The Dutch Talents for 2022

We like looking towards the future. Because the present isn’t so hot for us. No tournament for us this year (again). No club performances in Europe. No real big stars in the high lights in Europe. Our best “Big League Players” are defenders (Van Dijk, De Vrij, Blind) or water-carriers in midfield (Wijnaldum and Strootman), with arguably Memphis and Dost the exceptions (are France and Portugal considered Big League?).

And The Dutch Classic wasn’t really worth watching either. Ajax better on the ball, but too slow and without real creative impulses, Feyenoord better without the ball. Two moments of sleeping resulted in the goals, Berghuis miss left Ajax off the hook and Jorgensen red mist resulted in a limp 10 men Feyenoord longing to the end. And bloody PSV got the 3 points in the dying seconds again…

While the KNVB is still considering how to move forward with the new team manager and technical director (apparently, Bosz, De Boer and Koeman risk losing their massive pay-checks from Dortmund, Palace and Everton if they sign for the KNVB), there are too many unknowns moving forward.

Still, the future is bright. It always is. Until you realise the light at the end of the tunnel is actually the headlight of the oncoming train…. But seriously, we can safely assume that Van Dijk, De Vrij, Memphis, Tete, Willems, Fosu-Mensah, Berghuis, Van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Van Beek, Karsdorp, Wijnaldum and more (Ake? Van Aanholt?) will be able to forge a team together that can win us a ticket to the next tournament.

The question is, is there more? What players can we expect to see coming through for the WC2022.

Voetbal International made a nice list for us. Players, 18 years old or younger.

AZ – Calvin Stengs…

…deserves to be on the top of the list. The AZ playmaker is sadly out of commission at the moment as a result of a terrible injury (self inflicted, as a result of eagerness). He played against PSV, the game was only 5 minutes old or so, and it was clear Stengs was already AZ’s big man. He lost control over the ball, Marco van Ginkel was ready to take control and Stengs should have conceded the ball. Instead, he lunged in to regain possession and overdid it. Stengs hunger was fueled by his excellent pre-season where he played as a false right winger (Ziyech style) coming inside inbetween the lines to get the ball and do something creative with it. He’s one of those players that has complete control over the ball and thinks quicker than others and sees solutions no one else sees. Whenever Stengs has the ball, his team mates will make a move, start a run, because they know he’ll see it. Max Huiberts, AZ’s Technical Director: “He is our crown jewel. Ten years ago, a guy like him would have played in the Ajax Academy. This tells you a lot about AZ’s strengths today.”

PSV – Jayden Braaf…

…was sent away by Ajax when he was 11. Too light, too weak. But he didn’t just capitulate and left for the rivals from Eindhoven. The left -winger had a tremendous development trajectory there and was the key player for the Oranje Under 15s in the win over Germany in 2017. Ajax immediately went back to Braaf and pleaded for him to return, offering him a spot in the Under 17s. But Jayden stayed loyal to the club that did believe in him. His Youtube channel gives you a nice insight in the skills of the right-footer on the left wing.

Ajax – Justin Kluivert…

…isn’t the only Kluivert of course. Yes, there is dad Patrick, but little bro Shane is also getting massive views on Youtube as he plays in the Barcelona Academy. Kluivert’s current level is nicely symbolised by the fact that the junior keeps an A international of Germany (Youness) out of Ajax’ starting eleven. He’s fast, explosive, has a low centre of gravity, is perfectly two-footed and like Arjen Robben (and unlike Youness) he has the ability to come inside from the flank and find the killer pass or score with an almost signature curler in the top corner. There is a huge scarcity of players who can make the difference and it seems Justin is surely one of those. Ajax does have a problem with the little Kluivert, as he’s called: his contract ends in the summer of 2019. He has not yet agreed to renewing it, so to keep him from walking out for zilch, Ajax might have to sell the winger this coming summer already, to at least make some money. Several top clubs have shown their interest and it will not be hard for Justin to find a nice step up, this coming summer.

