Every terrific team gets dismantled finally and Ajax are the same.
After last year’s run to the Champions League semi-finals, the Dutch giants dropped Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong. In the previous week, it was declared Hakim Ziyech will signal for Chelsea this summer. Donny van de Beek will adhere to the trio in leaving Amsterdam this summer.
Utility man Daley Blind was connected with a surprise return to English soccer at Arsenal whilst Joël Veltman was formerly a goal for North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur. Right-backs Noussair Mazraoui and Sergiño Dest are desired also, the latter by Bayern Munich, while left-back Nicolas Tagliafico was desired by Real Madrid last summer.
Definitely the most high-profile death, however, would be Van de Beek. The 22-year-old was kept last summer when Real came sniffing. After that, it was inevitable that the supremely-gifted midfielder wouldn’t stay at the Johann Cruijff Arena for more than another season.
“I think it’s premature. I’ve often said: I won’t hurry; I’m fine here.
“When it happens, it happens.”
In the long run, money will dictate that Van de Beek leaves Amsterdam. Ajax’s model is built on growing kids before selling them while they’re in the peak of their abilities.
Unsurprisingly, no midfielder in Holland’s top-flight has greater expected goal participation (xG + xA) compared to Van de Beek’s 11.29, but that only begins to tell the story of the most recent exceptional young talent of the Ajax manufacturing line.
A boyhood Ajax fan who had been shot to what was then called the Amsterdam Arena by his father growing up, Van de Beek signed for his group as an eight-year-old. It is no surprise, then, he ticks all the boxes of the Ajax routine now.
Intelligent in his use of space and ownership, only watch his assist for Kasper Dolberg against Excelsior last year, the nine-cap Netherlands global can drift between the lines and pops in the box with the urge of a No.9. Though he wears No.6 on his back, Van de Beek isn’t a midfield pivot in the conventional sense of the amount.
He can regularly be seen lurking beyond the lines of their six-yard box, taking up the sort of places that an inside forward could be expected to occupy, looking to either create room for others or utilise regions he has made his own. His heatmap, above, indicates a specific penchant for the right-hand flank.
As his goalscoring and help figures indicate he gets forward with regularity and breaks into the box 7.82 times per 90 — no midfielder from the Dutch Eredivisie averages more.
Likened to former Ajax skipper Davy Klaassen as a result of his time and ability to get at the end of things from the playground, Van de Beek’s game is much more curved than the prior Everton flop.
While Van de Beek generates 2.08 opportunities (per 90), in addition to finishing 24.82 moves from the opposition’s half with impeccable vision and spatial awareness, he works hard for his team and isn’t limited to the creative side of this game.
At 6ft, the Nijkerkerveen native is a presence and is more than delighted to put himself about, working tirelessly to recover ownership for De Godenzonen. At the Eredivisie this year, Van de Beek ranks eighth among midfielders for possessional regains from the attacking third with 0.93 per 90.
Chiefly, however, it’s his assaulting instincts that have made Van de Beek a transfer target for Real Madrid and Manchester United, amongst others. If he needs advice about where to go this summer, he need only talk to team-mates Huntelaar and Blind who have represented Los Blancos and the Red Devils respectively.
The choice, however, will be his.