The Ajax Conveyor Belt

Youth policy in football has gone on the ‘back-burner’ with the sudden riches in European football. Policies on youth and developing players from a small age has seemingly not been the intention of many clubs within the past decade however this has not been the case with Ajax, who have benefited from the lack of money Eredivisie to further grow young players in recent times writes Shane Burns.

The now world famous youth academy is arguably the most productive youth setup in world football currently. Barcelona’s successes have not halted their progress of their youth academy however, due to Ajax’s financial constraints in comparison to top European clubs, their over reliance on youth has benefited all parties involved and has proven to be a major success with the Amsterdammers.

Major comparisons to the cost of squads assembled seems to be a common trend amongst journalists lately. In October 2012, Ajax fielded a squad against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League, the total cost of starting XI’s was €162million worth of talent spent by Manchester City. Ajax had assembled their starting eleven on the faithful night in Amsterdam with a total cost of €4.2million. The final score at the Amsterdam Arena seen Ajax beat the then and now English Champions, 3-1. This further showed that the development of youth in Ajax over the past decade has produced players capable of showcasing, matching and in some cases beating players seen as better quality.

Unfortunately for Ajax fans is the short careers these academy products seem to have with Holland’s most famous club. With the lack of competitiveness, financial power and ability to attract some of the worlds best players, graduates move onwards to some of Europe’s biggest clubs for large sums of money with the latest being Daley Blind who moved to Manchester United for €15million. Yes this is no doubt pleasing for the board of Ajax but it also means it’s now time for the next round of youth products to mark their stamp on Frank De Boer’s team.

Most of The Netherlands most iconic personalities have been products of the development stage at the Ajax academy. Edgar Davids, Dennis Bergkamp, Johan Cruyff, the De Boer brothers, Marco Van Basten, and Edwin Van Der Sar are some of the most iconic figures in recent times which further enhances the reputation the academy has received over the past generation or so.

The latest crop of players are already being talked about amongst the first team staff at the club. Eighteen year old defender Shaquil Sno is the highly sought after with clubs like Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund being linked with the Jong Ajax defender.

It’s not just the development of youth in Holland the club are interested in taking as in 2011 the club signed a deal with All Star consultancy to set up fifteen youth academies throughout Greece, the island of Corfu and Cyprus. The intention is to use the setups as a hub of attraction and to obtain the best young footballing talents in south East Europe. An area that is currently unoccupied by no other large football academy.

It’s fair to say it that the fast pace of development of some of europe’s finest youth players, has left most, even those critical of Ajax, that it won’t be long before another Clarence Seedorf, Johan Cruyff or Marco Van Basten burst onto the scene and become one of football’s greatest.


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