Chelsea – Daishawn Redan…

…was eleven years old when he was invited to entertain the crowd before an Ajax-PSV, with a game of keepy-up. The youngster started before the fans entered the stadium. When the game was about to begin, he was politely asked to please stop doing it and get off the pitch… Eleven years old! His talent was such that even Ajax wasn’t able to keep the striker in Holland. When he turned 16, he accepted invitations to visit Man United, West Ham United and Chelsea. “Man United was quite impressive but when I saw the training facilities and the stadium at Stanford Bridge, I was sold.” The youngster has a contract in West London until 2019 and is currently the skipper of Oranje Under 19. He scored 4 times in 3 qualification games for the EC 2018 in England.

Ajax – Matthijs De Ligt…

… is on his way to Barcelona in the summer of 2018, according to the Catalan paper El Mundo Deportivo. And why not? He’s just 18 years old and has already demonstrated his quality at top level. He’s number 8 on the list of most talented teenagers according to the English 4-4-2 magazine. When Ronald de Boer was asked which current Ajax player would easily fit into the 1995 wonder team, he responded immediately: De Ligt! When Man United played Ajax in the EL finals, Mourinho allowed Sanchez – n0w Spurs! – the ball for the build up. That is telling indeed. He’s the youngest Dutch player to ever play a European finals. It’s not hard to see Ajax won’t be his ceiling in football.

AZ – Kenzo Goudmijn…

…was 15 years old when AZ coach John van de Brom allowed him his debut against KV Mechelen. The youngster didn’t have any nerves. He thought the coach was pulling his leg and never believed he was actually going to play. Kenzo is the son of former AZ winger Kenneth Goudmijn, currently AZ youth coach. He’s considered to be one of the top talents but the midfield playmaker does need to make some steps physically to actually rumble with the seniors.

SC Heerenveen – Kik Pierie…

…has the name of a football comics football hero. Made his debut last year at 17 and hasn’t given up his starting birth since. It’s remarkable how he’s able to stop the strikers in the Eredivisie and demonstrates his build up qualities with his left. Both his parents were pro hockey players and both his brothers are also talents in the Heerenveen Academy. They might all three once play for the first team, although it’s fair to believe that Kik won’t be at Heerenveen for long. “My parents know what it takes to make it to the top so they’re wonderful in guiding me in my choices and patterns.”

Ajax – Ryan Gravenberch…

…is only 15 year old but is a key player in Ajax Under 17, which will claim the title easily this season. He’s will be moved up to the key Ajax youth team, the Under 19s and calls himself a midfielder. “I’m like Pogba. Tall, lean and quick. Like him, I’m a snake, I can glide past players but I also love watching Iniesta and Frenkie de Jong play.” He was the youngest goal scorer ever in the UEFA Youth League. At Ajax, they’re convinced of his future and have agreed on a 3 year deal, which he is only allowed to sign at the summer of 2018, when he turns 16 years old.

Feyenoord – Cheick Toure…

…left his country Guinee as a refugee with his older brother when 4 years old. He ended up playing for FC Dordrecht when he was 10 and got signed by Feyenoord when he was 12. Martin van Geel: “Cheick is a very mature guy, already. He has personality, has leadership qualities and has learned to speak up for himself. This season he’ll play for the Under 19s and he has a pre-contract motivating him more to develop himself.” When he was 16 years old, he made his debut for Feyenoord 1. He suffered some injuries and disappeared from the spotlight for a bit, but the explosive rightfooted left winger is top fit again and waiting for his second game in the first team.

AZ – Myron Boadu…

…was sent away after a test run at Ajax. He went to AZ and the rejection by Ajax resulted in him playing even better when faced with the Sons of Gods. He won nines times already vs Ajax. Last year, large clubs from all over Europe wanted to sign him but the young forward decided to stay at AZ. He’s regarded as their biggest talent – with Stengs – and according to his youth coach, he’ll go for two seasons in AZ 1, then maybe a step in Holland (Ajax?) and then…who knows? “Dutch football will really benefit from this lad. He is Bergkampesque.”

