Midfielder | Ajax | Netherlands
Conversations continue as to where Van de Beek is best deployed across Ajax’s midfield three. Some insist he is at his most useful offensively and certainly year-on-year an increase of goals and assists have been added to his arsenal of attributes. His mobility, intelligent movement, and a balance that comes from being equally proficient with either foot means the boy from Nijkerkerveen has an awful lot to offer when striding into the final third.
Others however claim his assuredness in possession and ability to break up play makes him perfect as a defensive screen, a regista if you will and here is where I’m personally inclined to agree. Even in his teens the Dutch international habitually racked up passing stats that were in the very high eighties and impressively these figures are barely padded by safe five-yarders. If a raking cross-field ball is on he has the vision to see it early and the skill to execute.
It’s tempting to suggest that this is a rare talent but of course Ajax seem to knock out these midfield gems on an annual basis. Is he a special one over and above recent home-grown stars such as Davy Klaasen and Riechedly Bazoer? The jury is still out but it definitely looks plausible.
2018 has been…
…a steady progression that is entirely in keeping with the type of footballer he is. It’s all been neat and unfussy with Van de Beek figuratively moving forward in increments by putting in a series of consummate performances. A couple of Champions League goals have raised his profile further and that never hurts.
Turning to the negative, the narrow Eredivise loss to PSV back in May would have especially hurt the 21-year-old because in his four years as a professional he has finished runner-up with Ajax in every season while additionally collecting a loser’s medal in the Europa League final in 2017. He was also a beaten finalist for his country’s U17 European Championship pursuit three years earlier and already the amount of near-misses is starting to look a little cruel.
The blonde midfielder won the Ajax Talent of the Future award in 2015 and that is pertinent for the two prodigies who followed – Matthijs De Ligt and Justin Kluivert.
De Ligt is currently the subject of intense transfer speculation with the continent’s elite all willing to break the bank for his immense promise while Kluivert moved to Roma in the summer.
Does that suggest then that Van de Beek has missed the proverbial boat? Not necessarily. Granted there is a risk that playing in an inferior league might lead to all the good aspects to his game being undermined while his flaws become highlighted (and there is a lack of pace while his height is hardly domineering). Yet the player himself turned down a switch to Rome last year, saying that remaining in the Eredivisie was better for his development and though interest from Barcelona and Bayern Munich now seem so long ago who’s to say it won’t be resurrected should he continue to shine?
For the record by the way former Ajax boss Frank De Boer insists that Van de Beek is a natural number 6. So there’s that.