AFC Ajax – Recruitment Analysis

Ajax have had an inconsistent last few years. They reached both the Europa League final and Champions League semi-final in 2016/17 and 2018/19 respectively, but failed to even get into the Europe League group stages in 2017/18 and got knocked out of the Champions League in 2019/20, despite investing in players like Quincy Promes, Edson Álvarez and Razvan Marin. Over the last few years, Ajax have tried to create the ideal balance between young and experienced which has led to the signing of players like Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic while also continuing their amazing record of producing young talent.

This season, they have already signed Maarten Stekelenburg, Antony and Mohammed Kudus and are looking to get rid of some dead wood like Sven Botman and Carel Eiting. Last year, Erik ten Hag had to deal with an unbalanced midfield and a lot of injuries which led to Ajax struggling in the last matches of the Champions League, the matches against Getafe in the Europa League and in the second half of the season in the Eredivisie, which almost cost them first place.

However, Ajax ended the season in first place, but didn’t get crowned as champions due to COVID. They will either play in the qualifying rounds of the Champions League or the group stages of the Champions League next season depending on who wins the Champions League. There is a lot of work to do though.

Playing Style

Ajax play in a 4-2-3-1 formation, dictating possession and recovering possession early by putting organised pressure on the opposition when the ball gets lost. They often build in a 3-1-4-2 formation, with the defensive midfielder dropping deep towards to be on the left side of a back three. Also, the full backs get pushed higher up the pitch and the attacking midfielder often plays next to the striker, while Donny van de Beek played as an attacking midfielder.

However, when Erik ten Hag found his best formation,which was with Ziyech at AM and Van de Beek at RCM, a lot of his players got injured and he has not been able to play with his best formation to this date. During the times that Ziyech played as an attacking midfielder, there was a lot of variation between the RW, AM and LW and they often swapped positions to create space for each other.

Their buildup is centrally focused and Ajax often look for space in the central zones. In these situations, the wingers, striker and attacking midfielders can link up in the tight spaces and create chances for each other, which has been quite successful. However, both full backs play very high up the pitch and are often in space when Ajax are trying to get through in the central zones.

When Ajax have possession on the wing, it is important that the winger, full back and wide midfielder work together well to occupy all positions. In reality, this means that one player needs to stay behind the ball, one player needs to play in the half spaces and one player needs to stick to the sideline. They need to have a good positional understanding and work together well.

During the times that Ajax lose the ball in the midfield or final third, they want to have a lot of players near the ball to immediately put pressure on the opponents. In 2018/19, this tactic worked perfectly but in 2019/20 this part has been the weakness of Ajax throughout the whole season because of the fact that the midfield was not as balanced as it was and Donny van de Beek and Ryan Gravenberch are not the best in putting early pressure and keeping the defensive structure in mind.

We would suggest changing the playing style slightly and play with a single defensive midfielder out of possession, instead of playing with two holding midfielders. In possession, the DM would still drop deeper into a back three.

Identifying Which Positions Need to be Strengthened

Ajax are always looking for chances on the transfer market and like to sign Dutch internationals. They like to have the ideal mixture between young and experienced players. In the sheet down below, you can see how many players Ajax have in each position, the age of these players and how likely it is that the player will leave.

Red – Likely to Leave
Orange – Could Leave
Blue – Could be Upgraded

Along with Ziyech leaving, there are five players that are very likely to leave Ajax. Both Nicolás Tagliafico and Joël Veltman are allowed to leave Ajax when a good bid comes in, they both have helped Ajax a lot and they would like to move abroad. Donny van de Beek and André Onana could make the step up, but it is questionable if someone will pay a lot of money for him this summer due to COVID. Both Sven Botman and Carel Eiting will be allowed to leave, as they don’t have the required level to play in the first team of Ajax and Kik Pierie has gone out on loan to FC Twente.

Goalkeeper:

Ajax currently have four goalkeepers in the first team, which are André Onana, Maarten Stekelenburg, Kjell Scherpen and Dominik Kotarski. The former could leave which means that Ajax would need to get a replacement for André Onana. Maarten Stekelenburg will be the experienced second goalkeeper and bring experience to the squad, while Kjell Scherpen will be the third goalkeeper and play a full season for Jong Ajax. Dominik Kotarski can be loaned out, preferably to an Eredivisie club.

