Branco van den Boomen (AFC Ajax) – Scout Report

Ajax began the summer transfer window by signing Toulouse’s Branco van den Boomen on a free transfer, taking advantage of his expiring contract with negotiations before season’s end. The 27-year-old former Toulouse central midfielder returns to his home country and his boyhood club nearly a decade after leaving Ajax. van den Boomen will look to slot into Maurice Steijn’s starting XI for the upcoming campaign and build on two spectacular seasons of output in France. 

Branco van den Boomen is tall for his position standing at 188 cm with a lanky build. He is not the most agile or quick but uses his length to his advantage while using long strides to ball carry through the phases and advance. Despite his size, van den Boomen is not the most physical in duels and is more successful using anticipation, timing his challenges well or stepping up to intercept. In addition, he is not active aerially though his height would suggest otherwise. 


Toulouse’s Ligue 2 and now Ligue 1 gem of an attacking 8 prefers to come short into space at the base of midfield to linkup, turning to either progressive carry or deliver a pass. These passes usually utilize his excellent scanning and vision to pick out long ground passes to break lines or send teammates through with his dominant right foot. This is van den Boomen’s dominant trait: his innate ability to find the open man and bring possession from one attacking phase to another. The other way he most often receives in midfield is after anticipating for interceptions or gathering loose balls, taking possession in stride to ball carry and distribute short forward or to his side. Due to his willingness to take risks in ball advancement, his passing percentage does suffer at only 76.1%, but that is with an other-worldly 10 progressive passes per match, in the 99th percentile, according to Opta. His on-ball abilities should not be questioned, as his short accuracy is terrific and progressive passing both impressive and worth its risks. Additionally, his dribbling is nothing special but gets the job done in carries, though he could do somewhat better under pressure. In all, a top talent in midfield on-ball as a distributor and off it in linkup. 

As a finisher, his main goal threat is from outside the box. When possession hits the final third, van den Boomen tends to stay well outside the opposition box, occasionally crashing as an outside shooting option. His real threat comes on set pieces – taking free kicks, corners, and penalties. van den Boomen has scored all his league penalty attempts in his career and nine over the past two seasons for Toulouse. His free kick taking is also supremely accurate, allowing him to create assists and some goals with his shot attempts displaying accuracy and placement few others can equal. His corner taking could be better, especially when facing stiffer competition with more box presence. 


Van den Boomen’s defensive output is not a complete negative for such an offensive-minded central midfielder. He steps up with good positioning to close off passing lanes when possession gets to his marker while sticking to his midfield line off ball to mark, not getting caught out of position often. As noted earlier, he will step up into duels but is not physical and does not do so often. Playing within himself is the best way to describe his defensive style from a flat midfield. 

Given his impressive ball progressing ability and linkup play in midfield, van den Boomen should pair up nicely with fellow new signing Benjamin Tahirovic who is more defensive-minded. With Tahirovic playing more conservative passes in midfield, at least early in his spell with Ajax, more emphasis will be put on van den Boomen’s strength and help raise the club’s ceiling in the middle third. 


Overall, as van den Boomen hits his prime, playing for a giant like Ajax outside the top 5 leagues is the correct place for him. He has the right skillset for European football and this season will test those abilities. After a couple seasons of sustaining his statistical dominance, the late bloomer would likely deserve the chance to try his hand in the Premier League before he is firmly in his 30s. van den Boomen must first prove himself further in the Eredivisie and Europa League, where his technique will have the spotlight in less physical high-profile competitions.

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