Dutch football has always been known for producing good technical players.
The Eredivisie has gone from strength to strength over the years, mostly due to its youth development system. The league has acted as a stepping stone for many great players in the past, who have spent their early days in the Netherlands before moving to the bigger leagues in Europe.
However, Erik ten Hag’s Ajax proved that teams from the Eredivisie can utilize the raw talent of their players to good effect and go deep in the UEFA Champions League, something similar to what they did last season. The Dutch side went on to an inspiring run beating Real Madrid en route to the semi-finals, before getting knocked out by Tottenham Hotspur.
Currently, the similarity that strikes among most clubs in the Netherlands is the production of young talent and the platform they get in the Eredivisie, to prove their mettle before making a big move.
Starting from legends like Johan Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp to stars like Arjen Robben and Luis Suarez, Dutch football has always been a stable for great young talents, who have gone on to achieve big things in football. So, with the current season called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, we at Khel Now take a look at the top five best young talents from the league:
5. Lisandro Martinez (Centre-Back/Defensive Midfielder- Ajax Amsterdam)
The Argentine joined Ajax when they lost Matthijs de Ligt to Juventus. Predominantly, a left-footed centre-back, Martinez’s neat passing skills and ability to build from the back inspired Ten Haag to slot him in defensive midfield in a similar role to Frenkie de Jong. Martinez, despite being out of position started thriving in his new role, as his ability to read the game gave him an edge over other defensive midfielders.
The 22-year old has become the heartbeat of the Ajax midfield, as he works tirelessly to restore possession and then initiates most of the build-up. His versatility to play in multiple positions in defence holds him in good stead for the future. Lisandro Martinez also made it to the 2019/20 Eredivisie Team of the Season.
4. Donyell Malen (Striker- PSV Eindhoven)
Hailed as the future of the Netherlands attack, Donyell Malen simply stands out in the league with his true goalscoring nature. The 21-year old rose through the ranks at the much-fabled Arsenal youth academy before joining PSV Eindhoven in 2017. That proved to be the best decision for the Dutchman of Surinamese descent, as he became a fan-favourite with the PSV faithful.
The 21-year old has attracted interest from all over Europe mainly due to his goalscoring instincts. Malen is a modern-day forward who has pace to burn and also gets into good positions, proving his hunger for goals. He is hailed as the future of his country and club mainly because of his ability to play anywhere upfront.
Apart from scoring goals he doesn’t hesitate to create chances for his teammates. Malen scored 17 goals and provided nine assists in all competitions, before his season ended early due to a knee injury. The forward has already made his senior debut for the national team and topped it off with a goal against Germany in European Championship Qualifying. If things go as per plan, Malen might become the spearhead of the Dutch attack over the next decade.
3. Myron Boadu (Striker- AZ Alkmaar)
Another goalscoring talent who has made the headlines consistently during the season is Myron Boadu. The 19-year old has been one of the most exciting young talents in the Eredivisie and has subsequently attracted interest from top European clubs.
Boadu came up through the ranks at AZ Alkmaar and made his breakthrough in the 2017/18 season. However last season he announced himself on the big stage and was one of the prime reasons why AZ were in the title hunt till the last day before the league was called off.
Boadu has the traits of a complete forward. His blistering pace allows him to get the better of most defenders, while his intelligence to make off the ball runs holds him in good stead. He is also creative and can easily find teammates in goalscoring positions. While boasting 20 goals and 13 assists this season in all competitions, it must be said that Boadu is also very competent in aerial duels, mainly due to his physicality and it makes him more dynamic as a forward.
2. Calvin Stengs (Right Winger/Attacking Midfielder- AZ Alkmaar)
Looking at his statistics as a winger a lot of people might question his pick in this list, mainly due to his lack of goals. But, Stengs isn’t the traditional modern-day winger who likes to cut in and take a shot. He is more of a byline hugging winger who tracks back and helps out his defenders, while also creating chances and unlocking defences. His maturity at this age makes him one of the most wanted players in the Eredivisie.
Among the U-21 talents, Stengs led the Eredivisie charts for most key passes and most assists. He played a crucial role in AZ’s title challenge this campaign. With team captain Teun Koopminers, who used to handle the creative side of things in midfield shifted to defence, the onus has fallen on Stengs to take up the responsibility and he has managed it with aplomb. This has allowed the likes of Myron Boadu and Ousamme Idrissi to venture forward.
His 10 goals and 12 assists this season does not tell the whole story, but it certainly proves why many top European teams are interested in the 21-year old creative maestro.
1. Sergino Dest (Right Back- Ajax Amsterdam)
The Ajax Amsterdam graduate, who broke onto the scene this season, has already made his name and clubs like Bayern Munich and FC Barcelona are interested in securing the signature of the United States international. Dest is a modern-day full-back who boasts great speed and awareness and is very sound at both ends of the pitch.
Although, he needs to work on his defensive attributes, he is likely to hone his skills with more experience under his belt. At the age of 19, he has shown a lot of maturity and confidence in his abilities, something which surprised most fans along with his head coach Erik ten Hag.
He acted as a playmaker, making incessant overlapping runs from the right channel and has registered six assists along with two goals in his first season in the Dutch top tier. His exceptional performances for the reigning champions have resulted in him winning the prestigious Ajax’s Talent of the Year 2020.