Noussair Mazraoui is moving from Ajax Amsterdam to FC Bayern on a free transfer. The 24-year-old right-back signed a contract with Munich until 2026. The Moroccan had “offers from all over Europe”, but ultimately decided on Munich, Hasan Salihamidzic proudly announced.
According to media reports, however, Mazraoui was not the only Ajax player who strengthened Bayern. Accordingly, midfielder Ryan Gravenberch is about to sign on Säbener Straße.
Both hail from the famous Ajax Amsterdam youth academy, known as ‘De Toekomst’, the future. Several world stars have emerged from this football school: Johan Cruyff, Clarence Seedorf, Christian Eriksen, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert – the list of well-known players from “De Toekomst” is long.
The talent factory has clear principles: On the one hand, they rely on the T.I.P.S. model. Technology, intelligence, personality and speed – these four building blocks are encouraged in all players from an early age.
On the other hand, all Ajax teams, from youth to professionals, follow a clear game philosophy with the 4-3-3 system.
The continuity seems to be paying off – several youth players make it into the professional squad every year without any major adjustment difficulties. But the recipe for success also seems to be a curse for the Ajax talents, because many players who have left Amsterdam in recent years to join the really big clubs in Europe have not been able to build on their achievements from Ajax times.
After the outstanding 2018/19 season, when the team of then coach Erik ten Hag stormed into the semi-finals of the Champions League, various players were poached from top clubs.
Frenkie de Jong joined FC Barcelona for 86 million euros, Juventus transferred 85 million for Matthijs de Ligt, Donny van de Beek moved to Manchester United, Chelsea FC secured the services of Hakim Ziyech.
But the euphoria was followed by disillusionment. None of the players was able to meet expectations and fully assert themselves at their new club. De Jong is now said to be deported again at Barca, de Ligt has often been at a disadvantage to Giorgio Cheillini and Leonardo Bonucci since his move, van de Beek was loaned out by Manchester United to Everton and Ziyech is also often found on the bench in London .
As smooth as the transition for the Ajax talents to the professional team is, the playful adjustment at their new clubs seems to be complicated. Apparently, the Ajax talents are so shaped by their own club philosophy that they find it difficult to discard or adapt them.
Julian Nagelsmann is also not an advocate of the 4-3-3 system. The Bayern coach’s team often uses the 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1 or even the 3-2-5 system. Will Mazraoui and Gravenberch be better able to establish themselves at a top club than their predecessors?