Top three players from the Ajax Academy

On September 11th, 2020, the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) released their annual rankings of the clubs, having trained the most players active in 31 top divisions of UEFA member associations. The Ajax Youth Academy came in 2nd place to the FK Partizan Academy from Serbia with 77 players footballers trained, while the Serbian side topped the list with 85 footballers trained. 

The Ajax youth system is famous for having produced and still producing many great Dutch internationals like Sjaak Swart, Johan Cruijff, Frank Rijkaard, Dennis Bergkamp, Frank and Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, John Heitinga, Nigel de Jong, Maarten Stekelenburg, and Gregory van der Wiel.

Let’s have a look at the top players who flourished through the academy of Ajax:

Johan Cruyff

 As a player, Johan Cruyff won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974. Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels and is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport and one of its best managers ever.

Cruyff joined the Ajax youth system on his tenth birthday. Cruyff really started to make an impression in the 1965–66 season and established himself as a regular first-team player after scoring two goals against DWS in the Olympic Stadium on October 24th 1965, in a 2–0 victory. That season, Cruyff scored 25 goals in 23 games, and Ajax won the league championship.

Ruud Krol

 He played for his home town club, Ajax, most of his career, and he became a coach after retirement. Regarded as one of the best defenders of all time, Krol mainly played as a sweeper or left-back; however, he could play anywhere across the backline or in midfield as a defensive midfielder due to his range of passing with both feet, temperament, tactical intelligence, and ability to start attacking plays after winning back the ball.

He began his career at Ajax under manager Rinus Michels. In his first season at the club, he did not play much. After the departure of left-back Theo van Duivenbode in the summer of 1969 to Feyenoord, Krol became a regular player.

Dennis Bergkamp

Bergkamp was brought up through Ajax’s youth system, joining the club at age 11. Manager Johan Cruyff gave him his professional debut on December 14th 1986, against Roda JC; the match ended in a 2–0 victory for Ajax. Bergkamp scored his first senior goal for the club against HFC Haarlem on February 22nd 1987, in a match, and Ajax won 6–0. He made 23 appearances in the 1986–87 season, including a European debut against Malmo FF in the 1986–87 European Cup Winners’ Cup, earning him praise. Ajax won the competition, beating Lokomotive Leipzig 1–0 as Bergkamp appeared as a substitute.

Originally a wide midfielder, Bergkamp was moved to the main striker and then to the second striker, where he remained throughout his playing career. Nicknamed the ‘Non-Flying Dutchman’ by Arsenal supporters due to his fear of flying, Bergkamp is widely regarded as one of the greatest players of his generation.