to field 4 senior teams. These four teams would all win the title in Holland, finger in nose.

Clubs like Barca and Real Madrid have extremely debts to pay for their exploits. Debts bigger than the total turnover of the Eredivisie. This has nothing to do with honest sports anymore.

When Anzhi came past in Holland to take care of AZ and Vitesse, these two ambitious midtable Dutch clubs were taken to the cleaners. No chance in the Europa League for those clubs, this year. And Feyenoord failed to qualify for the CL as they simply weren’t able to secure the full squad (Pelle in particular) before the end of August.

This is where Dutch football is, internationally.

But obviously, FFP (Financial Fair Play) will change a lot. Today, clubs like Real Madrid and Man City have what Michael van Praag calls “collectors’ greed”. They have close to 60 players in their squads and simply buy up talents. This is not longer going to be tolerated. Limited number of players per club.

Talents are also obliged to sign their first contract with the club where they are developed and once a player is transferred the new club will need to pay a higher “development fee”. This is all done to motivate clubs to develop their own players.

A cricital note towards Ajax: the Sons of Gods lament all this talent scouting by the big clubs, but reality is, that they do the same thing but on a lower level. Where Ajax fears the power of Man City and Madrid, clubs like Kopenhagen and Malmo get the shivers when an Ajax scout appears.

On average, 3 of the 100 youngsters in the European clubs are foreigners. At Ajax, this percentage is higher than average: 5%. Ajax’ youth is as international as the youth of Barca, Arsenal or Inter. The only two clubs with more foreign talent in the youth are Barca and Sporting Lisbon.

Ajax may have one of the most successful youth academies, they also have the most expensive one. Ajax injects 6 mio euros every year into the youth plan. Barca invests 10 mio euros, as mentioned but as a % of their yearly turnover, it’s actually not that much. Ajax’ % going to youth, is close to 5%, Barca only commits 2,5% to the academy. Arsenal spent twice the amount of their youth academy on players’ agents commission!

Sporting Lisbon is by far the most aggressive club in scouting. They employ 150 scouts across Europe and lead the way. Ajax is number 2 with a mere 55 scouts… Inter Milan is third on the list, with Standard Luik, Barcelona and Bayern Munich right behind, with 37 and 36 scouts respectively.

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  1. Nice article (as always) Jan

    Can I just make one suggestion, I think Van Persie deserves at least a full length article for his performances lately. I know there are some pro and cons, especially with regards to his Oranje record. But, I personally think that he his making dutch football/players being considered once again. Can I go even further and suggest that he should be considered as Dutch Captain.

    1. nonsense. Sneijder is the #1 leader on that team, and one of the only ones who’s only goal was to win the tournament, and wasn’t afraid of the other teams. Most other players had their own personal agendas and didn’t have winning as their #1 priority. Such as Huntelaar and van der Vaart creating a divide by demanding starting roles. Or Heitinga, Vlaar, and Mathijsen running away when they saw the other team get the ball, or van Persie doing… well who the fuck knows what he WAS doing….

      Until someone else steps up to be a REAL leader on the NT, Sneijder is the undisputed captain for me.

  2. Persie should be considered for Ballon D or…it is not his fault that he played in a whiner’s team..
    if he failed in orange thats coz he needs some hardworking,skilled,brilliant and unselfish players needed in team,which we never had ie Can we say roben is workhorse?or kuyt is skilled as Valcot or Rooney.Wesly always will try to shoot if he gets a ball in penalty box..i really hate wes for that part.In addition to this we had two holding mids they did the work purely in defence,had a very little to offer in attack.So perise is NULLIFIED IN NATIonal TEAM BY our own players.
    2010 Wes was in terrific form and he deserved Ballon D Or.but it is stolen from THE LATIN MAFIA+SPANISH MAFIA.Due to simple popularity reasons..
    Wonderful Generation of Roben,Persie,Vaart,Wes is been wasted by Coaches and their stubornness…..Sad story for these players….

    1. The players around him didn’t cause van Persie to miss sitter after sitter in the EC. That’s entirely on him. Sneijder created ten goal scoring chances against Denmark, all of which were missed, most of which by van Persie.

      1. TFC ajax i clearly agree on your point about persie.Though BVM prefered RVP as tsriker he was under democleaus sword..he was well pressured by hunter to perfrom well.that eagerness caused him to be panic on pitch.Persie was not cool on the pitch coz of that it was happens with everyone and You need some luck at that time which he didnt had.What hunter did against portugal???nothing…it was basically fault of BVM and his wrong, biased selections.Van persie and whole dutch nation and their fans suffered..BVM could have selected some good energetic players Leroy,Clasie,Maher etc and at least we would have won one least i expected Strootman in place of bommel.What a family bussiness and stubornness.lets us burry that chapter…

        1. Couldn’t agree less.
          There is no such thing as ‘luck’.
          It’s a crass, childish and entirely unscientific term, used by idiots who lack even a basic understanding statistical chance.

