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Alex Lynch brings you the first edition of this series and talks about the best U-19 players to watch out for in the Eredivisie this season.
The Eredivisie has been one of the best producers of young talent for a long time. Almost all of the best Dutch players and some of the best from other countries made names for themselves in the Netherlands. A host of names come to mind, but in recent times Christian Eriksen, Arkadiusz Milik, Georginio Wijnaldum, Jan Vertonghen, Stefan De Vrij and many others have gone on to do big things after leaving the Netherlands. And once again, the Eredivisie is littered with some of the best young players in the world, with a host of U-19 stars headlining the group.
Kasper Dolberg // Ajax // 18 // Striker
One of the many young talents at Ajax, the 18 year old Dane is one of Denmark’s brightest talents. After making his debut in the Danish top flight at 17, Dolberg signed for Ajax shortly after. A fixture in Denmark’s youth teams, the 6ft 1inch striker has already shown what he can do with 3 goals in 4 Ajax U-19 games. Dolberg is a striker who has a lot of pace and very solid dribbling ability. He also has a very good long range shot, as he showed against PAOK in the Champions League qualifying and in various youth team games. After Milik left Ajax in a big money move to Napoli, Dolberg should be one of the beneficiaries. After already starting in the Champions League, it looks like the Dane will get plenty of chances to prove himself under Peter Bosz this season. If he can keep up his current form, Dolberg could score plenty of goals for Ajax.
Dennis van der Heijden // ADO Den Haag // 19 // Striker
A member of the Netherlands U-19 euro squad this past summer, the ADO striker has already shown his prowess with the U-19’s scoring 10 goals in 12 games. And he also got a taste of the Eredivisie last season, scoring 2 goals in 9 games, as van der Heijden showed a lot of ability during that time. A striker with impressive height at 6’2, the Dutchman showed that he is a very good finisher in the box with 2 goals against Excelsior. He also showed terrific movement and awareness for both goals as he was asked to chase the ball for both of them. His size makes him a threat in the box as well, as he’s able to make contact with a lot of incoming crosses. Van der Heijden will have to earn his playing time, but after showing what he can do last season, he should get a lot of first team opportunities with ADO after already coming on as a sub in the season opener. Expect him to score a good amount of goals since he’s going to be a regular for ADO it appears.
Donny van de Beek // Ajax // 19 // Midfielder
van de Beek has been one of the biggest Ajax prospects for quite some time, and it looks like the Netherlands u-19 attacking midfielder will get more of a chance this season. Van de Beek got his feet wet in the Eredivisie last season with 8 appearances, and he scored a goal in the Europa League as well. A former U-17 Euro winner, van de Beek looks like the real deal with some impressive characteristics. A very good passer in the midfield, van de Beek passes a lot and controls the tempo of a lot of youth league contests. He’s a well rounded player, who also likes to tackle and is pretty solid in that area while also notching 2 goals in the 2nd tier for Jong Ajax as well. Playing time is likely to increase for him this season, as he came on as a sub against Sparta Rotterdam and started in the Champions League as well. If he can take advantage of what looks like sporadic playing time, he should notch multiple assists and become a great complement to Davy Klaassen.
Rick van Drongelen // Sparta Rotterdam // 17 // Defender
The youngest player on this list, van Drongelen is just 17 years old but already one to watch. A first team player for Sparta by the end of last season, he was a key cog in the side that gained promotion to the Eredivisie. A 6’1 centre half, he’s already been capped for the U-19’s despite being only 17. The Dutchman is a composed defender who only picked up 2 yellow cards in 13 games in the second tier last season. He’s also a strong player and uses his size to his advantage in defense and attack as he scored a goal due to his height as well. After starting the first game of the season against Ajax, he looks like a lock to start almost every game this season for Sparta. If van Drongelen can hold his own in the top flight the same way he did in the second tier, he could be on the move as well.
