Eredivisie Revelations 2: Davy Klaassen – The shining star of the Ajax midfield
Over the next few days, BeNeFoot will countdown the top 10 revelations to come through in the Eredivisie this season.
We look at the brightest players who have emerged and impressed fans and pundits alike with an excellent 2013-14 season. Numbers 10 through 3 have already been unveiled and today we continue the countdown with number three.
Davy Klaassen – By Peter McVitie
The winner of the 2013-14 Johan Cruijff Award for Talent of the Year, Davy Klaassen has proven beyond doubt in his first season in the Ajax starting XI that he is the latest graduate of the club’s youth system capable of reaching great heights.
The youngster first emerged in 2011-12, an excellent first taste of first-team football as he featured against Real Madrid, Lyon and Manchester United in Europe and even scored a few minutes after emerging in his Eredivsie debut. He also captained Ajax’s youth side to the final of the first edition of the NextGen Series.
However, just as he was set to announce himself to the world and become a regular for the Godenzonen the following season, disaster struck. A groin injury in the third week of the 2012-13 campaign came as a massive blow, wiping out an entire year of his development at a crucial stage.
Furthermore, such a massive upset was a mental disaster for a young player on the cusp of breaking into the team for which he had played since the age of 11.
“For a long time I thought it was all over,” he told NOS. But he soon had extra motivation to recover and emerge from his long recovery period even stronger as he was sent to Barcelona to see a specialist about his injury, recommended personally by Ajax and general football icon Johan Cruijff. Incredibly, Cruijff visited him twice in the hospital in Catalonia, something which had a huge lasting effect on the midfielder.
“It was a huge boost that Mr. Cruijff was going to do his best for me,” he told Voetbal International. “The first two times he came in person to the hospital to see if everything was going well.
“I had never met him before. Then suddenly the biggest Dutch footballer of all time is there in front of your nose, coming to the hospital specifically to see you. That impressed me.”
Klaassen bounced back this season and played a crucial role in his side claiming another Eredivisie, stretching their streak to four consecutive league titles for the first time in their history.
The 21-year-old had played only one full game before being included in the starting XI for the Amsterdam side’s 1-0 win over Celtic in November. It was a significant encounter as, after a series of horrendous performances following the sale of star player Christian Eriksen, coach Frank de Boer made some important tactical changes.
With left-back Daley Blind being moved into midfield and midfielder Lasse Schone moving onto the wing while attacking midfielder Siem de Jong moved into the centre forward role, it freed up some space in the centre of the team for Klaassen, as he became the heir to Eriksen’s throne.
From then on, Klaassen and Ajax never looked back.
Acting as the link between the attacks and the rest of the team, with his quick brain, exquisite close control, great speed and intelligence, the dynamic midfielder played a crucial role from that Champions League match as Ajax sailed to another league title.
With his ten goals and three assists, he is his side’s joint top scorer in the league, level with striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, an excellent return for a midfielder in his premier season.
His hat-trick in the Eredivisie match against NAC in November remains his standout performance. Three excellent goals which showed how broad his skillset is. A neat run from deep to capitalise on the gap left in NAC’s backline and tidy finish, then a spectacular volley followed by a delicate first touch to bring down a long pass and set him up perfectly to knock beyond Jelle ten Rouwelaar. It was an excellent display overall which drew further comparisons to club legend and current assistant coach Dennis Bergkamp.
The youngster has a long way to go before he can be held in such regard as the former Netherlands star, but in a league renowned for bringing through some exceptional young talents, Klaassen is certainly one of the brightest.
A remarkable season and a Talent of the Year award is just the beginning for the Hilversum-born midfielder who has an exciting future ahead of him.