Left Back:

Nicolás Tagliafico is the only left back in the first team of Ajax at the moment. Players like Daley Blind and Lisandro Martínez could play in this position as well, but this would not be ideal. The Argentine is expected and allowed to leave, which means that Ajax need to get a replacement for Nicolás Tagliafico. Anass Salah-Eddine is coming through the youth ranks of Ajax and is good enough to be the second left back on paper. In reality, Lisandro Martínez or Daley Blind could play as left back when the replacement of Nicolás Tagliafico gets injured or suspended. We would let Anass Salah-Eddine play cup games for the first team of Ajax and let him play in Jong Ajax a full season first.

Left Centre Back:

Currently, Ajax have Daley Blind, Lisandro Martínez, Kik Pierie and Sven Botman under contract at Ajax. Botman will move to Lille for €8.000.000, while Daley Blind and Lisandro Martínez will stay at Ajax. In the youth academy, Ajax have Devyne Rensch who has the potential to play for the first team at Ajax. We would let him be a starter in Jong Ajax, and send Kik Pierie out on loan to the Eredivisie again to see if he can improve on his performance of this season.

Right Centre Back:

Ajax have a lot of right central defenders at the moment. Joël Veltman, Perr Schuurs, Edson Álvarez and Jurriën Timber are the four right centre backs at the moment. Veltman will most likely leave, while we think that Edson Álvarez is not good enough to play in this position for Ajax and both Perr Schuurs and Jurriën Timber should play some minutes in the first team next season, but they are not good enough to play 30+ games. This means that Ajax need to sign an upgrade at the right central defender position and send either Perr Schuurs or Jurriën Timber out on loan. Neraysho Kasanwirjo can play in Jong Ajax.

Right Back:

Noussair Mazraoui and Sergiño Dest are the two right backs at Ajax. The former has been very injury prone lately and has not reached his level that he reached in the 2018/19 season when Ajax reached the semi-final of the Champions League. Sergiño Dest has been good, but inconsistent for Ajax last season. Both have been linked with a move abroad and we think that one of them might leave Ajax this summer. If the young American leaves, it is clear that Ajax need to sign a replacement for Dest, while Dest could remain as the starting right back when Noussair Mazraoui leaves. If one of them leaves, we expect that it would be Sergiño Dest. This means that we will be looking at a starting right back, since it is questionable whether Mazraoui will reach his top level again. Either Liam van Gelderen or Quinten Timber can play as right back in Jong Ajax.

Defensive Midfield:

Probably the most needed position for Ajax. Lisandro Martínez and Carel Eiting are the only players that could play in this position for Ajax, but while the former is an okay option, Carel Eiting is not to the standard and will probably be sold or sent out on loan. We think that Ajax should sign an upgrade on Lisandro Martínez. Lisandro Martínez could be the backup in multiple positions, while youth players could and need to take over when Martínez would get injured. Victor Jensen needs to be loaned out to an Eredivisie club, while Enric Llansana should be the starting defensive midfielder for Jong Ajax.

Right Centre Midfield:

Ajax have Ryan Gravenberch, Razvan Marin, Mohammed Kudus and Kenneth Taylor for this position. We expect Ryan Gravenberch to break through next season as an advanced midfielder, while Mohammed Kudus will compete with Kenneth Taylor to be the backup in this position. We think that Kudus will end up playing in this role at Ajax, while playing as a winger first. Razvan Marin could do well in this position, but we think it’s better to send him out on loan to a club in Belgium or sell him if a good bid comes in, as Ryan Gravenberch deserves this spot. Kenneth Taylor could compete with Youri Regeer for a place in Jong Ajax.

Left Centre Midfield:

Donny van de Beek and Jurgen Ekkelenkamp are the players in this position, but Zakaria Labyad and Noa Lang could play in this position as well, despite the fact that they would offer different qualities in this position. Van de Beek could leave for a larger side, which means that Ajax need a replacement for Donny van de Beek. Jurgen Ekkelenkamp could be sent out on loan, but we think he would be useful as the sixth midfielder. Giovanni is not a player like Van de Beek, but he could play as the most advanced midfielder in Jong Ajax next season.

