Try to call your favorite clubs then see their background. Undoubtedly, there will always be Ajax players in the squad of big European clubs. Today, there are Christian Eriksen at Tottenham and Frankie de Jong who is going to Barcelona.
In the past, talents had not stopped flowing since the era of Johan Cruyff, Patrick Kluivert, Edwin Van der Sar, Wesley Sneijder, and Jan Vertonghen. Meanwhile, in the current Ajax squad, there is Matthijs De Ligt, a 19-year-old center back who carried the armband.
Ajax has been known for a long time as the creator of top-notch players and they will continue to do so in the future. What did they do to maintain their academy level?
The first aspect that must be considered is financial. Even though they are the biggest club in the Netherlands with an operational budget many times more than the small clubs there, Ajax is nobody in Europe. They will always lose if they compete with the power of money with Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, or giant English clubs.
So, Ajax built its own financial mindset. They will use the flow of funds from the players they sell to support the academy. They operate an academy that is believed to be the best in the world.
If Barcelona has La Masia, then Ajax has De Toekomst, which means “Future”. This academy complex is right next to the main team’s training ground. Young players can observe De Ligt and De Jong every day at a very close distance.
There are 12 fields spread out, six kilometers from the center of Amsterdam. This training complex also has school facilities for u-14 and u-19 players. They underwent seven training sessions in a week and a competitive match every weekend.
They have four talent guides who actively work throughout the Netherlands, as well as four more guides throughout the world. Through these talent guides, they may bring ‘raw diamonds’ from everywhere around the world like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez, or Sanchez Davinson.
All young players are from level U-8 until the level of Jong Ajax (U21 and substitute players). They are trained using a curriculum that has been applied since Johan Cruyff’s era. Management did not design a young age team to win the championship but to “develop as many players as possible.
If we are asked to tell what Ajax’s secret which can make the club so consistent in producing topnotch footballers, we could see how Ajax brushed them up from a young age. “If you want to create a professional footballer, you have to create an athlete.”
For that aim, all children in the Ajax academy were also asked to try other sports. Players under the age of 12 spend 45% of their time on training which is not related to football. Judo, gymnastics, running, and various other sports are included in the coaching curriculum.
Up to the level of 15 years and 18 years, the players train their coordination and balance by playing other sports. The trio of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, and Daley Blind also played basketball games which were quite competitive.
So, naturally, statistics show 80 percent of De Toekomst graduates will become professional footballers. They are now also listed as the club that has exported the most players in 31 European leagues with 77 players.
With all these system and curriculum, it is no wonder if Ajax will not stop tempting the giant clubs. So, let’s looking forward to the next De Jong or De Ligt…