Scouting Report: Donny van de Beek
June 19, 2019
In the world of transfers, Amsterdam is a hotspot right now.
Ajax landed domestic double, having pipped PSV to the title and swept Willem II aside in the KNVB Final, and came within seconds of securing a Champions League final spot, with Lucas Moura’s late, late goal denying them a meeting with Liverpool in Madrid earlier this month.
No less, teams are casting watchful glances towards Ajax, who are ready for a summer exodus. Frankie de Jong has already left for Barcelona, while Matthijs de Ligt may yet follow him to Spain, though PSG and Manchester United have something to say about that. Hakim Ziyech’s time in the Netherlands is drawing to a close as a host of Premier League sides track the Moroccan, who will be looking to star in AFCON 2019, which starts this week.
A less celebrated star is being monitored by Premier League pair Tottenham and Manchester United, both of whom are keen on bolstering their midfield ranks this summer. The priority for Spurs is Lyon’s Tanguy NDombele but that won’t stop the north London outfit from adding another to the squad in order to at least replicate last season’s achievements.
For United, a possible Paul Pogba successor ranks highly as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer aims to guide the team back to the Champions League. Pogba has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, but it’s a saga that is unlikely to end any time soon. For the duo, though, Donny van de Beek would be a fine capture and a welcome addition to English football.
Van de Beek has been linked with a move to London for the best part of a year now and Spurs caught a glimpse of his talent in their two-legged Champions League affair. The 22-year-old scored the only goal in their 1-0 win at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the end of April and it helped his stock soar as the leagues across Europe came to a head, so much so that it could well have been cheaper for Spurs to have signed him in the winter when Van de Beek wasn’t such a prominent member of the Ajax XI.
Former an effective partnership was De Jong and Lasse Schone, De Jong was the player tasked with linking the midfield and attack and he did so to great effect. The young Dutch international ended the season with nine goals and 10 assists to his name, contributing to a goal every 128.5 minutes in the Eredivisie last season, as per WhoScored.com, and was one of six players to register double figures for assists in the Dutch top tier.
That figure was more than any other central midfielder in the Eredivisie and it’s this sort of output that any top side could maximise as they aim to add another creative outlet from deep. Van de Beek’s positional awareness ensured he capitalised on the space that the likes of Dusan Tadic, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Kasper Dolberg opened up when they drifted wide and dragged defenders out of position.
Indeed, while starting in a deeper role, despite the license to push forward, it was routinely Van de Beek who finished off moves as he timed his runs to perfection with all nine of his goals coming from inside the opposition penalty area. His strike against Spurs was a perfect example of this quality to his game. Both his goals and assists came from modest returns of 1.9 shots and 1.5 key passes per 90, we per WhoScored.com, so while Van de Beek wasn’t going for goal with great regularity, nor was he creating chances by the bucketload, he made sure both his efforts on goal counted as he returned a 17.6% conversion rate and his goalscoring chances were of the ideal calibre for teammates.
Off the ball, too, Van de Beek proved he is no slouch as he put up returns of 1.9 tackles and one interception per 90, proving his worth as the ideal number eight. A dribble success rate of 56.8% leaves room for improvement, but all in all; Van de Beek provides all the ideal traits to succeed in England.
While it remains to be seen if Spurs turn their attention to other areas in need of strengthening should they sign NDombele, head coach Mauricio Pochettino is rumoured to be keen on Van de Beek regardless, even if United would push hard for his signature. Should Pogba leave for pastures new, United would have money to spend on a replacement and a space on the left side of their favoured 4-3-3 setup to fill, which Van de Beek occupied to great effect in Erik ten Hag’s preferred system in both the league and Champions League.
“You never know what can happen,” Van de Beek said of his future earlier this month and while contracted to Ajax until 2022, an offer around the £50m mark may convince the Dutch champions to cash in on one of their many prized assets. He may not be as celebrated as De Jong, De Ligt or Ziyech, but Van de Beek was a vital member of Ajax’s title success. They’d be loathe to losing the Netherlands international, but with money to spend on squad investment, Spurs and United, among others, could certainly profit from a player of his calibre.
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