AFC Ajax is home to one of Europe’s most well-renowned youth academies. They have produced some of the game’s greatest, including the likes of Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp and Marco van Basten. The tradition continues today, with plenty of young talent currently learning their trade with the Amsterdam outfit.
Ajax is a great club for youth to make their mark. Youngsters are often given regular first-team chances, something not seen as much at other football clubs. With these players impressing at a high level, it is only a matter of time before Europe’s biggest clubs come looking. Ajax have made a huge profit in the last few decades through selling these youngsters, as they move onto the top level.
A club that is very much used to signing Ajax prospects are Barcelona. The Spanish side have had a strong link with Ajax for a number of years. This season, duo Frenkie de Jong (21) and Matthijs de Ligt (19) have been the main talking points involving Europe’s powerhouses. Some of Europe’s biggest clubs have drawn their attention to the two, as they look to bolster their squads.
However, it has been Barcelona who have dominated this transfer saga. In January, it was announced that de Jong would join Barca at the end of the season for £65 million. After speculation had calmed down involving his teammate de Ligt, this week reports have emerged that Barca are leading the race for the central defender. Following this news, both clubs have been exploring the possibility of a collaboration involving future transfers between the two.
Potential Collaboration Between Barcelona and Ajax
History Between the Two Clubs
The relationship between Barcelona and Ajax is special. The two clubs have had a link since the early 1970s, when two of the game’s greats, Renus Michels and Johan Cruyff, transferred from Amsterdam to the Catalan side. This has seen more Ajax academy graduates follow in their footsteps over the years. The likes of Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmans and the de Boer brothers have enjoyed great periods at both clubs during their respective careers.
In 2007, Ajax technical director Martin van Geel announced that the two sides would work closely together. Both share similar philosophies and views towards football, with the focus of the partnership to exchange information amongst staff of the two clubs. The bond between the two remains and could be set to strengthen even more.
What Would This Mean for Both Sides?
The potential collaboration is as follows: Barcelona would have the first pick on Ajax’s upcoming youngsters to sign. In return, Ajax would have the first choice on signing exciting Barca youngsters on loan that are not ready to challenge for a place in the first-team. It’s a strange idea, and quite hard to make out just how beneficial this would be for the two sides.
At first look, Barcelona look like the real winners of this collaboration. They would have the first pick on Ajax youngsters being looked at by other European super clubs. This would be a big advantage for the Catalans and could see them being able to pay a little less than what their rivals would be offering.
As for Ajax, however, if the deal was to go through, they would be the ones in control. If signing Barca players on loan doesn’t turn out to be successful, why would they continue to exclusively sell their in-demand talent to them? You need to identify if Barcelona are actually doing Ajax any favours. First of all, whilst they would be paying a huge amount of money for these in-demand prospects, a number of other clubs would be happy to match the fee Barcelona are tabling. This means that in terms of selling, Ajax aren’t in need of any help.
Secondly, they will have first pick on Barca youngsters that aren’t ready for the first-team at the Camp Nou. These players could bring a lot of flavour to a squad that is annually challenging for the title. Bear in mind, though, that Ajax have their own youth products to play. Limiting their own youngsters’ first-team chances for those of another club’s could damage the way fans look at the Ajax youth academy. Not as many youngsters would have the same amount of chances to show what they can do at senior level, which would see less big money sales. Ultimately, if Barcelona’s ‘favour’ of loaning players to Ajax goes on to become unsuccessful, why would the Dutch side choose to exclusively sell their wonder kids to them in the future?
Effects on the Transfer Market
Having broken this deal down, it looks like the benefits for Barcelona outweigh those for Ajax. A huge factor to this would be that Ajax may adopt the reputation as a Barcelona’s ‘feeder club’. A phrase like this would have bad effects for a club of Ajax’s history and stature and would stamp clubs like Barcelona’s further dominance.
If the deal was to go through, however, it could result in a change to the modern market. It is a common thing for wealthy teams to have feeder clubs, but nothing on a scale like this. We could see more of Europe’s big clubs making similar actions, in resorting to clubs with a strong youth system to partner with.
Overall, this deal is something of which we have never seen before, and could have a long-lasting effect on the sport. No deal has been confirmed yet and is still in the realm of speculation.