          If you want to us to ‘burry (sic) that chapter’, why do you keep bringing it up every 3 or 4 hours, every day, every week, ad nauseum. Change the fucking channel, dolt.

  3. Jan, great article as always. Would it be possible to let us know where you got this article from if you did not write it? It seems that it was translated and I would love to find the original article.
    Great news about Jaap Stam signing a new deal with Ajax to coach the defensive unit starting this July. Ajax will really be loaded with the best coaches in Holland if not the world. Nobody can beat that: Overmars, Van Der Sar, Stam, Bergkamp, Jonk and De Boer, with of course Johann not far away. Truly impressive.

  4. Paul, agreed. I can’t believe RVP is not in the top 5 this year. He saved Arsenal last year, changed team and is doing it all over again in a totally new system with Man U. Really amazing. I venture that it is much more difficult than to be in the system like the one at Barcelona where Messi is playing with guys he has played with for over 7 years. Isn’t it possible to think that if Cruijff had stayed with Ajax for his entire career, he could have achaived what Messi has done? JC won 3 ballons d’or and he could have won more had he stayed with the great Ajax. This is just my thought.
    So to go back to RVP (don’t get me wrong i am not equating Messi to RVP or Cruijff) I truly think his performance over the last 2 years deserved more than a 9th place finish.

  5. Louis van Gaal voted for Messi over Ronaldo and Falcao, while Netherlands captain Wesley Sneijder voted Van Persie over Messi (second) and Ronaldo (third).
    Really loved it…Great Wesly

  6. Also read this on espn soccernet…

    Maarten Stekelenburg is unhappy at losing his No. 1 spot at Roma, and is set for crunch talks according to his agent Rob Jansen, who told Voetbal International: “The goalkeeping situation at the club is not very clear. If this situation was to persist then we would evaluate other avenues. Maarten didn’t come to Roma to sit on the bench.”

  7. damn, no transfer news coming. what happened to all these dutch players supposed to leave

    I’ve watched newcastle and they could use any new defender.

    is everyone staying put or what? i wanna see some moves

    Stekelenburg to Fulham
    Strootman to Manchester United or AC milan, even arsenal
    Wesley sneijder to somewhere not named inter milan
    Stefan De Vrij ???
    come on wanna see some moves, some players need a fresh start.

  8. Newcastle is an average EPL team and Dutch internationals are supposed to play only for the very best Barca, ManU, Real, Juve, Milan, Bayern, Chelsea….

    1. fully agreed – i only see strootman going to ac milan,the others should stay in the eredivisie. transfers to big clubs are also risky – just remember affelay at barca. on the other hand,strootman would be in the starting eleven at ac milan. they are building a new young team and he perfectly fits to this concept and has the talent to become a great in serie a.

      1. @Ferenc buddy…Afaleey is just a headless chicken infront of Xavi,Ineasta,Fabergas,Pedro,Villa,Messi,Thiago,or even tello.Afaleey had everything to compete in a barca team except footballing intelligence.thats why he failed.Only player he could have overtake was Alexis sanchez.i felt alexis also lacked footballing intelligence of his collegues.No wonder afaleey failed in barca.But he could become a hero in a lesser club like liverpool,schalke etc but still i doubt with out intelligence how far he will succeed in forgin league.I am really sad about afaleey and some players like Schaken,Narsingh,Williams, and Lenz all these guys in NT are also lack the same to succeed in a great club…..

  9. Watching van Persie play the last two/three years, and his brilliance at scoring goals, has CLEARLY shown what is a major problem with the Dutch national team. We have not had wingers and midfielders who provide the service and chemistry that RVP needs. The guy is easily one of the top 3 players in the world and has been for about three years. If you get him the ball enough in games, he will put one or two in the back of the net–against anybody. This has been a failing of the Dutch team. Robben CLEARLY does not work well enough with RVP–partly if not mostly because he is a scorer himself and wants to score goals himself. Sneijder sometimes provides good service but sometimes has a selfish streak himself. I have more confidence in Sneijder than Robben. Kuyt has been selfless in the past, but he may not play going forward. We need better chemistry going forward, and more selfless play–and we simply have to get the ball to RVP more often. The guy has been tearing up one of the world’s top leagues for a few years–but then he gets with the DNT and fizzles because there are too many players with their own agendas or they simply have not played together enough. I hope the coach can fix this.

    1. I agree Richard. I also think that NT should now be built around RVP. Get him the services he needs and he will excel. RVP in my opinion is right behind Messi. What a beautiful footballer with or without the ball. If he is doing it with the likes of Valencia, Fleitcher and some other no names he should be able to do it with a few dutch talents. Last chance to group around RVP and win something. Little hope though 🙁

    2. I do not think it is fair to blame RVP’s failure on his teammates. The last Europe, he had many, many clear chances and he missed most of them. If that you call not enough service then I do not know what is enough. RVP is world class but the way he played in Oranje was not.

