Ajax have captured the imagination of football fans all around the world. The Amsterdam side have a narrow lead at the top of the Eredivisie. Dominance of their domestic league is an expectation, but an outstanding Champions League showing is not. They find themselves in with a real chance of progressing to the final. Donny van de Beek played a key role as his side defeated Tottenham Hotspur 1-0.
Donny van de Beek is a Forgotten Star
Van de Beek is not the first name that comes to mind when you think of all the promising talents Ajax have in their possession. The likes of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have been attracting the attention of Europe’s most elite sides. De Ligt is already being labelled as one of the best centre-backs in world football at just 19 years of age, while de Jong has secured himself a move to fellow Champions League semi-finalists Barcelona. These individuals are getting all the plaudits, but Ajax have more just two key players at their disposal.
Donny Van de Beek
Donny van de Beek is yet another graduate of Ajax’s prestigious academy setup. He joined the club in 2008 and went on to make his debut in 2015. Since then, van de Beek has further progressed to become one of Ajax’s most prized possessions. The midfielder has already made 128 career appearances at just 22 years of age.
Statistics may not suggest that van de Beek has set the world on fire. An accumulation of eight goals and nine assists in 32 matches is reasonable, but not outrageous.
No one would have predicted Ajax would make it anywhere near to the Champions League semi-final. It’s easy to see why when we consider the opponents they have come up against. Ajax went unbeaten during the group stage, despite facing Bayern Munich. Things didn’t get any easier following their second-place finish. A tie against Real Madrid, the only side to win three consecutive Champions League trophies, awaited them. Not only did they eliminate Los Blancos, they then defeated Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the quarter-finals.
Ajax have the perfect opportunity of progressing even further as they now take a one-goal advantage back to the Johan Cruyff Arena. A difficult encounter in Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano against either Barcelona or Liverpool would await them, but you wouldn’t put it past the Dutch side to go all the way.
Van de Beek’s Contribution
This ridiculous Champions League display is, of course, a team effort. Everyone has to play their individual role, but van de Beek’s has been particularly crucial. Although he was unable to find the net during the 4-1 thrashing of Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, his contribution in the much tighter affair against Juventus is worth mentioning.
The Dutchman found his side’s first goal in the second leg of the quarter-final before de Ligt scored the winner in the second half. This, and his latest goal against Tottenham to secure a vital away victory, have been extremely important. Van de Beek has earned the reputation of being a real big game player.
He will surely be essential if his side are to progress to the final, arguably the biggest occasion in club football.
It’s hard to see understand why van de Beek hasn’t grabbed as much attention as some of his compatriots, considering the major involvement he’s had in Ajax’s success. De Jong, for example, has much less impressive stats but has still built himself a much greater reputation.
The fact that de Jong has secured himself a move to Barcelona may be the reason why he’s had so much of the limelight. Meanwhile, de Ligt hasn’t guaranteed a move but appears to be on the radar of almost every top European side. This, and the fact that he is even younger than the majority of his teammates, may go some way in explaining the greater hype surrounding him.
The fact that players as gifted as van de Beek go largely unnoticed is a huge credit to Ajax. They have developed such an impressive youth system that only the best of the best get noticed. Van de Beek has, by no means, been ignored. He is simply not recognised as such an amazing prospect in comparison to his colleagues.
That highlights the real extent of what Ajax Amsterdam have managed to achieve.