Right Wing:

Ajax signed Antony, and already have David Neres and Sontje Hansen in this position. We expect David Neres to stay at Ajax and Antony is the perfect competition for this position. Sontje Hansen could do with a full season in Jong Ajax which would help him develop well. Antony and Neres could get rotated a lot, while Hansen should get a chance in the cup games against weaker sides.

Strikers:

Ajax have Dusan Tadic, Lassina Traoré and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar for this position. Tadic will most likely be the starter during the whole season, while Lassina Traoré could start in the easier matches against the bottom half teams. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar brings experience to the squad and will help Traoré, but also Brian Brobbey in improving their skills and mentality. Danilo Pereira should be loaned out, while Brian Brobbey could be loaned out as well if there is a good possibility for him. However, he could play a full season in Jong Ajax as well.

Left Wing:

Quincy Promes, Mohammed Kudus, Noa Lang, Zakaria Labyad and Naci Ünüvar can all play in this position. Promes will most likely be the starter in the most important games, while Kudus will get some chances to impress as well. Noa Lang and Zakaria Labyad will get their minutes when a few players get injured or suspended and Ünüvar will play for Jong Ajax the whole season.

Player Profiles

In short, Ajax need to sign a player in the following positions:

  • Goalkeeper -> Replacement for Onana
  • Left Back -> Replacement for Tagliafico
  • Right Centre Back -> Upgrade Schuurs and J. Timber
  • Right Back -> Replacement for Dest
  • Defensive Midfielder -> Upgrade Lisandro Martínez
  • Left centre Midfielder -> Replacement for Van de Beek

Goalkeeper – Replacement Onana

A goalkeeper of Ajax needs to have good ball playing ability and not be afraid of playing higher up the pitch to support the buildup, such as Onana did at times this season. He needs to be comfortable under pressure and able to find his teammates, also when he gets put under pressure. He needs to be quick off his line as well and not scared to try to intercept through passes. Last but not least, he needs to have good goalkeeping ability as well. In this piece, we will not go into possible replacements for André Onana.

Left Back – Replacement Tagliafico

The replacement of Tagliafico needs to be comfortable playing a high defensive line. He needs to have good defensive decision making and defend aggressively. It is important that he has good acceleration and pace for when the winger makes a run in behind and is in space. He needs to be comfortable on the ball and have good ball playing ability, which is important especially in the Eredivisie as the opponents like to close the centre and force Ajax to build down the wing.

Right Centre Back – Upgrade at RCB

The right centre back of Ajax needs to be a smart defender who has good decision making and is comfortable playing a high defensive line. He will form a duo with Blind who steps out of the defensive line often and does this very aggressively. The right centre back will need to be able to cover his back and have decent 1v1 defending ability and pace and acceleration. His ball playing ability needs to be good, but as he plays next to Daley Blind it does not have to be outstanding.

Right Back – Replacement Dest

The replacement of Dest or Mazraoui needs to be comfortable playing a high defensive line. He needs to have good defensive decision making and defend aggressively. It is important that he has good acceleration and pace for when the winger makes a run in behind and is in space. He needs to be comfortable on the ball and have good ball playing ability, which is important especially in the Eredivisie as the opponents like to close the centre and force Ajax to build down the wing.

Defensive Midfield – Upgrade at DM

The defensive midfielder of Ajax plays as a left centre midfielder and will often operate as the left centre back in possession. This means that he needs to have good ball playing ability which means that he needs to be comfortable playing line breaking passes and have a lot of progression in his playing style. Also, he needs to anticipate well when Ajax lose possession and be very good at choosing the right moments to put pressure on the opposition.

Centre Midfield Replacement Donny van de Beek

In this position, it is important that the replacement of Donny van de Beek has good spatial awareness to create space for his teammates or make effective runs in behind to get into scoring position. He needs to have a functional technique and be decent in the tight spaces. His finishing needs to be on point and he needs to be able to perform his defensive duties. Last but not least, he needs to be able to score goals.

