Who Will Be Ajax's Next Big European Export?
With a $47 million transfer to Manchester United confirmed on Wednesday, Donny van de Beek was the latest Ajax star to make a high-profile move to a European power. He follows in the footsteps of Hakim Ziyech, who made a $47 million move to Chelsea this summer, as well as Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Light, who made high-profile moves last summer.
For years Ajax has been at the forefront of youth development, training the next batch of young stars at Ajax Youth Academy and scouring the globe for bright talent. When one star leaves, another upcoming star takes his place, and it's this cycle that has made Ajax competitive for decades.
Much like Ajax, here at The18 we are always looking for the next big star, which is why we've decided to prepare a scouting report on Ajax's up-and-coming talent.
Now, when Ajax's top prospect joins a Champions League contender a few years down the road, you can tell your friends that you saw it coming.
Next Ajax Superstar
André Onana (GK)
Ajax's Cameroonian keeper arrived at the club five years ago after he failed to make the cut at Barcelona, and he has since blossomed into one of soccer's best young keepers. Much like Manuel Neuer, Onana is a frequent risk-taker that plays with confidence and composure. While occasionally mistake-prone, Onana is still just 24 years old, and his elite athleticism and reflexes could be showcased in a top European league very soon.
Mohammed Kudus (CAM)
Snapped up from Danish club Nordsjaelland for $9.9 million at the beginning of this summer's transfer window, Kudus is a silky smooth dribbler who dominated the Superliga last year at just 19. The Ghanaian attacker had interest from a host of major clubs, including Liverpool and AC Milan, but Ajax should provide a fantastic opportunity to further his development. Don't be shocked if big clubs start circling again after a couple of impressive seasons in the Eredivisie.
Our new signing• Mohammed KudusCompleted 118 dribbles
2nd highest % shots/goals
Just 'unbreakable'@KudusMohammedGH #Kudus #Ajax #FCNordsjæland pic.twitter.com/hG3vNYcKuf
— AJAXONLY (@Ajaxonly_) July 23, 2020
Nicolás Tagliafico (LB)
Tagliafico might be the oldest player on this list at age 28, but at the moment, he is arguably the most talented player in the Ajax squad.
While the Dutch champions struggled in the Champions League this past year, the Argentinian fullback was a bright spot, recording a goal and an assist in a 3-0 win over Lillie. Tagliafico is the prototype for the modern fullback; he is a solid defender that has the pace to mark even the most athletic wingers, and he also provides impressive attacking qualities. A true all-around player.
Lisandro Martínez (CB/CDM)
Ajax allowed less than a goal per game last season when Martinez was in the lineup, so it's only fitting that the 22-year-old Argentinian was the youngest player to be named to WhoScored's Eredivie Team of the Season last year. Martinez is not the tall, physical presence that De Ligt was (he stands just 5 feet 9 inches), but he is an intelligent defender that can play in a back three or back four, much like new Manchester City signing Nathan Ake.
David Neres (RW)
Neres appeared in just 12 Eredivisie matches last season due to injury (seven starts) but he managed to score six goals. The Brazilian winger is one of the paciest players in the Eredivisie and an adept playmaker from out wide, recording double-digit assists in the league in both 2017-18 and 2018-19. At 23 years of age, a healthy and productive season this year could warrant a big move.
Today, in #TricksOf2019...David Neres
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) December 27, 2019