    3. There are 2 exciting couples about to be born:

      RVP + van Ginkel.
      Huntelaar + Ola John.

      Ola John is in the group of players having the best cross accuracy in the world and Huntelaar could start setting up his tent in the box receiving those. Excellent in qualification games against weak bunker teams.

      Van Ginkel is a midfield player with lungs and technical ability to be as fast with ball as without it. He can drive the ball up at his feet running at a defense and RVP is then the best player in the world to make an of ball faint move in one direction en go into the other. Then van Ginkel has the vision and through ball pass execution to get the ball to him or use RVP as a dummy and go for his own success. A defender that is brought into a situation it has to act on 2 thoughts is always too late. This pair can create 4 or 5 of those situation per game easily. Afellay is injured, so van Ginkel should make a push to demonstrate his linking ability with the most in form player at the moment, that would be RVP, and make RVP of bigger value for Dutch NT. I have faith in him he will.


  10. Suppose you build Oranje around van Persie and it goes great and Holland qualifies with flying colours. Then van Persie tears a hamstring or a ligament 2 weeks before the World Cup. Then what?

    You cannot build a NT around one player. You have to have a system where the players are more or less interchangeable.

  11. I just wish that Strootman signs with Manu in Januvary itself.He will have great coach there ,plus RVP would be a great help for him to settle in.He can form a formidable partnership with Anderson,Caarick…in additon to this a team of Manu with Persie,Rooney,Valencia,Cleverly,Anderson,strootman,Evra,vidic,evans and smallling would beat..Real shitrid…thats what i want..
    in addition to this
    I wish Bruma to vitsee
    Aanholt for another 6 months in vitsee and then to some superclub as regular..
    De vrij to stay for another year in Feynoord
    Martinsindi—-Sam as De vrij
    Janmaat-Same as de vrij
    Wesly to Manu or Spurs
    Douglas to Newcastle or at least Ajax.
    Clasie to barca after 2 year
    Maher to ??? cannot decide

  12. I don’t think going back to Ajax would be his best choice.

    He could fit in Bayern as well but it’s strange that none of the top clubs are interested to sign him. I really can’t understand why he hasn’t been approached by Chelsea, Bayern, Milan, Arsenal, Man U, Juve, L’pool, Man City, etc….

  13. Inter go nowhere, with this players, all weeks they lose to their opportunity, and i laugh to straca and his redicolous tactics, but its not just about inter, all italian team look have money problem, look at MIlan and their january transfer. nothing special about italian Club.

    1. Who the fuck is Afaleey?
      Dumb cunt.

      Having heard Afellay speak on numerous occasions, and having read (far too many of) your incomprehensible nonsense-posts here, you should refrain from commenting about ‘brains’, fool.

  14. Urby is an interesting player but in my opinion Afellay is better, the problem he’s had is his recent injuries but if he gets fit and stays fit for some time he’ll show he is the real deal.

  15. Damn ! Oranje’s captain to Galatasaray 😐 !
    That’s worse than my worst nightmares , man !
    What on the earth os going on ?! How come no big tesm is interested in Sneijder ?!
    Even Liverpool or Tottenham ?
    Honestly staying with Inter milan sounds better .

    1. @Pete : Man UTD is the best place for him ” and for Oranje ” . Totally agree .
      I wonder why there is no official offer from man utd till this moment .

  16. You guys are all jumping the gun a bit. Sneijder has not agreed to go to Turkey. Galatasaray has made Inter an offer, which they have accepted, but that doesn’t mean that Sneijder has agreed to go there. And why would he?

  17. Um maybe he’s quickly running out of options…or is he too planning to come here and join us in the Qatari Stars League..forget 200,000 they will pay him 400,000 😀

  18. what’s going on with him? i mean in 2010 he was one of the world’s 5 best players,lead inter to cl,etc. glory,without him oranje would have been eliminated in the 1/4finals. after the world cup,the 2010/11 season was far less successful,but he was still considered as one of the best creative midfielders in the world. manunited wanted him. now it seems only lesser clubs are interested in him. i don’t understand the whole story. do inter want him or not? does he want to leave or not? why he doesn’t accept the pay cut which would facilitate his transfer to bigger clubs? is ac milan a real alternative (i think it is)? sad story.

  19. Ah Shit!!!

    Eurosport’s Turkish sources are reporting that Inter Milan star Wesley Sneijder has agreed a two-year contract with Galatasaray, worth four million euros each season.