Our Method

We started this project with four people, who all chose one position to work on. We have used data and existing knowledge from the Target Scouting database to narrow down a short of players in the different positions. After narrowing down our short, we have watched a lot of players in our chosen position to eventually create a final list of three players. We discussed our chosen players with each other and changed our chosen players if someone disagreed with the chosen players and made suggestions. After finishing our chosen position, we worked on the last position together and quickly found three options for Ajax.

Our Recommendations

Moving on to our recommendations. For each position that we think needs either an upgrade or a replacement, we will give three options. We will give a short summary of their playing style, why they would fit Ajax, how much they would cost and we will link either their match reports or player reports.

Right Back:

  1. Gonzalo Montiel – River Plate

Gonzalo Montiel is an 23 year old right back who currently plays for River Plate in Argentina. The Argentinian club is heavily struck by the pandemic and reportedly need to sell their players so could offer good value.

The right footed right back plays in either a 4-1-3-2 or 3-5-2 formation and has great ability going forward. He has a lot of variation in his positioning which suits Ajax as Dest often operates as either an inverted wing back or attacking wing back. Montiel is very press resistant and has good ability in the tight spaces. He often has a good final ball and is good defensively as well, even though he can improve in his slide tackling ability. His game intelligence and tactical awareness suit Ajax well.

It will be hard for Ajax to sign him as there are multiple teams that are interested in him but he would be a great fit at any price below €18.000.000.

Estimated worth: €12.000.000 – €15.000.000

2. Joakim Mæhle – KRC Genk

Joakim Mæhle is a 23 year old Danish right back playing in Belgium with KRC Genk. He has been at the club since 2017, with a contract that runs until 2023, and looks likely to be subject to bids this summer despite Genk’s stance that they are not looking to sell him.

He has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs, with the player already expressing an interest in joining Southampton after they had an approach rejected in January. As such, a move to Ajax may be unlikely but in terms of profile and value he is a good fit should they need to bring in a player in that position. Demand for his services will be high but the promise of European football at Ajax may hold weight if a bid was to come in.

He is a very progressive defender who loves to get forward, possessing great speed and ball carrying abilities that see him regularly fly down the wing and take players on to get into good crossing positions. His delivery from these positions is consistently dangerous, as shown by his 4 assists in the league this season. He is definitely more of an attacking wing back than a traditional full back and struggles at times with the defensive side of the game but his technical ability is well suited to Ajax’s possession based system.

Estimated worth: €8.000.000 – €11.000.000

3. Fabricio Bustos – CA Independiente

Fabricio Bustos is a 24 year old right back from Argentina who has been playing in the first team of Independiente for a while now. He has been ready for a step to Europe for quite a while now and even though it would be a bit of a stretch, he could be a good addition to Ajax.

The right back is able to make both over and underlapping runs and has good ability on the ball. He can play out of pressure using his good passing ability. He has decent acceleration which helps him to get away from defenders and can change directions well. He has good positional understanding which is essential in this position at Ajax. Defensively, he is decent but he does not stand out. He can defend well with space in his back.

As mentioned already, it is a bit of a stretch but he could rotate with Noussair Mazraoui a lot and be a great addition to Ajax. He would not be the clear first right back, which the other two would be.

Estimated worth: €8.000.000 – €11.000.000

Right Centre Back:

1. Victor NelssonFC Copenhagen

The 6’1″ Danish U21 international has received four A1 ratings and an A2 on our site from four different writers, showing the quality he’s shown this season for Copenhagen in Denmark.

The right footed defender is good at playing in a high line, covering space and has a strong work rate. He’s got a good build and uses his physicality well but would still fill out slightly. A move to Ajax would be an excellent stepping stone into the top five leagues with a lot of resale value. He’s a leader at the back with good intelligence and tactical awareness with good reading of the game. He’s strong 1v1 and enjoys defending and even if he’s not the quickest he’s able to contain opposition forwards.

He’s calm on the ball, good under pressure with solid passing and keeps the game ticking from the back even if he doesn’t try anything special. Playing alongside Blind or Martinez though he’d be taking the secondary role in possession and allowing them to take the lead. He could do more to progress and carry the ball forwards though.