Mateo Casierra // Ajax // 19 // Striker
The Colombian striker is one of new manager Peter Bosz’s signings this summer after an impressive season with Deportivo Cali in Colombia. He scored 17 goals in parts of the last 2 seasons and was a standout in the Colombian top flight. Now he has a chance to show Ajax and the rest of the Eredivisie his characteristics, which include being a very good header of the ball using all of his 6’1 frame to his advantage. Casierra is also a good close range finisher, as most of his goals for Deportivo Cali came inside of the box. He showed his finishing ability when he scored his first goal against Sparta, which was a cool finish inside the box after running the ball down. Casierra has a good amount of pace as well, which will help him get goals in the Eredivisie this season. Just like the aforementioned Dolberg, the 19 year old will get a good amount of playing time due to Milk’s departure. If Cassierra can build on the start he’s gotten off to so far, he will score a good amount of goals this season for Ajax.
Riechedly Bazoer // Ajax // 19 // Midfielder
Probably the most famous player on this list, Bazoer is one of the most wanted and talented players in the world. The 19 year old is already a senior Dutch international and started a handful of games for Danny Blind as well. Bazoer brings a lot to the table from the central midfield including a terrific long shot, which allowed him to score 5 goals last season. But he’s also a very impressive passer, which led to 4 assists and a passing percentage of 85% (according to whoscored.com) as well. Combine those skills with his terrific discipline and the fact that he played almost 30 games last season for Ajax and you have one of the world’s best young stars. Bazoer will surely be a first team player for Bosz, and if his meteoric development continues he could reach double digits in either goals or assists.
Steven Bergwijn // PSV // 18 // PSV
Another member of the Netherlands U-19 squad this summer, the PSV winger has emerged into one of the top prospects for the Eindhoven giants. 9 goals in 20 youth league games from the wing position has earned him praise from many in the Dutch game with some people having called him the next Arjen Robben because of his skills. Those skills include lightning pace (hence the Robben link) and impressive dribbling ability, which has seen him dribble by multiple players in the youth league many times. He also has a rocket shot to go along with that, as one of his youth league goals was a lightning shot that came from outside of the box. If he can put it all together, Bergwijn can be another superstar from PSV like Robben and Memphis were with his skills. But he might not get the chance right away, after only playing 80 minutes last season he isn’t in the first team at the moment. But with his talent, he should be able to get some games and showcase his skills on the big stage once and for all.
Jari Schuurman // Willem II (On loan from Feyenoord) // 19 // Midfielder
Schuurman has already been sent on loan by Feyenoord this season to prove himself after only playing once last season. The Dutch U-19 international attacking midfielder has proved himself with the U-21’s with 15 goals in 26 games at that level, and he’s become one of the top prospects in Feyenoord’s academy. His success is due to his traits, which include being a very good finisher and having good awareness as well. Schuurman also has very good agility, and is very tough to get off of the ball for defenders and midfielders at the youth level. If he can take advantage of his loan spell with Willem he could provide them with a good amount of goals. And maybe he could take Dirk Kuyt’s place if and when he decides to retire.
Abdelhak Nouri // Ajax // 19 // Ajax
Another Ajax player rounds out the list and he is already being touted as the new Sneijder, and some bold scouts have even floated names like Cruyff and Bergkamp when talking about Nouri. With 5 goals in 6 Netherlands U-19 games and 5 goals and 4 assists with the Ajax U-19’s and then 6 assists with the U-21’s and 4 goals in 7 UEFA youth league games show that Nouri has proven himself at every level so far in his career. This isn’t a surprise considering the qualities he possesses, which include being a tremendous dribbler as shown by this dummy. He’s also a quick player who is able to control the ball with ease, which helps him showcase his terrific passing ability and provide the assists he does. Combine all of this with a natural goal scoring touch that Nouri possess shows that he has everything that people look for in a young prospect. The one thing that Nouri doesn’t have is the chance to be a first team player right away at Ajax. But with his talent he will get a chance to play with all of the extra fixtures that Ajax have this season.
After evaluating all of this talent, it’s safe to say that the Eredivisie is still producing a lot of young stars that have large amounts of potential. Besides the thrilling title race that Ajax, PSV and even Feyenoord provide, seeing how these young players do is going to be great to watch this season for fans.
Read all our Talent Radar 2016-17 Young Players to Watch across all leagues, here.