BEST YOUNG NETHERLANDS PLAYERS

SOME OF THE NETHERLANDS MOST INTERESTING EMERGING TALENTS

The Netherlands, despite it’s relatively small size, is a traditional powerhouse of (youth) football. Here are reports on some of the most interesting emerging Dutch football. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.

You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.

LAST UPDATED: MARCH 29, 2022

Myron Boadu

AS Monaco's Myron Boadu

DATE OF BIRTH

14/01/2001

positions

Striker

CLUB

AS Monaco

NATIONAL TEAM

Seniors

HEIGHT

1.83 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Both

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Myron Boadu has been in the public eye for almost half a decade. He was scoring goals in third-tier Dutch football as a 16-year-old in 2017, then made the step up to the first-team squad later that year. An ACL rupture and fractured ankle meant last season was his first in senior football – and he didn’t disappoint. Boadu contributed to 30 goals in 36 nineties across all competitions, made his senior Netherlands debut, and announced himself as one of the best young strikers in Europe.

His move to AS Monaco this season hasn’t worked out – yet. A couple of injuries have hampered him, and the role he’s played doesn’t really suit him.

STYLE OF PLAY

Even after suffering two serious injuries before his 18th birthday, Myron Boadu remains a high-impact athlete. He’s explosive over short distances, able to create separations. He also has excellent top-end speed which few can match. He’s nimble enough in smaller spaces and possesses a mature, athletic frame.

His movement in general is excellent. He’s a constant threat against high defensive lines: he positions himself on the last man and shows impressive awareness in his positioning and posture, angling his body to optimise his runs into depth. His acceleration and speed make him difficult to contain in these situations.

Slot’s AZ Alkmaar were good at sustaining pressure and creating dangerous situations within the box – Boadu was key to that ability. He comes alive in the box and ranked as one of the best young strikers around in terms of shot quality. He moves into areas (between bodies, pulling off toward the penalty spot) that are difficult to defend. When a ball comes in, his explosive burst enables him to create separation from any marker and dart across defenders to meet the cross. His movements and positioning seem very natural and instinctive.

His link play is adequate at Eredivisie level but has some flaws. He shows decent awareness of when to drop deep to help build play, but his technique/timing can be erratic and inefficient. His passes to wider areas are not only obvious to read but are often difficult to control for the receiver.

Sven Botman

LOSC Lille & Netherlands defender Sven Botman

DATE OF BIRTH

12/01/2000

positions

Centre-back

CLUB

LOSC Lille

NATIONAL TEAM

Under-21s

HEIGHT

1.95 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Sven Botman is a product of the AFC Ajax academy, but it was in Friesland where he announced himself. After a full season of B team football in the Dutch second division with Jong Ajax, he joined sc Heerenveen on a season-long loan for the 2019/20 campaign; his career has gone from strength-to-strength since. An impressive first season in the Eredivisie caught the eye of Luis Campos at LOSC Lille, who duly picked him up from his parent club, Ajax, for €8 million in summer 2020.

In his very first season, Botman was an integral part of a LOSC team that toppled to all-conquering Paris Saint-Germain to clinch an unlikely Ligue 1 title.

STYLE OF PLAY

Botman is comfortable in possession, a result of his decade-long education in the Ajax academy. He receives and releases possession with good posture and touch on either foot, which enables him to play with a brisk tempo and execute positive passes into midfield. He is also adept at stepping forward, with and without the ball, to create overloads and options in build-up.

As a defender, Botman stands out for his size and physicality – those traits are especially advantageous in contact, where he overwhelms attackers with his imposing frame. Botman uses his physicality to good effect in aerial duels, sealing off opponents and attacking the ball well. He consistently wins the first ball and few players can compete with him in those situations.

Throughout his senior career, the Dutchman has played in a mid-block defence. Doing so accentuates his strengths and mitigates his lack of speed and general athleticism. Botman reads the game intelligently and has solid positional sense; he scans regularly, knows when to step up or drop off, and generally demonstrates good control when defending as a compact unit. His flaws are clear when he needs to cover space and wide areas. He does not have the speed nor agility to cover depth and defend quicker attackers in 1-v-1 situations, and he generally struggles to match – let alone control – attackers in open space. His heavy-legged mobility makes him an unsuitable option for teams who defend with high lines, like Liverpool.

Similarly, he can struggle at set-pieces with man-marking assignments. He isn’t always completely focussed and  his general lack of mobility means he can lose runners. He would be better utilised as a zonal marker covering a key central area.

Ryan Gravenberch

Ryan Gravenberch at AFC Ajax

DATE OF BIRTH

16/05/2002

positions

Number 8

CLUB

AFC Ajax

NATIONAL TEAM

Seniors

HEIGHT

1.90 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Ryan Gravenberch has been a highly-rated player at AFC Ajax for some time. His debut as a 16-year-old in 2018 was met with great excitement and anticipation as a high-profile academy player made his first steps into first-team football.