Estimated worth: €8.000.000 – €12.000.000

2. Nehuén Pérez – Atlético Madrid

Nehuén Pérez is an Argentinian centre back who currently plays on loan at FC Famalicão. He has a contract at Atlético Madrid until 2024 and is yet to make his debut for the national team of Argentina, despite making it into the squad several times. The 20 year old has captained the Argentina under 23 team that won the PreOlympics Tournament this year and has been very important for FC Famalicão in the 2019/20 season.

The centre back is very comfortable on the ball, but does not stand out in it despite being able to play line breaking passes and dribbling it out from the back. He is a positive defender who steps out often and is good in doing so. The Argentine is very good in the defensive duels and looks confident. He anticipates well and excels in the 1v1 duels. Nehuén Pérez is relatively quick on the first meters and has good body position when needing to play with space in his back.

He would suit well at Ajax as he defends positively, can play with space in his back well and he has decent ball playing ability. He would form a great duo with a ball playing centre back like Daley Blind or Lisandro Martínez. Nehuén Pérez would be very expensive, but he would definitely be sold for a lot of money in a few years time.

Estimated worth: €18.000.000 – €23.000.000

3. Denys PopovDynamo Kyiv

The 21 year old Ukrainian youth international is another promising centre half. With a big frame which he could easily fill out more, he’s a scary player to play against. He’s a tough defender who uses his physicality and controlled aggression well. He isn’t the quickest and working on his athleticism would help aspects of his game, especially turning speed.

He’s available for €15m and has been linked with a few teams from the top five leagues and would have lots of resale value. He’s a dominant defender who enjoys defending and is excellent in the air. Popov defends with a calm manner and is also decent on the ball. He looked to carry the ball forwards when space presents itself and has a decent range of passing, able to spread play with diagonals.

I think he’d add a strong mentality and aggression that Ajax can often lack and a move to the Eredivisie would allow him to dominate physicality and would be a strong addition to the Ajax side and help their Champions League campaign next season and to retain the title.

Estimated worth: €15.000.000

Left Back:

  1. Owen Wijndal – AZ Alkmaar

The Dutch left back has been one of the revelations of AZ Alkmaar in the 2019/20 season. He made his debut for the Dutch U21 team this season and is one of the most promising left backs from The Netherlands. The 20 year old has a contract until 2023 and AZ have insisted that they won’t sell their players to Ajax and his agent is Mino Raiola.

Owen Wijndal has impressed for AZ in the attacking phase of play with his good technical ability on the ball, bursts of speed when driving forward and incredible composure in the final third. He is good in the defensive duels and always wants to defend positively, which means that he steps out the defensive line a lot and can often be found on the opposition half. This has it downsides to it as he can be lazy tracking back or when he makes a bad decision defensively.

He would suit Ajax because of his ability in the final third and his contribution to the attack in combination with his game intelligence and potential. His defensive ability needs to improve, but his attacking ability is by far the best of the left backs we watched. However, it is pretty unknown what his price tag will be and if Ajax could afford the left back. We would only pay up to €15.000.000 for him, and move on to the next target if AZ want more money.

AZ have indicated that they are in need to sell some players, even though they have clearly stated that they won’t sell one of their players to Ajax. We think that if the price is right, they will still sell to Ajax.

Estimated worth: €15.000.000 – €25.000.000

2. Brian Cufré – Vélez Sarsfield

Brian Cufré is a 23 year old Argentine left back. He plays for Vélez Sarsfield who are one of the better teams in Argentina. Cufré reportedly has a release clause of 6 million dollar and his contract expires in 2021. He already has played 90 matches for the first team of Vélez Sarsfield and has a lot of experience playing in South America. His agency is TARGET4SPORT and it is expected that he could be on the move this summer.

The Argentine has excellent positional understanding and is very much capable of creating space for teammates or moving into space himself. He is very active in both the transition from defence to attack and attack from defence and has good stamina. He is very press resistant and could work together well with Quincy Promes on the left wing. Cufré is effective in putting pressure early as he positions himself well when Vélez have the ball in the final third.

It has been said that Brian Cufré has a release clause of 6 million dollar, and if this is true, he certainly could be a bargain for Ajax which makes him even more interesting. He only has a contract until 2021, so it could certainly be the case that he needs to be sold this summer.

