Best young Netherlands players
Brief scouting reports on some of our favourite emerging Dutch talents
The Netherlands, despite it’s relatively small size, is a traditional powerhouse of football. Here are reports on some of their emerging generation. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
More profiles can be found in the goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, wingers and strikers sections. Below, you’ll find profiles covering backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses, while providing links to where you can find out more about them.
For full in-depth analysis of some of the best young players from all over the planet, check out our profiles page. We have countlesss profiles on players there, focussing on a range of talents from across the world. There are also exclusive interviews too, and plenty more.
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 all-conquering Paris Saint-Germain to clinch an unlikely Ligue 1 title. A year later, he secured a big money move to join Newcastle United, joining as a cornerstone of their developing project under new Saudi ownership.
Sven Botman's 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.
Sven Botman is an all-round solid centre-back that is especially strong in aerial duels, dominanting smaller opponents with his strength and size. He is comfortable on the ball, albeit not especially good nor expansive. All in all, he has the fundamentals to be a good centre-back at the highest level.
Given his size and shape, Botman can struggle when dragged into one-on-one isolation scenarios where his lack of agility and mobility can be exposed.
Ryan Gravenberch was 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 after breaking into the first-team, Gravenberch never looked back. His development has been steady, playing an important role in Ajax’s league and European success over the past couple of years before his eventual move to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2022.
Ryan Gravenberch's 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 Bayern 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 is enormous; a ball-carrying, short passing, and goal-scoring threat.
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 more exciting 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. Injuries continue to blight him as well.
Myron Boadu's 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.
Myron Boadu, despite his injury history, is a very good athlete that thrives attacking space and the penalty area. He finishes best when it’s more instinctive, rather than having to think too much.
Boadu needs to improve as a finisher in one-on-one scenarios, especially given how good he is at getting in behind the defence. He also could improve his link-up play. Injuries continue to be a persistent issue as well.
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.