Hamburger SV – Rick van Drongelen…

…is like Virgil van Dijk. Recognised as a top defending talent, but swooped up by a rich mid-tier club instead of one of the top 3 Dutch clubs. HSV paid 3 mio euros for the defender, apparently in the half time break, during a friendly between the two clubs. And he has no trouble whatsoever keeping up with the Bundesliga level. Sparta Rotterdam scouted him in Zeeland when he was 13 year old. PSV also offered him a place, like Twente and Willem II. At his 17th, he made his debut in Sparta 1, and he became Sparta’s youngest goal scorer ever. His strenght? An un-Dutch match mentality. “I don’t play for fun or for the beauty of the game. I just want to win.” His idol? Not Messi, Pirlo or Redondo, but Italian beast Chielini. In Germany, they call Van Drongelen “The Machine”, because of his training mentality. “You can’t become a better player by doing less than the other guys.”

Fortuna Sittard – Perr Schuurs…

…will be an Ajax player soon. The 18 year old already is the figure head of the Jupiler League and will show his leadership in Amsterdam. Liverpool and Tottenham were after his signature too, but the young defender will remain in Holland for a spell. He’s a top quality passer, has length and is fast. Perfect characteristics for a modern defender. His main strength is the perfectly timed tackle.

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  1. Great post.

    I’m really excited about de Ligt, Frenkie, Donny, Justin and Stengs from what I’ve seen, especially de Ligt.

    I can’t claim to have seen too much of the others.

    One thing that is notable is the lack of good goalkeepers on the horizon, and rugged ball winning midfielders who can also pass, and possess good technical skills? Any suggestions?

    Also, is Eiting a good prospect? Only seen him play a handful of minutes.

    1. Thanks for the info.

      With de Ligt, I wish Barca would sign him now, and then loan him to Ajax for two years with an option to call him to the Barca squad in say after a year (obviously Ajax would have to agree to these terms).

      That way he’d get genuine game time, which is what he needs at this tender age.

      Let’s face it, even if he did not make the dizzy heights that his ability suggests (cross my fingers and hope this does not happen), Barca have wasted so much on far worse transfers, why not take the gamble!

      It’s not as if Ajax play a conflicting style to what Barca aspire too!

  2. Really good article. Thanks, Jan.

    Was reading that Bayern is also enamored with de Ligt.

    Does anyone have any info as to how Stengs’ recovery is going? When he is expected to play again?

  3. To be honest you have too look at both sides of the coin here.having talents is jus not need enhanced platform for keep striving towards their very prime. I watched the extended highlights of the klassieker and must say,it was a very dull affair given two of the biggest teams in eredivisie and with the quality of players at the helm of both jus have to wonder how much fuel is left in tanks of eredivisie before it becomes barren.

    Secondly you also have to consider there are other upcoming talents in other leagues for other national teams who are enjoying top level competition. U look at England for example,once there were being criticised for not producing young home ground talents because of foreign influence,but that has become thing of the fast and they winning U20 WC jus goes to show how good the platform have become for young players who play at top level competitions. Germany,confed and the euro U21,all this reflects the extent of development of players coming through their individual leagues. Well this is no surprise as NT have being bombing out now of all major competitions.

    I seriously think they should get nine teams both from eredivisie and Belgian Pro League asap to strengthen the competition level which will further strengthen the platform for young talents who have high ceiling and competent skill level at early age. This will further reinforce eereste divisie with the droping teams strengthening the competition level further.its win win situation from both wise. I mean you look at AZ now,they are flourishing with some of their finest talent from the acedemies who have also forced their way into the first team.if in another season or two if the situation of eredivisie doesn’t change,what do u expect will happen to this players.

    Was reading an article on overmars who has been heavily criticised for scouting foreign players. I think this could work in long run.not only Ajax,PSV have also started tapping the south American market and the reason being of quality which again could be a factor boosting the competition course money is always a big factor here but if works in the favour of enhacing the competition level, well and good.

