Ajax: De Toekomst
The youth development of any club is an important part of a team’s progress in the future, but not many clubs do it better than the Dutch giants Ajax.
A glamorous football club with a glamorous history, they have produced some of the finest talent world football has seen, with the likes of Johan Cruyff, Denis Bergkamp and Luis Suarez coming from their youth set up.
The aim for Ajax has always been the same, ‘overseeing the development of young talent’, as said by their CEO Edwin Van Der Sar, another product of the club’s youth system.
Head of youth recruitment Casimir Westerveld explained that the youth setup has a very strict policy on how to enhance their players: “Quick thinking, personality, the way of handling the ball, and trying to be dominate in the game.”
The club currently has some of the best youth product in their squad, with Frenkie De Jong sealing a transfer to Barcelona this summer, and now club captain Matthjis De Ligt could follow in his team-mates footsteps.
De Ligt explained how surreal it was for him as a youngster to train at Ajax.
“I remember the first year I came here, there were people like Frank De Boer, that kind of coach was also here, so as a kid it’s like woah! Those guys are training here like they are normal”.
Ajax are slowly rediscovering their form which saw them compete at the highest level of European football in the 1970s and 1980s
They face Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League semi-final first leg next week in London, which poses itself as a massive chance to re-instate their name as a force to be reckoned with in European football.
Club CEO Van Der Sar also said the club is starting to re-discover itself.
“Things are moving, we need to get back the name of Ajax. We have a philosophy, we have a history. Why can Ajax not be your second favourite club, because one of your players was educated at Ajax?”
Johan Cruyff became one of the finest footballers the world had ever seen through the 1970s, winning the Balon D’or three times and collecting 21 major honours through his career.
Cruyff created a new skill move, nicknamed the Cruyff turn, which was also regarded as one of the finest pieces of skill ever seen on a football pitch.
During his time with Ajax, Cruyff won a staggering 17 major honours, including eight Eredivisie titles and three European cups.
Edwin Van Der Sar
Edwin Van Der Sar is the most successful player to come from Ajax’s youth development programme.
The Dutch keeper won 26 major honours throughout his career, winning 14 with Ajax and 10 with Manchester United.
The shot stopper is now CEO of Ajax, and he plays a big part in the development of Ajax’s current youth products.
Clarence Seedorf enjoyed a glittering career at some of the finest clubs in European football, including Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
Seedorf won 24 major honours in his career, including three Champions League titles and four domestic league titles, two with both Ajax and AC Milan.
He was also voted best midfielder in the world by UEFA in 2007, for his outstanding contribution to AC Milan’s Champions League winning season.
Frank Rijkaard enjoyed a hugely successful career with Ajax and AC Milan, winning 22 major honours in the process.
He won five Eredivisie titles, two Serie A titles and three Champions League titles.
In his managerial career, Rijkaard achieved high success at Barcelona, winning five major honours in just two years.
Piet Keizer was at Ajax for 19 years between 1955 and 1974, starting in the youth academy and finishing as a club legend.
Keizer won 19 honours with Ajax, including six Eredivisie titles and three European Cup wins.