  20. I agree Jacob… His already got a shit load of cash, why not give back something to the team, league and country that got you to where you are today…

    1. Good point,the reason is u bleed orange and he may not..he is not fit as before and now he is a 60 minute player.he is getting some fat too..he would have thought that he is nearing his end and Let me make maximum amount of money…Wes was always a confident player but now i doubt that,yolanthe seems like a bussiness woman.
      That is why i love van persie,the guy has sacrificed alot for national team and though he could demaand more wages than any other dutch player and arguably he is the third behind messi and CR7.still he went to MANU by avoding MANSHITTY..Already a legend in arsenal and becoming a legend in old traford..My guess is its all happening due to influence of yolanthe,i think wes is listening to her and making her happy..this is not the Wes we used to see till 2010.

      1. ‘MANSHITTY’ – hahahahahahaha you are so clever. What a putdown. You must be a comedian.

        ‘My guess’ – Don’t guess.

        ‘I think’ – Don’t think either.

        and for once in your life, comment about the article, not that same old shit you spout every fucking day.

        Can we get a BLOCK/IGNORE button, Jan, so we don’t have to read this same old crap all the time?

        1. you got free will, if you don’t like the comments by a particular user, just don’t read them, read the articles only. If you don’t like anything on the site, then just don’t type in the url, leave it alone, you got free will, no one has a gun to your head telling you to read comments from everybody

          1. Onzie 33.. mate he is playing like a dogg.i really lov it,i am playing too.i really enjoy F##$$5king him….Sorry for disturbing gentlemen like u…

    1. Even Russia has a better league than Turkey. If Sneijder makes that move he will play in a mediocre competition. Inter plays in Serie A which is still a very competitive league with a Juventus that might win the CL this season. It’s just way too early for him to go to a retirement league.

  21. I think he should decline the offer – all in all, he still has the upper hand on Inter. They have a contract with him and they have to pay his wages or let him go for FREE. Whatever happens, Sneijder HAS the upper hand on Inter.

    I think he declines the offer – he continues to “un”play for Inter. Mourihno goes somewhere and calls for Sneijder to join him.

  22. Well at least Galatasaray will give him more playing time which he really needs but I really don’t want him to play there he still has a LOOOOT to offer to top football and he can play for any top team.

  23. guys can we come up with $14 million dollars and buy sniejder??! I’d rather him not play than play in Turkey. I wasn’t happy when Kuyt went.. but Sneijder… I might just pop a vessel in my brain.

    1. for the best interest of the world cup, he might as well, sit it out, and be let go for free. and at that point who knows who’s willing to take him. And he might even be able to sue and get some compensation. he can make a good out of a bad. maybe fully heal him self up and get ready for the world cup

      But at the same time, it looks like he should have taken the offer to play in russia, because turkey not only is a lower level league. But it’s a league that scouts do not look at. At best he’s gonna get what? a few champions league games.

  24. RVP vs Suarez. Nice article:

    I actually pull for both as they both have learned their trade in Eredivisie.

    What a joy to see at least one Dutchy making an impact in the world of football these days.

    * Sneijder has been out for quite a while now
    * Nigel is out for a long time after a great game vs Juve
    * Afellay injured again
    * VDV injured again and in divorce
    * Van der Wiel not doing too well for PSG
    * Robben out for so long and probably soon again
    * All Dutch teams almost out of Europe bar Ajax

    Heaven what a mess. RVP is the big bright star at a dark sky.

  25. RVP has not won any title with Arsenal for many years. Now it is his chance to win either Premier League or CL so he has a lot of motivation to play well. Sneijder won the treble with Inter; Robben won Bundesliga with Bayern, Nigel with ManCity, even VD Wiel with Ajax…. Watch him and you will see that he is hungry to win. Now we need to see this in all Oranje players at a major tournament too (all of them including players on the bench and staff).



    We are at the edge of the village that is quite forested, located in the famous Bible Belt in the borderland of the provinces Utrecht and Gelderland. Surrounded by places like “Woudenberg”, “Renswoude” and “Barneveld” presents “Scherpenzeel” itself as the beating hart of the “Gelderse” valley. On the most dark days before Christmess guides it’s most famous inhabitant us through his familiar and trusted setting, where churches take a dominant presence. “Scherpenzeel has well over 9.000 inhabitants and a total of 7 churches, I believe” starts Marco van Ginkel, while we are driving past the biggest church. “Recently this one has been newly build and when it opens, many people will find their way to it. That is what I have heard, as I never go to a church. I am Protestant, but certainly not raised in a strict way. As a child I went to a Protestant-Christian elementary school, where every day started with a short praying, but apart from that there was a very free and warm atmosphere. Actually, that goes for the whole village.”


    It would not be the only time of that day that van Ginkel would talk full of praise of his village. He might have had his break through and count as the biggest talent of the Netherlands, but the chance is very small that he will turn his back on Scherpenzeel. 20 years ago he was born in a hospital in Amersfoort, but the village close to it was the home basis right from the start. All his family lives there, girlfriend Kristie has her roots there and also pretty much the whole of his group of friends. “Everything feels entrusted here. I have a good life with my parents and I am brought up in a family that is close. My sisters “Danielle”and “Miranda” also still live with my parents and as a result of that, every day is very cozy with each other. Apart from football, you can say that my whole social life takes place in “Scherpenzeel”. In the near future nothing has to change in that, I have here everything I want.”