    Ajax jus recently announced that they have signed Midtjylland right-back Rasmus Nissen Kristensen and Deyovaisio Zeefuik will be allowed to leave.looking from this its clear they are trying to increase the bench mark as they don’t have enough quality. I mean Ajax usually have eye on all the brightest talents in Nerthlands and if there are going outside then definitely there is a reason. Bit surprised whether they overlooked Dumfries or they don’t think he is good enough.

    Conclusively I would say these will be a big turning factor for young talents going forward.

    1. Dumfries is too good to be sitting on the bench. Ajax were looking for a backup maybe he was approached secretly and declined but Dumfries should stay a starter at herenveen he will improve better

  4. The Dutch get France and Germany in their group for the United Nations league tournament. I like it, give this team experience against the best teams. They honestly couldn’t really get a harder group haha

  5. So here is a question for the collective wisdom of the blog:

    Is de Ligt ready to go to Barsa or Bayern? Same general question for Frenkie De Jong and Justin Kluivert, are they ready to move on from Ajax, and if so, what should be their next moves?

    1. I believe even if they are ready right now, they should still spend a couple more years each at ajax. They need to keep getting playing time. I think it’s too risky right now. They need to keep developing. They can’t afford any stalls. They are still super young.

      1. I think at this stage they should aim for atleast one season of champions league before making the decision. This will be a good place to market themselves and experience top level football.this might also settle their nerves especially when playing with top players.also remember both 1 -2 placed teams will have to go through qualifying round and this is why I think Ajax are looking outside of nerthlands to reinforce the team.

    2. I personally do not think they are ready to move out to a bigger club. They have to pass to a group stage of Champions League with Ajax…However, if bigger clubs come to Ajax with the right price, they will be sold anyway…Money dictates everything.

  6. I read that the KNVB is considering three coaches for the Dutch national team. Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer and Peter Bosz (De Telegraaf).

    I don’t get why the KNVB is considering these three coaches if they said that this decision will be made by the Technical Director. It’s seems that nothing is changing. I am still expecting they choose the new Technical Director first, and let him choose the best coach according to the profile.

  7. Another goal for ruud vormeer vs KV Oostende,taking his tally to 8 goals now. Both Clasie and vormer started in the midfield.zivkovic came of the bench for KV but much to no impact. The one thing that strikes the most about vormer is his individual skills and this is why he has the most number of assists so far.

  8. It appears the Technical Director’s appointment will not come before the appointment of the coach. Weird. Usually the TD determines the coach… I think Martin van Geel will take the TD role as it will be more a logistical and organisational role.

    The KNVB has a Director football development now as well, who will focus on coaching and player development. That role will be taken by Aloys Wijnker, who used to have a similar role in the American football association. He’ll return to Holland.

    Ronald Koeman, currently abroad, will be invited to accept the role of national team manager.

    1. Koeman is the wrong man for me. I’ve never truly been impressed with him as a coach. His time at Everton was one of mid table mediocrity at best. And his last days, that of confusion.

      I’d much rather see Bosz. And if not Bosz, reach out across the Dutch borders…. Klinsmann, Tuchel, Bielsa… just throwing a few names out there that could inspire a radical change at more than just coaching level.

  9. What is your opinion about Van Geel as TD?

    Who is Wijnker?

    I don’t like what I am reading. I really was expecting something more revolutionary…

    It seems that they are not making the huge changes that I was expecting. Maybe I was expecting a lot, bringing guys like Jordi Cruyff or Win Jonk

    1. The problem of Dutch soccer is not the coach of the NT. I think the revolution as many have written here and other places needs to happen in the youth development, later development, Eredivisie etc.

      In that sense a revolutionary NT coach wouldn’t accomplish anything but create further problems.

      Am I happy with RK? not exactly but I can see the thinking.

      just my $.02

      1. Agree. That’s the reason of my concern. The KNVB just changed the NT coach. No TD, no other changes.

        We have lite three no ya reading here in this blog many opinions of Dutch coaches of what we need to change to improve, and I was expecting that the new TD would The the man to make all theses changes…. but it seems that nothing is happening, just to bring Koeman and nothing more… Honestly, I was expecting the KNVB name Rutten as TD an he begins changing the system, including choosing the NT coach

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