Lately, I was trying to find which players made the switch to the Premier League from the Dutch Eredivisie, when I somewhat stumbled across AFC Ajax’s transfers over the previous 20 years.
As I scrolled through the list, I realised something. The sheer amount of talent that has passed through Ajax Amsterdam.
So why are Ajax so successful with not only progressing the youth players through their ranks, but also the player recruitment side of things?
The Ajax academy is based at ‘De Toekomst’ training facility, where the youth and first team train side by side.
Just a stones through away from the sides Amsterdam Arena, De Toekomst is a state of the art facility where 13 teams from u8’s to u18’s play their games. This is where the talented youngsters start their footballing careers.
The facility is home to a whopping 8 training pitches, and 140,000 squared metres of land. Not only that, but the site houses a modern 2,000 capacity stadium where the reserve and youth matches are played.
Ajax are a team who really focus on their academy, and put a number of hours each week into progressing the next generation of footballers. Not only do they spend time with these players, they also spend money, after redeveloping De Toekomst in 2009.
So, we’ve seen Ajax have the facilities for success, but what’s next?
55 Incredible scouts.
50 of the well qualified scouting team are based in the Netherlands, with the remaining 5 worldwide.
Any potential star can submit an application online, with the team organising special talent days for the select few who make the cut.
In addition to the application process, the 50 scouts spend most weekends out and about on the lookout for future stars.
A lot of time and effort does go into the process, and the rewards are clear for all to see.
If you weren’t already sold on how fantastic the facilities and staff were at De Toekomst, how about the success stories?
Where better to start?
Johan Cruyff. What an exceptional footballer. A man who was so skilful and so well known for his trickery, he even had a turn named after the stroke of genius he invented.
Cruyff was to be one of the first superstars to come out of the Ajax academy, but this was just the start.
Next came another genius. Marco Van Basten could do it all. The three time winner of the Balon D’Or won 3 Eredivisie titles whilst in Amsterdam, and scored an incredible 154 goals in 174 games.
Despite his career being cut short due to injury, Van Basten is widely considered one of the best players to have ever graced our sport.
Dennis Bergkamp began his career with Ajax, and also won a league title during his spell at the club. Another who had a fantastic goals to games ratio, Bergkamp was another to also venture away from his native Netherlands, and became one of the finest players to play for Arsenal.
Not only did Ajax produce attacking talent, they also provided defenders.
Frank De Boer played 431 games in the heart of the defence for de Godenzonen, winning 5 league titles, and becoming the best ever defensive player to play for the side.
Frank’s twin brother Ronald De Boer played much further forward, but was just as special. Just like his twin, Ronald played over 300 games during two spells in Amsterdam.
The special Frank Rijkaard was another who made his name at Ajax. Not only did Rijkaard have an illustrious career in Holland, he also became one of the best defensive players to have played for AC Milan.
Edgar Davids was probably most famous for his amazing goggles he wore whilst playing the beautiful game, but he was also a fantastic footballer, who again began his career at De Toekomst.
Clarence Seedorf followed in the footsteps of many of his predecessors, and became one of the finest central midfielders in the world. Playing for some of the finest clubs in Europe, Seedorf won titles in 3 different countries, and 4 Champions Leagues.
I fear this list is getting too long, and could probably go on forever! However a few more of the amazing list of talented footballers to progress through the Ajax ranks are;
Patrick Kluivert, Edwin Van Der Sar, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael Van Der Vaart, Christian Eriksen
And most recently Frenkie De Jong, currently at Barcelona. Matthijs De Ligt, currently at Juventus, and Donny Van De Beek, currently at Manchester United.
The sheer amount of talent that has come out of De Toekomst is astonishing. It seems like every year more and more players perform excellently for Ajax, and eventually earn big money moves across Europe.
One thing is for certain, Ajax definitely didn’t listen to Alan Hansen when he said “You can’t win anything with kids”