Football Features

The meteoric rise and unfortunate fall of Kasper Dolberg at Ajax

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 11:45, 29 June 2021

It was somewhat fitting that Kasper Dolberg broke the deadlock in Denmark’s Euro 2020 last-16 tie against Wales.

Following great link-up play with Mikkel Darmsgaard, Dolberg produced a brilliant strike from just outside the box, which Danny Ward had no chance of saving. This effort was the 23-year-old’s first in the competition and it just so happened to be at his old stomping ground.

During a three-year period for Dutch giants Ajax, the Silkeborg-born footballer made 119 appearances in all competitions, scoring 45 times whilst creating 11 more. Before facing Robert Page’s men the last time Dolberg celebrated a goal at the Johan Cruijff ArenA was in July 2019 (in the Dutch Super Cup vs PSV), a month before he completed a reported €20.5m switch to Ligue 1 outfit Nice.

18+ ONLY, NEW CUSTOMERS ONLY, FIRST SINGLE & E/W BET ONLY, 5p MINIMUM STAKE, 3 x £10 BET TOKENS, FREE BET STAKES NOT INCLUDED IN RETURNS, FREE BETS EXCLUDE VIRTUALS, FREE BETS ARE NON WITHDRAWABLE, NO FREE BET EXPIRY, ELIGIBILITY RESTRICTIONS AND FURTHER T&CS APPLY, BEGAMBLEAWARE.ORG.

18+ only. New customers only. UK only. Deposit £20 to receive free bets of £40. Free bets credited as four equal free bets of £10 each. All free bets unlocked when a total of £20 in of sports bets are placed and settled within qualifying period of 7 days. Minimum deposit amount is £20. Promotion T&Cs apply. Standard T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.

18+ only. New members. £10 min deposit & bet on sportsbook, placed & settled at 1.5 min odds within 14 days of sign-up. Win part of E/W bets. 2 non-withdrawable £10 Free Bet Tokens: accept in 7 days, valid for 7 days from acceptance (ex. E/Ws & Multiples), stakes not returned. Click here for Rules & Exclusions. Bet Responsibly. BeGambleAware.

18+ only. A £10 Sportsbook free bet plus a £10 Exchange free bet. Min £5 bet on the SBK, min odds 1.5 (1/2). Rewards valid for 7 days. Free bets must be placed at min odds of 1.5 (1/2). Exchange free bet limited to certain markets. Payment restrictions apply. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.

First £20 refunded in cash, no bet limit T&Cs apply

18+ only. New customers only. Deposit £20 using Debit Card or Trustly. Up to your first £20 of losses will be refunded as CASH within 24 hours of qualifying bet having been settled. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.

18+ only. New customers only. T&Cs apply.

Claim Here
Get up to £100 in bet credits T&Cs apply

18+ only. New customers only. Min deposit £5. Bet Credits available for use upon settlement of bets to value of qualifying deposit. Min odds, bet and payment method exclusions apply. Returns exclude Bet Credits stake. Time limits and T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.

18+ only. T&Cs apply.

Claim Here
Get £30 in free bets when you place your first £10 bet T&Cs apply

18+ only • Min deposit £/€/$10 • A qualifying bet is a ‘real money’ stake of at least £/€/$10 • Min odds 1/2 (1.50) • Free Bets are credited upon qualifying bet settlement and expire after 7 days • Free Bet stakes are not included in returns • Casino Bonus must be claimed within 7 days, wins are capped at £/€/$500 • To withdraw bonus/related wins, you must wager the bonus amount up to 40 times its value within 14 days • Casino Bonus expires after 60 days • Casino Bonus can be used on selected games in casino only • Restrictions apply to withdrawals, payment methods & countries & full T&Cs apply • BeGambleAware

18+ only. New customers only. T&Cs apply.

Join Here

A graduate of Ajax’s esteemed academy, Dolberg announced himself to great fanfare with the world seemingly at his feet. But like an explosion it all vanished, though his career hasn’t exactly been derailed. Just three minutes after the break against Wales, Dolberg doubled Denmark’s lead, but had things turned out differently, Amsterdam would still be home.

Undeniable rise

The early 2010s saw Ajax go through a list of No. 9s, each starting well before eventually regressing, but Arkadiusz Milik was different. Initially on loan from Bayer Leverkusen, the Polish striker brought his A-game to Amsterdam, subsequently earning a contract after bagging 23 goals across 34 matches (2014/15).

Milik went one better the following season, before Napoli made the Amsterdammers an offer they couldn’t refuse, presenting an opportunity which Dolberg grabbed with both hands. Under Peter Bosz’s leadership, the Dane finished the 2016/17 campaign with 23 goals across 47 matches in all competitions, seven of which came in Ajax’s incredible Europa League final run. Affectionately dubbed ‘Goalberg’, he was gaining traction. Lionel Messi even named him as one of the nine best young talents in world football.

“I see many similarities with Marco van Basten,” his father Flemming Rasmussen told AT5. “If he goes like him that’s very good of course. They are the same size, same speed and both have a good shot. Maybe they will soon sit at the same level.”

In 2017, Dolberg earned the Johan Cruyff Trophy after being named Dutch Football Talent of the Year and the Marco van Basten Award given to whomever Ajax declare as their Talent of the Year. Given how spectacular Dolberg’s debut season turned out, the pressure to build on it took a heavy toll as he could only manage nine strikes in 2017/18. What didn’t help was a foot injury that kept him on the sidelines for 102 days, forcing him to miss 12 matches – his longest absence at Ajax.

A series of unfortunate events

This would be a harbinger of things to come. With Erik ten Hag in charge, Ajax invested heavily in the summer of 2018, notably signing Dusan Tadic from Southampton which, in time, would have a great impact on Dolberg’s position. Nevertheless, Dolberg would play 38 times as de Godenzonen won a first league and cup double since 2002, as well as unexpectedly reaching the Champions League semi-finals (though he completed the full 90 minutes just nine times).

A big reason for Dolberg’s transition to a back-up role was the revelation of Tadic as a False No. 9 and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar turning back time. Injuries were also a factor, as he would suffer two respective setbacks (abdominal and knee problems) which robbed him of 12 potential appearances.

CLICK HERE to claim the new customer offer. 18+ only. First single & E/W bet only. Odds of 1/1 or greater. 4 X £10 Bet token. Free bet stakes not included in returns. Free bets are non withdrawable. No free bet expiry. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.

It couldn’t be a better illustration of the future never being guaranteed. Dolberg started out so promising before turning into yesterday’s news due to a combination of personal bad luck and the club not standing still.

Returning to play in the Dutch capital with Denmark, not only brought back fond memories, but also served as great inspiration for Dolberg.

“This is completely crazy,” he said after the 4-0 win over Wales.

“In fact, I don’t know how I feel. It’s total madness. It’s surreal. This is where it all started for me, and playing here again in this setting was insane.

“When we were on the way to the stadium, I felt that this match would be special for me today and it was.”