    That feeling was again emphasized a few hours ago in the van Ginkel residence. In the corner house at the edge of the forest there is a relaxed atmosphere. In the living room there hangs a German shirt in the closet. It is the game shirt of Philip Lahm. The left back of Bayern München and 88 time international of the German National Team , who was on November the 14th the direct opponent of van Ginkel during the friendly between “Oranje” and “Die Mannschaft” (0-0). “The shirt will be hung soon in another room.” With “another room” the talent means a special room next to the living room that starts to look more and more like a mini museum. A dozen shirts hang after each other to a rack. It goes from the Italy U21 shirt from former team mate Luca Caldirola, to the RKC Waalwijk shirt from Guy Ramos. “He wanted to trade it when we had played each other. Isn’t that nice? A shirt from RKC is álso nice for the collection. ”Against the wall there are 2 framed shirts from Vitesse; a home and away shirt. “Those are from my first appearances for the club, three years ago.” The showpiece is in the middle. The Dutch NT shirt from last month, together framed with the well known rabbit that he got for his first cap. “That was an absolute high,” looking back on the friendly against Germany, where he was allowed to play 30 minutes coming on for Ibrahim Afellay. “I was at that time still 19 years old and then one is not busy with the Big Oranje. I was happily surprised with the election and have experienced the week as a very special one. The atmosphere was relaxed and that I was allowed to make my debut was fantastic. I think that the whole village made an effort to go watch the match. Family, friends; everybody was sitting in the stadium. And though it was not the most spectacular game, it felt like a very special moment.” A high that was the result from his performances for Vitesse.

    Though only 20 years of age, Marco van Ginkel is already busy with his fourth season for the first team selection. A period where a bigger contrast between past and present is not imaginable. As a 17 year old teenager Marco made his debut under the leadership of Theo Boss. in a squad without value, without any real ambition and fighting against relegation in the basement of the Eredivisie. After Hans van Arum, Albert Ferrer and John van den Brom, the midfielder is already training under his fifth coach with Fred Rutten, but more importantly: Vitesse is again a top club. “The difference is big, very big, but I am changed myself as well of course. I remember well that I was included in the first team squad as a sixteen year old kid. There was a negative atmosphere within the club, with many irritations and jealousy. I remember well that in my first week of training 2 players really had a go at each other. They berated each other to the bone. I was perplexed what I saw. I was used to the youth, where things went calm and friendlier. My father responded airy when I told him: “Get used to it, that is pro football”, he said. “He can know as he had played in the past with FC Utrecht.” Alex van Ginkel, who played 9 competition games and 3 UEFA Cup confrontations for FC Utrecht in the season 1987/88, but had to stop as a result of a lingering knee injury, guided his young son during the first steps in the A selection of Vitesse. Van Ginkel senior, who works in the center of Scherpenzeel for an office that deals in insurances and pensions, gave junior some valuable lessons. “My parents have always supported me, but never overdone in pushing” Marco tells. I have seen so many talents around me, that were made very big by their family. However that often works counter productive. In our house, football was often the main subject, but that was the consequence of me and my father being crazy about the game. After each and every game my father told be honestly what he thought of my performance, but never in a blaming way. Often that was also not necessary, because I myself knew already what I did right and wrong.

    VALLEIVOGELS(red: Valley birds)

    We next take the road leading to the center of the village. Down the Dorpsstraat (red: Village street), we get to the “Marktstraat” (Market street), where “Eet-en Drinkhuys De Kromme Hoek” is located, a favorite spot of the local youth. The owner of the place salutes Marco van Ginkel heartily. In Scherpenzeel everybody knows each other” the player tells. It is a knitted community and I only appreciate that. Many young people come here together on Friday evening. With our group of friends we have enjoyed many evenings here already in the past. Often here takes place the first phase of drinking and after that people take taxi buses towards the big places around Scherpenzeel: Utrecht, Ede or Arnhem.
    Already 4 seasons does Marco enjoys the professional football life, but the life outside the chalk lines has to stay normal for him. “Of course I noticed that when I went into professional football, that I entered a new world. It is a hard world, where you stand in the spotlights. With young talents you often see that they can’t handle all the new wealth and attention. That they all of the sudden change. Luckily I am too down to earth for that. I won’t start to show off because I can decently kick a football.”

