Davinson Sanchez (€40 million), Arkadiusz Milik (€32m), Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (€27m), Davy Klaassen (€27m) and Wesley Sneijder (€27m) occupy the top-five Ajax sales of all time, and all could be dislodged in one summer.
Once Frenkie de Jong’s €75m switch to Barcelona is transacted on July 1 the 22-year-old will move into the No1 slot, yet he may even be surpassed, or at the very least joined in the top positions if rumours turn to truth.
The captain, Matthijs de Ligt, will definitely depart for a similar fee and beyond him there is David Neres, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech capturing the gaze of Europe’s vultures.
But where will they go and what type of talents are being mined from the Dutch giants?
Matthijs de Ligt
Age – 19
Position – Centre-back
Clubs linked to – PSG, Barcelona, Man United, Man City and Juventus
Price tag – €75 million
It makes sense De Ligt’s reputation has witnessed a growth spurt given how physically developed he already is.
Age really is just a number where the centre-back is concerned and his athletic gifts have given him a platform to evolve mentally as well, now he’s surpassed 100+ appearances for Ajax.
Experience shapes understanding, and although De Ligt is just 19 years old, he can’t really be compared to players in his age group because he’s been operating as a senior starter since he was 17.
Even ranking him against defenders in their mid-20s, De Ligt still comes out on top, though. A natural leader and organiser, the Netherlands defender possesses poise on the ball, a fearless disposition and of course powerful aerial prowess in both boxes.
And it’s these qualities combined with the years ahead of him which has attracted practically every top European club.
Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are the two leading the pack, the latter reportedly the choice of his agent Mino Raiola, the Catalan giants said to be the Dutchman’s personal preference.
His situation mirrors that of his friend and former colleague De Jong who was central to a tug-of-war between PSG and Barca.
De Ligt’s in the airport, it remains to be seen whether he is boarding a flight to Paris or Barcelona.
Age – 26
Position – Midfielder/right winger
Clubs linked to – Arsenal, Liverpool, Sevilla, Roma and Bayern Munich
Price tag – €35 million
The transfer market has lost its collective mind and the fact Ziyech is available for €35m makes sense for plenty of teams, although it kind of doesn’t given how that fee is not reflective of his talent.
The reason for the modest price is because of a gentleman’s release clause with Ajax after a move to Roma last summer collapsed when the Serie A giants opted instead to sign Javier Pastore.
That worked out well…
Ajax profited as the mercurial playmaker was again outstanding last season with his sauce garnishing the Eredivisie and Europe.
Curiously, the elite aren’t really strongly linked and Ziyech is content to remain at Ajax if an attractive suitor does not emerge.
He’s picky, but has every right to be, and it’s conceivable that the Morocco international will be in Amsterdam for 2019/20.
However, according to respected Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Arsenal and Liverpool are top contenders with teams in Spain, Italy and Germany – assumed to be Sevilla, Roma and Bayern Munich – also interested.
And Ziyech is an enticing proposition for all. The midfielder, whether operating deeper or wide right, possesses an excellent range of passing, footwork in tight spaces and goalscoring ability off either foot, all now wedded to an unbelievable work rate.
He wants to be the author of a game and few script better tales.
Age – 22
Position – Attacking midfielder
Clubs linked to – Everton, Liverpool and PSG
Price tag – €70-80 million
Ajax’s money bags are filled to the brim through the sales of De Ligt and De Jong.
That financial assurance places them in a position of strength, which means stripping another of their jewels will come at a premium.
Determining the true value of players is difficult to decipher in this market, and so the Dutch giants can demand an exponential fee for someone like Neres.
The 22-year-old winger is a player they don’t want to leave, but if a club is prepared to part with between €70-80 million then it’s an offer which can’t be refused, so says De Telegraaf.
Is the Brazilian worth it right now? Probably not, but he’s worth what teams are willing to pay for him.
Everton are desperate to pair him with Richarlison. The two would form a twin Samba wing force with Neres deployed on the left. He’s still raw, but his gripping displays against Real Madrid in the Champions League, plus the contribution to 25 goals in the league, suggests a luminous talent.
Not quite the cubed diamond yet, but there’s plenty of dazzle about the way he approaches the game.
He would fare better from at least another year of refinement at Ajax by adding consistency to his list of expressive traits.
Donny van de Beek
Age – 22
Position – Midfielder
Clubs linked to – Tottenham, Man United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan
Price tag – €60 million
There’s an argument to be made that Van de Beek was Ajax’s most impressive performer during their deep run in the Champions League.
Although nominally a centre-midfielder domestically, in Europe the 22-year-old was brilliant in a more advanced role behind the striker.
Against Juventus, Real Madrid and Tottenham – the latter two teams are reportedly interested in signing him – Van de Beek demonstrated his ability, tessellating between a No10 and No8 role, calibrating the midfield and attack with crisp passing.
He has that natural sense of identifying exactly where the opponent is, and a nearby team-mate while being able to stop and also develop counterpresses. His awareness of space with and without the ball, added to these other characteristics, mark him out as a pretty unique playmaker.
It’s a mystery why there isn’t quite the same frenzy for his signature as there is other Ajax players. Perhaps his more subtle talent goes a little unnoticed but he’s certainly a dynamic player.
Whether it’s this summer or next, it’s certain he’ll eventually move on given his calibre and the fact pieces around him have left.
There’s every chance Ajax may convince him to stay with the prospect of captaining the side, though.
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