Estimated worth: €5.290.000

3. Vitaliy Mykolenko – Dynamo Kiev

The Ukrainian international is a robust well rounded full back who is able to contribute at both ends of the pitch with a good work rate and stamina to facilitate it. He has a strong mentality with good aggression and could develop into a very good full back.

He makes intelligent runs into space out wide with well timed overlaps and is great at popping up at the back post as well, offering a goal threat. Although he gets into good positions his final ball needs work with his decision making and crossing quality having room for improvement to get to the next level. He progresses the ball well with his passing in the buildup as well, able to get the ball to attacking players in more central areas.

He does well defensively, with good work rate and fairly good speed. He has good footwork and doesn’t overcommit to challenges, he’s patient and able to delay and contain attackers. He has the potential to play at a very good level and could be an excellent signing for Ajax even if €15m is quite expensive for them.

Estimated worth: €15.000.000

Defensive Midfield:

  1. Matheus Henrique – Grêmio

Matheus Henrique is a 22 year old midfielder from Brazil. The midfielder has been hyped amongst a lot of football fans for a long time and it is easy to see why.

The technically gifted midfielder is very effective in the first phase of the buildup, moving between the lines well and being able to progress the ball higher up the pitch by either making a run with the ball on his feet using his good acceleration or by playing a forward pass. He has excellent technique, ball control and a first touch and would be a typical Ajax player. Matheus Henrique is aggressive in defence but could sometimes be more active in cutting passing lanes.

At Ajax, he would operate as the third centre back in possession, trying to be the player to progress the ball higher up the pitch like Frenkie de Jong did in 2018/19. When the ball would progress higher up the pitch, he would move centrally again and be the player to recover possession a lot, while also spreading play when he is on the ball. He currently plays in a double pivot before a single defensive midfielder, but he could play as a single defensive midfielder at a team like Ajax.

He would certainly be very expensive, but given that Grêmio are in financial problems due to the pandemic, it suddenly became more realistic that Matheus Henrique would move to Ajax. However, it is hard to estimate his current worth and what the asking price will be.

Estimated worth: €18.000.000 – €25.000.000

2. Yangel Herrera – Granada CF

Yangel Herrera is a Venezuelan defensive midfielder who has spent this season on loan from Manchester City at Granada CF in Spain. The 22 year old has played an important role at the heart of the midfield in a Granada team that has impressed by finding themselves in the top 10 following promotion from the Spanish second division. He already has 18 senior international caps and has a bright future ahead of him.

Herrera would offer a different type of style to that of Henrique, with a large part of his game surrounding his defensive qualities, but this could still suit the Dutch champions who have struggled at times with transitions from attack to defence. He is very aggressive and combative in defensive situations and regains possession regularly for his side, by timing his tackles effectively and using his strength in physical duels. He would be especially effective in transitional phases due to his defensive reading of the game and bite in the tackle which would offer Ajax some added defensive security and allow the other midfield players to venture forward with more freedom. He is quick to react to a loss in possession and likes to close down his opponent quickly to give them little time on the ball and either force a turnover or force the attacking palyer away from goal, he has excellent intensity levels in defensive phases of play.

Herrera is efficient and tidy in possession but does not provide as much in the way of an attacking threat when compared to the likes of Henrique. He has good close control and is capable of finding some nice passes to keep the play ticking along, again allowing the more creative players in midfield to try and open up the defence. He has the ability and vision to be progressive himself but has mixed success with long range passing, and could be more consistent with his accuracy on the ball.

Herrera would be an outside of the box option for Ajax but could prove to be a success due to his defensive output and efficiency in possession. With Granada being his third loan move in the last three seasons and his contract due to expire this summer, he may well be looking for a new club for next season and could be a potential bargain if he is available on a free transfer.

Estimated Worth: Out of Contract (according to TransferMarkt)

3. Eduard Atuesta – Los Angeles FC

Eduard Atuesta is a defensive midfielder from Colombia who plays for Los Angeles FC. He is 23 years old and has impressed for the American club this season.

The Colombian defensive midfielder does very well to move into space in the first phase of the buildup and is press resistant. He is able to combine with his teammates in the tight spaces and can create chances. Atuesta gets forward a lot – maybe even too often. This means that he can be out of position as he also likes to drift wide out of possession which could mean that he can be caught out of position against top sides in the Champions League. However, he is a ball winning midfielder who scores well in statistics and the eye test did not disappoint as well.