    Smart words from somebody who just recently has ended his teenage years. “I am a footballer but I am also somebody who likes to enjoy his youth. Of course I have to deal with limits. If I go to the pub here with my friends , then it won’t be at a night that precedes a game day. And while they like to make it until the morning, I look at my needed rest. Often I will see the next morning in the “WhatsApp” what has happened during the night. Everybody knows that I am seriously playing football, but at the same time also like sociability. Van Ginkel experiences regularly the advantages of his talent. My friends still study, work in construction and a couple are in the army. They make long days. I don’t say that I have an easy life, but if we talk about luxury I have nothing to complain about as a footballer. I drive an Audi 4, while I only just own a drivers license for 2 years. I understand that for kids of barely 20 years that is not a normal situation. that does not mean I feel better than anybody else, and the good thing is that my friends look at it the same way. I know them my whole life. They often visit me when I play, but if I don’t have to play football, I love just as much to stand along the chalk line of their game with my amateur club “Valleivogels”(Valley birds).

    Van Ginkel gives an indirect signal for the destination of our next stop. Just as much the religious Spakenburg is divided by 2 football clubs, the same goes for Scherpenzeel. And also here the rivalry is between a red and a blue team. The last one, VV Scherpenzeel, is the smallest of the two, playing in the fourth division. The Valleivogels acted at the end of the past century, 12 years on the highest level of the Saterday amateurs and has climbed itself up the recent years back to the first division. Canteen manager Piet van den Brandhof gladly comes to the complex this day to welcome the pride of the club. “I know little Marco from when he was still a vey small kid.” the club man says. I already saw it: that kid has a lot of talent and has a great shot”. With a modest smile van Ginkel hears the hymn. In the center of the canteen there is a framed shirt of the player with his name on it. As a “Friend of the Valleivogels” his name is also there between signs of the generous sponsors, who donate every year one hundred Euro’s to the club. “Every Thursday and Saterday evening the club is completely crowded with people. 11 senior teams play here, in total the club has 700 members. Many of my friends play for this club. On a club evening they went around with the cap (red: collecting money) for me. Not for me personally, but for a huge banner in the Gelredome (red: Vitesse stadium). That hangs now behind the goal visible for everybody. A big banner with the text: SV De Valleivogels groet Marco van Ginkel (red: SV The Valley Birds greets Marco van Ginkel). With a picture of me next to it. Remains great to see every game.”

    We walk across a complex of 4 football fields, when van Ginkel starts bringing up memory’s. “I already left for Vitesse when I was 9 years old, I became member of the D1 (red: Dutch system runs from F to A and usually you stay 2 years with a letter). On that field I have played most of my matches.” Van Ginkel points to a grass field behind the corner of the complex. Already at a young age the talent of the Valleivogels spread his wings. FC Utrecht, the club where his father had played, was interested, but with Vitesse he could play games immediately. The choice fell on Arnhem and his lifestyle changed dramatically. In the morning at 7 o’clock he was picked up with a buss from the club, with other kids in it, like Ricky van Wolfswinkel from the nearby Woudenberg, to drive to the capital city of Gelderland. School, doing homework, training and back at home at 7 PM. Year after year it was my rhythm, but I all did it with a lot of pleasure. As with school, as on the field, van Ginkel was recognized as a talent. He belonged every year to the most talented group of his generation and also finished without any real problems his HAVO education (red: VWO is the highest, HAVO is one level down from that). When he was doing his final exam, he already had a pro contract, was also already a player with the first team, but to put all eggs on football was not the case. Still not the case. “Football is my profession, but that does not man that I close my eyes for other things. With great regularity I am at home when the midday only starts. Then I can go sit down behind the Playstation and play some video games, but I can also spend my time on useful things.” Thanks to that attitude he already finalized a degree in English the last years and at the moment through home study he is busy with getting a degree in “small bussiness economics”. I notice that I enjoy developing myself also in other area’s of life.


    From the canteen of the club Valleivogels we move on towards the old center of the Village. “The Home of Scherpenzeel” is generally seen as the main attraction of the village and is also listed as a national monument. The castle on the former estate Scherpenzeel was century’s ago the most important fortress of the area. In the last decades it still served as the town hall but nowadays it mainly serves as a location for festivities. And it is also the location where I walk the dog of my girlfriend says van Ginkel casually. On walking distance you can find here a great green area and that in a center of a village …..

    Against the soothing backdrop of the surroundings of this village the conversation goes back to the stormy development of his club. Vitesse ended up last season in the top of the Eredivisie. Thanks to the millions of Merab Jordania is the Arnhem club back at highest regions of the competition. One can notice easily how the outside world has changed it’s perception of Vitesse. A few years ago, when I made my debut, it was unquiet. Vitesse was branded as “Hollywood at the Rijn” and everywhere people were laughing about the ambitious plans of the club. Also within the club there where question marks. “I remember well the moment when we were informed. In the Netherlands nobody was familiar with such a thing, and also I myself did not know what to think about the situation. A man from Georgie who takes over the club and aims at winning the title …. There was a lot that was unclear, but meanwhile Vitesse has yielded a lot. We are taken seriously and seen as a top club.”

