18 Striker Ajax Netherlands
2014 has been...
Richairo Živkovic’s name preceded him as he worked his way through the youth teams of FC Groningen. In the same way many people around to witness the youth careers of both Arjen Robben and Wayne Rooney failed miserably to hide their excitement about both players eventually showing off for the first team of their clubs, Živkovic drew the same level of giddiness before he was eventually throw into the first team.
He has been watched all the through his youth career by some of the biggest clubs on the planet. He actually turned down a switch to Ajax 12 months before he agreed to switch to the Amsterdam club so he could enjoy a full Eredivisie campaign with Groningen. Given his lack of first team chances so far this season for Frank De Boer’s side, we imagine he might be thinking about his decision to move with a small amount of regret in his mind.
Richairo played 29 times last season in the Eredivisie for Groningen and helped himself to 10 goals. He’s yet to play a single league minute this season for his club and has been forced to watch Arkadiusz Milik, a fellow member of The 100, do his job instead.
Živkovic is the youngest player in the last decade to score reach double figures in a single Eredivisie season. His talent is supremely obvious to anyone that has the pleasure of watching him in action. As is usually the case for child prodigies, he was played consistently above his age group for the youth teams of FC Groningen and he still looked like the best footballer on the pitch every time.
At the tender age of 16 years and 88 days, he made his debut for the Groningen senior team and broke Arjen Robben’s club record in doing so – not a bad player to start emulating we suppose. From there he remained a part of the first team squad with the Green-White Army and used the 2012/13 to get the hang of the Eredivisie with four sub appearances.
However, the fashion in which Živkovic started last season, with a goal in his first league appearance of the season, suggested that he was ready to make a breakthrough on the game.
Initially used as cover for the main forwards in the squad, Erwin van de Looi was smart with how he managed the expectation placed on Richairo’s shoulders. Nothing was needlessly placed on the young striker although he eventually had no choice but to start him in his team. He finished the season as their top scorer in the league.
His performances were rightfully enough to convince Ajax that they should make another move for his services and they were able to tie up the deal for Richairo in March long before the end of the season.
Sadly life in the capital has not been as perfect as the now 18 year-old may have hoped. However, we have no doubt that chances in the first team will come. He has featured in a routine cup win (and scored) but that’s been it for first team chances.
There is an argument to say Živkovic could easily be doing the job that Arkadiusz Milik has been managing in the last few weeks for Ajax, and doing it better. He has just been unlucky that De Boer gave Milik the opportunity first; but that would be unfair to the Polish striker who has worked very hard to turn his year around.
Richairo just needs to remain patient and continue to score an obscene amount of goals for Ajax II.
Živkovic is a really good striker. Strong on the ball, he has enough ability to pick a pass and enough speed to buy himself time to pick out his teammates. His touch could be better but given the speeds he is normally running at, we’re happy to assume that a heavy touch or two is an occupational hazard.
He is a good finisher and better when chasing a ball in behind the defence rather than trying to play with his back to goal. However, his temperament is what really sets him apart. Richairo isn’t fazed easily and rarely complains about any special treatment he might enjoy from opposition defences. Having been played up age levels from a young age, he has come to expect stalling tactics from other teams and looks like the type of player that will ultimately thrive on knowing he is going to be monitored closely.
For now, he needs to convince Frank De Boer that he should be playing Eredivisie football. A recent fine for some tardiness while away with the Dutch under-19 side won’t have helped his cause, although we’re pretty sure it was a one-off misdemeanour. Ajax have got one of the Netherlands’ best young players in their reserves and it’s only a matter of time before they unleash him on the Eredivisie once again.
"Intelligent, composed, fast, technically established. Zivkovic is on his way to great things after he fired FC Groningen to Europa League football last season, scoring 10 league goals. Gets time to adapt to the Ajax way of playing in an aim to make him a more complete footballer." - Michiel Jongsma
"Richairo Zivkovic is FC Groningen's youngest goalscorer in Eredivisie ever (16 years, 10 months and 29 days)." - OptaJoe
C+ There is something in there that hasn’t convinced De Boer as yet about Richairo. We’re sure he is ready.
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