Yesterday, it was announced that Tottenham Hotspur is interested in signing Edson Álvarez this summer. This, in combination with the other players that are most likely going to leave this summer, means that Ajax has to sign yet another player this summer. In this overview, I will discuss the transfers that Ajax needs to do.
It already has been announced that Hakim Ziyech will leave Ajax for €40.000.000 and that both Donny van de Beek and Sergiño Dest will most likely leave Ajax as well for respectively Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Besides that, Bruno Varela and Ryan Babel will probably return to Benfica and Galatasaray and I think that they will not be bought by Ajax.
On the contrary, Ajax announced as well that they have signed Brazilian right-winger Antony on a five-year deal from São Paulo for €15.750.000. Ajax has been heavily linked with both Roberto Alvarado and Jorge Carrascal, who are both attacking midfielders but they can play on both wings as well.
Regarding outgoing transfers, I think that both André Onana and Nicolas Tagliafico will leave Ajax if the right club makes a formal offer. Besides that, I think that Ajax will allow Razvan Marin, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and Edson Álvarez to leave the club. Huntelaar will probably get another role at Ajax like being a youth trainer. Also, Joël Veltman wanted to move to another league last year but he was not allowed to go. I think he will get his move this year.
Every summer there are some youth players that get the chance to go on training camp with the first team. It is assumable that players like Sontje Hansen, Naci Ünüvar, Kenneth Taylor, Neraysho Kasanwirjo, Jurriën Timber, Quinten Timber, and Brian Brobbey will go on training camp with the first team this summer to fight for a place in the first team. Also, it will be interesting to see how Youri Regeer develops himself in the coming months as he just made his debut for the second team of Ajax.
Last but not least, Juan Familia-Castillo will most likely be bought by Ajax if the transfer fee is not too high. The fact that he has not made a single appearance for the first team of Ajax, even when Tagliafico was injured or suspended, does not mean anything.
How the squad looks without the outgoing transfers:
- Kjell Scherpen, Dominik Kotarski & Calvin Raatsie
- Noussair Mazraoui & Quinten Timber
- Perr Schuurs & Jurriën Timber
- Daley Blind & Lisandro Martínez
- Juan Familia-Castillo & Anass Salah-Eddine
- Carel Eiting & Enric Llansana/Victor Jensen
- Ryan Gravenberch & Kenneth Taylor
- Zakaria Labyad & Jurgen Ekkelenkamp
- Quincy Promes & Naci Ünüvar
- Dusan Tadic & Lassina Traoré
- David Neres & Antony
As you can see, without the outgoing transfers, that will most likely happen, Ajax’ squad looks rather depressing and the goalkeepers, defenders, and midfielders are mediocre for now. Obviously there is a lot of talent in this squad, but it is not up to Ajax’s standards at all.
It will be a busy summer for Marc Overmars & co, but they knew this already last summer as they managed to hold on to a lot of players for another year in the hope that Ajax would reach the knockout phase of the Champions League once again.
What signings does Overmars need to make?
First of all, Kjell Scherpen has improved a lot during the last few months but he is not good enough to be the first goalkeeper of Ajax already. I would give him the chance to be the second goalkeeper of Ajax though during training camp this summer. Dominik Kotarski can be the third goalkeeper of Ajax and can play in Jong Ajax.
This means that Ajax needs to sign a new first goalkeeper and there have been a few names that have been linked with Ajax already. Odysseas Vlachodimos, Hendrik van Crombrugge, and Vasilios Barkas have been the three goalkeepers that have been linked with Ajax in the last months.
Criteria goalkeeper Ajax
The first goalkeeper of Ajax needs to be comfortable on the ball, be able to play short passes under pressure and he obviously needs to have good goalkeeping ability. Also, he needs to be quick off his line when he needs to and he must be able to focus for 90 minutes, even though he, if Ajax plays well, does not have to make that many saves.
With Sergiño Dest leaving after one decent season, where he had a lot of bad games as well, Ajax only has Noussair Mazraoui as a player that has regularly played as a right-back. In Jong Ajax, Liam van Gelderen mostly plays as a right-back but I do not think he has the potential to play for the first team of Ajax.
Quinten Timber is a player that has hardly played as right-back, but in my opinion, has the qualities to play as a right-back for the first team of Ajax. He went on training camp with the first team of Ajax already last winter and will probably go on training camp with the first team of Ajax next summer as well.
At left-back, Ajax only have Juan Familia-Castillo (if they do buy him) and in Jong Ajax there are Anass Salah-Eddine and Terrence Douglas who both have been performing well in the youth of Ajax. Anass Salah-Eddine has more potential though than Terrence Douglas.
This means that Ajax need to get a right-back that can compete with Noussair Mazraoui, if Quinten Timber does not perform good enough during training camp this summer. Besides that, Ajax need to sign a replacement for Nicolas Tagliafico as Juan Familia-Castillo is not good enough for the starting line-up already.
Criteria full-back Ajax
This year, it has become clear that a full-back of Ajax definitely needs to have decent passing ability because it has been common that opponents close the center and that Ajax is forced to use their full-backs in the build-up. Also, they need to be able to play in the closed spaces and they need to have a good technique, obviously.
In defense, they need to be pacey and able to anticipate well as Ajax play a high defensive line, they need to be good in the defensive duels and in 1-on-1 defending as they will have a lot of 1-on-1 defensive duels when the opponents start a counter-attack.