    Marco van Ginkel saw in the meantime a parade of nationality’s come along, but as other players did not make the harder selections, he was able to hold on to his starting position. The midfielder is the symbol of the local identity of Vitesse and is used time and again as the counter argument when it is branded with the label of being a trading house. I think Vitesse has found a good balance these days. When things started there was much ground to cover. Many players were brought in, at a certain moment English even became the main language, but it did not deliver the desired outcome. Thanks to players like Nicky Hofs, Theo Janssen, Eloy Room, Piet Veldhuisen, Davy Pröpper and myself Vitesse has a regional face while also being able to challenge the top. This Vitesse is recognizable for people and you can notice more and more positive sounds around the club.

    For a long time the championship in 2013 sounded like megalomania, but who is looking back at the first half of the season nobody can bring forward a sound argument why Vitesse is not a title candidate. “Everything is possible and everybody can see we are traveling the correct road. We have played every club 1 time already and are deservingly standing in the top group. On top of that we have won from PSV and Ajax. That shows there is plenty talent withing the group.”

    Winning the trophy is often seen as a case whether the goal machine Wilfried Boney remains with the club or that he goes somewhere else with the winter. “That is certainly a factor. I don’t know if he stays, but I hope he does. A player like Bony is not something I have seen before. So much power, so focused on the goal. It is amazing to play with him. You can especially see it in confrontations with other top teams. Then you are under pressure, but then he keeps the ball with him easily and then we get back in the game. I can really enjoy the times when I see his direct opponent having a hard time against him. They just can’t get the ball off him. Bony is a beast. When I saw him fighting against PSV my respect and admiration only increased.

    With a lot of expectations the football fans in Arnhem will look forward towards the new year. Whether Vitesse is able to keep going on in the battle for the title remains to be seen, but behind closed doors the club sets a new step towards the top. At the start of February there will be an opening ceremony of a new hyper modern training complex, with all imaginable facility’s. I will certainly have to get used to it, says van Ginkel. “De Slenk” was a household name. Cosy, good atmosphere, but also with a lot of defects. A few years ago we still showered with cold water, now a new world opens up. That will only catapult the club towards higher grounds.

    The road trip comes to an end, but there remains one burning question to be asked. The development of van Ginkel and Vitesse finally run parallel, but for how long? His name is written down on all kinds of scouting lists from clubs that play in Spain, Italy, Germany and England. The management of Vitesse has simply declared recently that van Ginkel is not for sale. Down to earth the pride of the village looks at the future. “Vitesse is growing, so why would I leave the club? All interest is nice, but that is all it is. I can still improve a lot, and become much stronger. Physically I have just ended my growth sprint and with Vitesse all conditions are set to improve myself much more. Meanwhile I stay in Scherpenzeel. You have seen today with your own eyes that nothing is wrong with that.”


    Hope you enjoyed the interview.


      1. I agree, he comes across as a very balanced guy. I also like the fact he picks up studies to develop himself, rather then listening to rap music and playing video games all the time.


      2. In response to your question above who I rate higher, Maher or van Ginkel.

        That is really hard to tell, but I will try to give an answer nevertheless.

        First of all Maher is more of a 10 (though he can play right midfielder and even defensive midfielder in a 4-2-3-1) and van Ginkel can play best as center midfielder or defensive midfielder. Maher has most magic of the the two so far. Maher lóóks the best footballer, but last year I had the opportunity to see them both for the U21 team and it started to occur to me that van Ginkel was an incredible smooth footballer with an excellent first touch. Maher is probably better in the small spaces and in crowded area’s. Van Ginkel is much better in surging forward with the ball at his feet or make deep runs without the ball. Van Ginkel scores at a slightly higher rate, while Maher has a bit more assist per minute so far.

        I think van Ginkel is more aggressive and will soon be considerable physically stronger than Maher. Van Ginkel is defensively speaking probably already better and this will only increase. At Vitesse van Ginkel has to compensate for “sigarette smoking Janssen” and lazy Bony who stands still most of the time. They let a 20 year old kid clean up for them all the time. The subs Pröpper and Cziommer are defensive speaking even worse. Van Ginkel is the rock on midfield controlling and working his socks off to nullify offensive attacks. He was last season also in the top 5 most fouling players in Eredivisie. So it’s maybe safe to say that van Ginkel is better to keep things in check. The trouble with comparing offensive stats for both players is that they have been shifted both from more offensive positions to more defensive positions until now. If in the current setup van Ginkel can keep up with Maher, he is doing an amazing job if you also consider that Vitesse has conceded the second least amount of goals in Eredivisie after FC Twente and together with PSV and van Ginkel certainly contributing to that stat.

        van Ginkel is the most complete player in Eredivisie. Nobody comes even close I would say. Van Ginkel is actually a pretty good header, has good off ball runs, can run with ball as fast as without it (just like Messi :)), has a good cross, has a through pass, can score a goal, can defend, tackles (though must improve in the way he executes those), has an excellent first touch, now also developing good long balls, proper handling speed, pretty good positioning and is mentally probably the second coming of Dirk Kuyt. That last factor is also the reason why despite being very young van der Brom put his name down as the first one on the team sheet before going into a game. Rutten same thing. Ginkel is the beloved player of trainers, because he will never let you down within the limits of what he is capable off.

