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Alex Blinston provides an in-depth report of Ajax’s promising young midifielder, Riechedly Bazoer.
Ajax Amsterdam and PSV Eindhoven; a rivalry that has intensified in the past decades as both have had to share the sweet taste of success – 27 of the last 31 Eredivisie titles between them (PSV with 15 and Ajax with 12). A select few have pulled on the red and white of both Ajax and PSV: Riechedly Bazoer is one of them.
After swapping the Phillips Stadion for the Amsterdam ArenA as a fresh faced 16-year-old, Bazoer has flourished into one of the Oranje’s brightest prospects and PSV’s loss has proved to be Ajax’s gain.
Born in Utrecht, Riechedly Bazoer played his youth football for the now fourth tier USV Elinkwijk. However, at 10-years-old Bazoer made the trip south to Eindhoven to join PSV, the journey Ibrahim Afellay had made a decade before. At De Herdgang Bazoer sky-rocketed through the youth ranks, showcasing ability well beyond his tender age – he was moved to the U17 side prior to his 15th birthday. With the U17 national side Bazoer started every game of the European Championships as Netherlands beat Germany in the final, making it two U17 Euros on the spin.
Under the guidance of the youth coach Phillip Cocu – now the man at the helm in Eindhoven – the Utrecht-born Bazoer was making quite a name for himself, however, he was doing so as a central defender. Bazoer wanted, like Cocu did so well in his career, to command the game from midfield; it was at this point that the Richedly Bazoer-PSV relationship began to deteriorate.
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“At PSV I played centre-back and I wanted to make rushes forward, but my youth coach Phillip Cocu saw me purely as a central defender.” Arguments with coaches, resentment towards Cocu for favouring Menno Koch in the midfield role and dubiety towards future prospects at the Phillips Stadion resulted in Bazoer refusing to sign a new contract.
In came Manchester City, a tantalizing exit door for any player, however, mum always knows best, “I was almost convinced by Manchester City. Then Ajax came forward. My mother did not stand for a transfer to Manchester City. She thought it was better that I stay for a while longer in the Netherlands, ” Bazoer told Voetbal International. Everyone in Amsterdam owes Mrs Bazoer a big thank you.
After an 18 month spell with Jong Ajax in the second tier, Bazoer left Frank De Boer little choice but to give him his big break as the calendar flipped over into the final month of 2014. Since the turn of the year Riechedly Bazoer has established himself as an integral member of the Ajax side, earning a first Oranje call-up in the process, only adding salt to the wound in Eindhoven.
In Frank De Boer’s fluid 4-3-3 system, dynamism and energy in midfield is at the forefront, something Bazoer provides in abundance. Bazoer operates alongside Davy Klaassen and Nemanja Gudelj – both of whom are enjoying fruitful campaigns – forming an interchangeable midfield trio. The 19-year-old will often slot in as a No.6 allowing Klaassen to provide an attacking impetus or play as a No.8 acting as the box-to-box midfielder.
Whilst he is tasked with providing ‘Action Man’ performances, Bazoer has retained his defensive instincts picked up from his time at centre-back. His role model is said to be Patrick Vieira and apart from similarities in stature with Bazoer standing at 6ft, his 28 tackles this season – the 7th highest of all teenagers in the Eredivisie this term – would suggest that the 19-year-old is beginning to translate his admiration of Vieira into his own game. Former coach Fons Groendijk said, “I see him as the Patrick Vieira of Ajax,” compliments don’t come much greater.
The combative Bazoer is equally adept at breaking up play as he is with the ball at his feet. Only five Ajax players have completed more passes than Bazoer (615) in the Eredivisie this season and he has registered three assists to go alongside his two goals. While the Utrecht-born midfielder is still some way off matching the exploits of Paul Pogba, he, like the Frenchman, is the do-it-all midfield, a real jewel in the modern game.
One thorn in the side of Riechedly Bazoer is his lack of output in front of goal. Since breaking in to Frank De Boer’s side he has averaged a goal every 906 minutes of action; however, it is an element of his game that is steadily improving with goals in the 3-1 win at Vitesse and a volleyed winner against De Graafschap to his name this term.
You would be excused for mistaking Riechedly Bazoer as being well beyond his years and for a player of just 19 years of age, he is making quite a name for himself. Ajax head into the winter break three points above, yes you guessed it, PSV Eindhoven and with arch nemesis Feyenoord still in the hunt it promises to be one of the more intriguing Eredivisie races; however, Bazoer and Ajax are the mid-season pace setters.
A first senior cap, albeit a four minute cameo, came in November against Wales but this won’t be a flash in the pan. With Danny Blind seemingly heading in the direction of youthful vigour, Riechedly Bazoer should see the opportunities come and in his rich vein of form this season he is making himself a tough man to ignore.
His contract runs with De Godenzonen until 2020 and – as has been historically proven – he is in the perfect place to fulfil his unbounded potential.
Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cruyff, even his manager Frank De Boer, the list really does go on; a fruitful spell in Amsterdam normally marries together with a successful Oranje career. While he may not be the conventional home-grown talent, Riechedly Bazoer has quickly established himself as the man to lead both club and country forward.
Written by Alex Blinston