Even though it perhaps is not a clear upgrade on Lisandro Martínez, he could be a good addition to Ajax and be a competitor for Martínez, instead of being a clear upgrade. Matheus Henrique and Yangel Herrera are definitely the two best options, though.

Estimated worth: €8.000.000 – €13.000.000

Left Centre Midfield:

  1. Davy Klaassen – Werder Bremen

Davy Klaassen would be Ajax’s prodigal son if were to return, having coming through the academy to captain the club before leaving for Everton in 2017. That move never worked out for the Dutchman, now 27, who moved to Bremen to rediscover his form and impressed after the restart as the club battled successfully against relegation.

He is a well rounded player, able to play in centre midfield or in a more advanced role in behind the striker, who covers a lot of ground and likes to get on the ball a lot to influence play. His 7 goals and 5 assists in the Bundesliga is second only to Milot Rashica in goal contributions for Bremen and shows an impressive eye for goal from midfield.

He excels at timing runs into the box, finding space either arriving late or running in behind and shows great composure in front of goal. He is not particularly mobile and does not travel a lot with the ball at his feet but he possesses good passing range and impressive vision.

He was educated with the Ajax philosophy so would be perfectly suited to the team’s style of play and would provide invaluable leadership in the midfield. Has the ability to replace Van De Beek’s goals and create chances for teammates.

Estimated worth: €8.000.000 – €11.000.000

2. Igor Gomes – São Paulo

Igor Gomes is a 21 year old Brazilian attacking midfielder who plays for São Paulo. He has already been attracting a lot of interest from top European clubs such as Real Madrid but it is Ajax who would provide a realistic next step for his development.

He is a tall, elegant player who seems to glide across the pitch with great skill and agility. Whilst he has the ability to take on opponents, it is his passing that stands out and his key contributions to attacking moves that are not necessarily goals or assists and so can often go unnoticed. He is intelligent in his use of the ball, progressing it simply but effectively with short passing interplay.

He possesses good technique and ball control that allows him to retain possession well and, like Van De Beek, he is very effective at creating space for himself in tight areas. His technical ability is already of a very high level and he is a very good fit for Ajax but he will want to improve his end product to contribute more at the end of moves as well as at the beginning.

Gomes would be an expensive option for Ajax and it is hard to estimate his value but he is a player with top potential and would have a massive resale value were they to develop him well and sell him on to a top club.

Estimated worth: €13.000.000 – €18.000.000

3. Evander – FC Midtjylland

Evander is a 22 year old Brazilian who can play as either a centre midfielder or a more advanced attacking midfielder and has been putting in impressive performances for FC Midtjylland on their way to the Danish Superliga title. He is a great ball carrier with a very low centre of gravity and good balance that allows him to ride challenges and protect the ball under pressure.

He operates well in and around the box and is very effective at finding space between the lines to receive the ball on the turn. He is a goal threat from these areas, using good close control to create space for a shot and possessing good power and accuracy from range. He is creative with his passing in advanced areas and has very good delivery from set pieces but can struggle to play penetrative passes out of a high press when collecting the ball from the defence.

He uses his body intelligently to win midfield duels despite his small stature, showing good aggression in challenges. However, there are questions about his work rate as he can look quite uninterested at times and can lack intensity out of possession which is something he would have to improve in Ajax’s pressing system.

He has the ability to replace Van De Beek’s defensive output and his quality on the ball makes him a very good fit to Ajax’s system. His set piece deliveries would also be very useful in the absence of Ziyech.

Estimated worth: €8.000.000 – €12.000.000


We hope you’ve enjoyed this style of recruitment piece and thank you for 2000 followers on Twitter. Let us know which team we should write this style article on next. This piece was worked on by Jeroen, Luke, Thomas and Fraser, with Jeroen putting in most of the ground work and team analysis.

2 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this recruitment piece. I liked the tactical style overview ahead of analysing the perceived weaknesses in the squad. I’ve just found this site, too, so will be poking about in other posts now! Look forward to seeing more in the future.

    Like

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