        That having said, I sometimes get annoyed by him playing too much as a controller. A guy with his skill level should be on ball all the time, yet he is certainly not as a result of controlling the game. I ask myself 3 or 4 times every game: “Where is Marco”. there is something distinctively underwhelming about his game if you contrast it with his pure ability. Lacks dominant playing style. The second problem is his goal rate per chance. He needs a better conversion rate if he wants to become a big name in football. In all top teams midfielders bring something extra and he could do that if only his conversion rate would rise. He does get into positions, so that is good.

        Maher was immediately accepted by VDV and RVP, as they recognized him as a true footballer. Word is that it was almost impossible to get him in the center in the game piggy in the middle during Dutch NT training sessions. He let’s the ball role very easily. His physique is impressive in the sense that he can play many games after each other and heals very fast. That is especially good for clubs, but with recent injury virus under Dutch top players it’s nice to have somebody who is capable of being healthy all the time (van Ginkel same thing so far by the way). As I said, Maher has more magic on ball, though I don’t think van Ginkel is a less good footballer. Where van Ginkel phases out of games (by choice?-> controlling position?), Maher can be pretty dominant at times like his recent game against FC Twente.

        My points of critique would be that the final pass needs to have a higher success rate of getting to the receiver. Maher sees it all, but I am often frustrated by the lack of precision of his execution in this department. My second point would be that he needs to become more aggressive when an opponent is walking through his area with the ball. I have now seen 2 or 3 times where he simply let’s the player walk by. Maybe it’s better to say that those are sudden bleeps in aggression while in many other occasions he does show it, but in that case he needs to get it out of his game as the examples I remember lead to 2 goals and are infuriating.

        I think van Ginkel and Maher are actually great together. They don’t have to bite. Maybe in 4-3-3 they do, but if we play van Marwijks 4-2-3-1 they can play behind each other. In the recent U21 game they made 1 or 2 goals together. Van Ginkel with the run, Maher with the pass and vision to benefit from his run. In 4-3-3 I think van Ginkel will cause Maher great problems to hold claim on the right midfield position. International football has become more conservative over time and van Ginkel fits this trend with his defensive quality’s. The fact he can keep up with assist and goals at the same time, will give any coach extra reason to choose him over Maher on that specific position, in that system. On top of this (short term argument) is Maher more of another VDV/Sneijder player in the sense that he is an architect. He is more mobile than both of them (movement dots are all over the field with Maher), but lacks the speed to really get past players on his own or have consistent individual actions that create a man more situation. He is more the man that beats players with his passes. RVP functions best with a player having a vertical playing style that can also make runs with ball at his feet. While van Ginkel is not that fast, he is relative speaking just that with ball. Many players lose much speed with ball, but not him while he keeps it also close to his feet(great give away if a player has great technique or not). RVP loves players like that behind him and that is also why him and Sneijder or VDV do not function well. RVP needs speed and people with actions behind him primarily IMO.

        All in all I think van Ginkel holds good cards to become a player with many caps for the NT and it depends on the system we play whether we have to choose one over the other. If RVP plays and we play with a 10, even in that situation van Ginkel might be a better option there, while Maher would be more creative an magical, simply because of the needs of RVP and that the world class guy is at the moment. So maybe even in that position van Ginkel would be above in the picking order.

        Clasie, Maher and van Ginkel are the 3 biggest talents and Strootman who is a bit older is a bit further in his development and soon ready for the foreign step. Strootman has had his dip second part of last season, while Clasie is in the dip and both Maher and van Ginkel still need to get their dip. I think Maher has a higher ceiling, but van Ginkel can become that player that every team likes to have due to being so useful, versatile and consistent just like Cocu, while also adding in the offensive department.


        1. Thanks for the long but very good analysis. I also see in Maher the replacements of Sneijder pershaps?? I whish to, I havent seen much of MVG playing at Vittesse but his debut with the NT was very good. Hope they could work together in the future, maybe we could see them in the Eurocope Sub 21 in the summer??
          Again thanks for your comments!!

  27. I think that if MESSI was in EPL he would have been in treatment table for a very good time.he would have had a hard time against De Jong,Terry,Luiz,Evra,showcroos,Hangland,Vidic,Essien,Oby michal etc kind of players….he wouldnt have won this much Ballon d or…
    Brilliant Van persie was unlucky to be in treatment table for a long time…..
    i wonder how suarez keeps himself away from injury…i think its a technique…he is behind persie with 15 goals.but i want see him against strong teams like Chelsea,City,Arsenal,Spurs and Manu…

  28. i think given the fact that sneijder still hasnt signed for them despite all other agreements being in place…means its clear that Wes himself how shit this move wud be for him 😛

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