How many times have you heard Donny van de Beek’s name over the past 24 hours? Probably, a ton. And that’s more than deserved for him, given how good he’s been for Ajax during the current 2018-19 season.
The talented playmaker might not shine as much as Dusan Tadic, Hakim Ziyech or David Neres. He doesn’t grab headlines in the rumour mill like Frenkie de Jong or Matthijs de Ligt, two of Ajax’s biggest transfer chips. But one thing is certain. The 22-year-old central midfielder has been one of the most important players for the Amsterdam-based side.
Over the past 24 hours, van de Beek has been linked with PSG and Real Madrid. He was linked with an AC Milan – who were close to sign him two years ago – last week. And let’s be honest – he would be linked with a move to Barcelona hadn’t the Catalan giants sign de Jong earlier this year. But what are the traits that make him such a valuable commodity?
A truly complete, modern midfielder
First, we must talk about van de Beek’s experience in the highest level of competition. Despite being only 22, van de Beek already knows what it’s like to perform in a top environment. He’s been integral to the team’s successes in both the Eredivisie and the Champions League this term.
He also played in the UEFA Europa League run two years ago that saw Ajax reach the final against Manchester United. In that game, van de Beek came off the bench alongside de Jong and Neres, two of the team’s best players this season. Coincidence? Not so much.
Experience isn’t everything in football, though. Besides age, you need quality to succeed. And there’s no question van de Beek has become one of the most promising box-to-box midfielders in Europe. He can press, create, score, assist… and he looks mature beyond his years when moving around the pitch. It’s uncommon to see a 22-year-old player running the pitch the way he does.
We can’t overlook his scoring contributions either, as van de Beek has 16 goals and 11 assists across 53 appearances in all competitions. He already had 13 goals last season, netting 11 in the Eredivisie and two in the Champions League qualifiers. But the impressive thing about this season has been the kind of opponents he’s faced, and the moments where he has scored his past few goals.
The best example are his past two goals in the Champions League. He netted in Ajax’s last three away matches – at Real Madrid, at Juventus and at Tottenham. The goal scored against The Old Lady was the one that equalised the tie at Turin. Hadn’t it been for his goal, Ajax could’ve probably gotten eliminated on Italian soil. And no one would’ve said anything had that been the outcome.
Is he staying or leaving Ajax this summer?
Ajax would probably like to keep van de Beek for at least one more year. But they can’t let the opportunity to cash on him disappear. Barring any unexpected circumstances, he should become even better next year. But injuries happen, and Ajax will be – almost assuredly – a weaker side next season.
With several offers expected to be on van de Beek’s table, the time for him to leave is now. He’s more than ready to play in a more competitive environment, and his performances this season have been the perfect example of that.
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