The center-back position has been a big problem for Ajax this season. After his injury, Daley Blind has not performed as well as he normally does. Also, Perr Schuurs and Edson Álvarez have been too weak for the first team of Ajax. I expect that Daley Blind will be playing better as the season continues, but that both Perr Schuurs and Edson Álvarez are not good enough for Ajax.
This is why I would advise Ajax to sign a very good right center-back and play Lisandro Martínez as a back-up left center-back. This means that Ajax has a bigger problem in midfield, but Kik Pierie is not good enough for the first-team of Ajax yet and I doubt if he will ever be good enough for Ajax.
Criteria center-back Ajax
First of all, a center-back of Ajax needs to have good ball-playing ability. He needs to be able to play a pass that breaks lines and he needs to have high passing accuracy on the opposites half. In defense, he needs to be able to anticipate very well, be able to win defensive duels with the striker, be pacey enough to cover counters and his positional awareness needs to be very good.
In my opinion, Nehuén Pérez ticks all these boxes and I think that he would be a great signing. The Argentinian defender does not suit Atletico Madrid at all and will most likely be sold for around €25.000.000. This is a big fee, but I think that he really suits Ajax and that he is an exceptional talent. He has some mistakes this season though, but as he is only 19 that will go away in the coming years. Matthijs de Ligt made some mistakes at Ajax as well.
This season, Ajax played, when everyone was available, with one defensive-minded midfielder that plays as a third center-back in possession (Lisandro Martínez), one midfielder that plays just in front of the three-men defense in possession (Donny van de Beek) and one advanced playmaker (Hakim Ziyech).
Let’s focus on the defensive-minded midfielder that plays as a third center-back in possession. Both Carel Eiting and Enric Llansana could perform this role, but they both are not good enough for the first team of Ajax at this moment. Carel Eiting could be a back-up, but I’d rather see him getting sold or loaned out.
The most important thing is that the defensive-minded midfielder is agile, quick enough to cover counter-attacks, anticipates well and has good positional awareness. In Liga NOS there are two players that would be able to play as a defensive midfielder for Ajax and those players are Florentino (SL Benfica) and Gustavo Assunção (FC Famalicão). However, there surely are better options than Florentino and Assunção in other leagues that Ajax can buy.
If Ajax would sign two defensive-minded midfielders, I would advise Ajax to sign Gustavo Assunção as a back-up defensive midfielder for sure. In the case of Florentino, he will probably be too expensive for Ajax.
Moving on to the midfielder in front of the defense, Ajax only has Ryan Gravenberch. Also, Jong Ajax has Kenneth Taylor who can perform this role at the first team of Ajax and will most likely get the chance during training camp next summer.
Both midfielders still need some time though before they are able to be a regular starter for the first team of Ajax, so I would advise Ajax to sign another midfielder for this position. In Liga NOS, I think that Wendel (Sporting CP) could perform this role very well. He can pass his opponent, is able to play in the closed spaces and he can play as a defensive midfielder, central midfielder and he has even played as an attacking midfielder this season.
In South-America, Matheus Henrique (Gremio) would be a great option as well, but I doubt Ajax can afford him. The Brazilian midfielder definitely has the passing ability and would immediately be one of the key players for Ajax.
As already mentioned before, Ajax needs to sign a replacement for Hakim Ziyech. It depends on what type of player they want to sign, as Ajax played with Hakim Ziyech (a creative type) as an attacking midfielder but also with Donny van de Beek (good in the closed spaces, good spatial awareness and runs into space).
I reckon that Ajax will sign a creative type as an attacking midfielder, given the fact that they have been rumored to being interested in Jorge Carrascal & Juan Quintero (River Plate).
Jorge Carrascal would be a great option as an attacking midfielder, as I described here.
At left-winger, Ajax now has Quincy Promes and Naci Ünüvar. I think that Ünüvar will get his chance during training camp and I expect him to grab his chance. Especially if Ajax signs an attacking midfielder that can play out on the wing as well (Carrascal), I do not expect Ajax to sign another left-winger.
With Dusan Tadic and Lassina Traoré Ajax already have two good strikers which are sufficient for the 2020/21 season as well. A few weeks ago Ajax announced that they signed Antony on a five-year deal which means that Ajax has Antony and David Neres on the right-wing.
Should Promes or Neres leave Ajax would need to sign a replacement for Promes and Antony already is the replacement of David Neres.
How the squad would look with the incoming transfers:
- Signing (1, Jasper Cillessen?) – Kjell Scherpen – Dominik Kotarski
- Noussair Mazraoui – Signing (2) or Quinten Timber
- Signing (3, Nehuén Pérez) – Perr Schuurs
- Daley Blind – Lisandro Martínez
- Signing (4) – Juan Familia-Castillo
- Signing (5) – Signing (6, Florentino or Gustavo Assunção)
- Signing (7, Matheus Henrique or Wendel) – Ryan Gravenberch
- Signing (8, Jorge Carrascal) – Zakaria Labyad or Jurgen Ekkelenkamp
- Quincy Promes – Naci Ünüvar
- Dusan Tadic – Lassina Traoré
- David Neres – Antony
To summarize it all, please note that I only looked at some leagues and that these players do not necessarily are the best options for Ajax. Besides that, I expect Ajax to sign some Dutch players for the starting line-up to keep their Dutch identity, which they think is very important.
Last but not least, it will be a busy summer for Overmars and it will be interesting to see if Ajax is ready for the war. If they are not ready this summer, they will never be ready and it is a huge test for Overmars & co.