AFC Ajax is a club strongly known for its club philosophies on youth and ability to produce rising stars and world class players. Notable stars who were moulded by the excellent youth system and coaching staff over the years include the likes of Marco van Basten, Johan Cruyff, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Frank Rijkaard and Frank De Boer. There is one man in this transition era for Ajax who, now been given a run in the first team, is eager to add his name amongst the list of club greats.
19 year old Kasper Dolberg, a player who can play anywhere across the front line, has attracted the attention of Europe’s top clubs, having scored 11 goals in 23 league appearances. It is hard to go unnoticed as a young player in Ajax, but even more for Dolberg who, in November against NEC Nijmegen, scored an impressive hat-trick in just an 18 minute period, with each goal displaying the many attributes he possesses to find the back of the net.
Following in similar footsteps of Spurs creative playmaker and fellow countryman Christian Eriksen, startlet Kasper Dolberg career started out playing in the Danish Superliga under 19’s League. Eriksen impressed with his technicality playing for Odense Boldklub (OB), whilst Dolberg represented Silkeborg, operating as a direct dribbling threat on both flanks.
Both made their move to The Netherlands at young ages, but whilst Eriksen made no first team appearances for OB, it was Dolberg who managed 3 appearances before heading overseas to continue his development at what is one of the best footballing educations any young player can receive in Ajax.
At age 17, Dolberg completed a transfer to AFC Ajax, with an approximate transfer fee agreed at £230,000. He then spent the whole of the 2015-16 season with the AFC Ajax under 19’s, competing in tournaments such as the UEFA Youth Cup, and scoring a total of 8 goals in 22 appearances that season.
After Ajax finished runners up for the second consecutive season to rivals PSV Eindhoven, sacking head coach Frank De Boer and losing striker Arkadiusz Milik to Napoli in the summer in 2016, an opportunity arose for Dolberg to fight for a first team place in a transition period for the club. His chances of a first team place were improved further when the club decided to loan another young talented striker in Ricardo Zivkovic to FC Utrecht.
Dolberg has certainly paid Ajax back with the faith that the club put in him to make the physical step up to first team football for the Dutch giants. He is the modern day striker, and developing into a complete forward with his pace, direct dribbling and clinical finishing. Not to mention, Dolberg also stands at 186cm (6ft 2in) meaning he provides a presence against defenders and could be further nightmare for opposition backlines as he continues to adapt and improve to the physicality of top flight football.
Liverpool manager, Jürgen Klopp, has commented on the young Dane, hailing him as “fantastic player” and questioning the footballing world in Danish publication Ekstra Bladet adding “Who doesn’t know Kasper Dolberg? You can’t play at Ajax without being noticed”.
These comments have certainly got Liverpool fans excited as it could be Liverpool swooping a potential deal from Premier League rivals Manchester United. It has also been confirmed that Manchester City are interested in Dolberg’s services, according to scout Sebastian Arnesen. Interest has been sparking for some time and, in November, Arnesen was quoted “We keep a very close eye on him and, when the time is right, we’ll make a decision on whether we should act on it.”
One thing for sure is that more eyes are going to be on Dolberg for the remainder of the season, and he has a chance to further displaying his talents, repay Ajax for the faith they put in him as well as improve his market value. Another guarantee will be that Dolberg is going to have a busy summer in which he is going to have to decide whether to commit his future to AFC Ajax or make a big money move to one of many top European clubs who are in for him.
UCFB Football Business & Media Student