Before becoming a regular first-teamer, he spent a season-and-a-half with Jong Ajax in the second division, the club’s B team that bridges the gap between youth and senior football.

But since breaking into the first-team, Gravenberch hasn’t looked back. His development has been steady, playing an important role in Ajax’s league and European success over the past couple of years. He’s one of Europe’s premiere young talents.

STYLE OF PLAY

Ryan Gravenberch is a rangy, ball-progressing midfielder with immense athletic aptitude – even if he doesn’t always exert himself as such. Educated in the ways of AFC Ajax, Gravenberch is silky but severe on the ball, pivoting well for a player with a 6’3″ frame.

In carrying the ball, Gravenberch is a trump card for Ajax and the Netherlands – he can transport possession through lines and carry confidently into spaces where more creatively-inclined teammates can pick defensive locks.

The 19-year-old is effective all over the pitch, but predominantly in attacking transitions with the ball at his feet. Although best suited to a No. 8 role, do not be surprised to see Gravenberch drop between the centre-backs to receive like a No. 6 or join the attacking line, gliding into gaps in the final third, where he shoots well from range.

Even though Gravenberch possesses superb standout attributes, there is a lot to be desired when it comes to the teenager’s work-rate. His nonchalance can be misconstrued as laziness – he is hardly an ardent presser and predominantly relies on opposition players running into his zone where he can use his sprinter’s legs to wrestle possession free.

Simultaneously rugged and flowing, rigid and yet so fluid, Gravenberch has a silk to his game, but also the required organisation and resilience to not just survive at the top level, but succeed – even at such a young age. He brings presence to the midfield with his height, and purpose as he drives through midfield with his ball carrying ability.

While there are still weaknesses in his game off the ball, his impact when his team are in possession (which at Ajax, is most of the time) is enormous; a ball-carrying, short passing, and goal-scoring threat.

Micky van de Ven

VfL Wolfsburg & Netherlands defender Micky van de Ven

DATE OF BIRTH

19/04/2001

positions

Centre-back

CLUB

VfL Wolfsburg

NATIONAL TEAM

Under-21s

HEIGHT

1.93 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Micky van de Ven broke into the FC Volendam first-team two months into the 2019/20 season, and he has not looked back. Since making his senior debut in the Eerste Divisie, Van de Ven has started almost every game he has been available. He impressed last season but has improved again this, and has recently assumed the role of captain of the club he joined at 12 years old.

This summer, Van de Ven was mired in controversy as his agent, Mino Raiola, tried to engineer a deserved move away from Volendam. After threats of legal action and a later retraction, he eventually got his move, joining Bundesliga club Vfl Wolfsburg.

STYLE OF PLAY

Van de Ven played as the left-sided centre-back in a 4-3-3 shape for FC Volendam. He possesses a tall, lean but athletic build with very long limbs. He uses his size to overwhelm opponents in contact in defensive situations and when protecting/carrying the ball. The Dutchman has a good burst of speed off the mark and an excellent change of speed over longer distances which he uses to maintain/increase separations created by initial accelerations.

He plays with an aggressive style which has its positives and negatives, but certainlt has elements of dominance in his skillset. His athleticism enables him to cover big spaces behind defence and in wider areas, while he utilises his large frame in contact; good at sealing/levering against the ball to disrupt opponents cleanly and recover possession effectively. His timing in challenges is average though, and he can lack composure when diving in too aggressively. He possesses poor technique in one-on-one duels, often standing too upright and unbalanced in his posture – he needs to be lower to match opponents and shift direction.

Crucially, his focus can slip at times, and he can be beaten too easily by simple changes of tempo. Conversely, he is solid in aerial duels; again, he uses his frame well to give himself decent reach and conviction in headers. He is not dominant in the air, but there is clear potential.

On the ball, he has good technical ability in general, with strong fundamental skills and unique nuances in build-up. Clean, consistent first touches help him to set up positive actions. He is not a standout passer but has adequate technique, especially with switches to wider areas. Composed and confident under pressure, he commits players to dribble out of small spaces and drive forward while manipulating the ball with neat close control. He is then able to burst out of pressure and drive forward with great athleticism.

He is excellent at carrying into midfield and beyond from the back, blowing past defenders on the outside with long strides and withstanding challenges at full speed. From there, he executes good passes/crosses inside while on the move. He is extremely disruptive and difficult to stop as he carries the ball forwards.

Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong are the standouts of the emerging Dutch generation. Beyond that, there’s the likes of Ryan Gravenberch and Jurriën Timber. Sven Botman will also be a solid centre-back for the next decade.

AFC Ajax are the best when it comes to producing high-level talent. Year after year, they bring through strings goups of prospects. AZ Alkmaar also have a strong academy system, as do the PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam. There’s also an enhanced culture of smaller clubs developing good players as well, indicative of a nation that loves football.