Football Features

What happened next? The Eredivisie’s most expensive imports

By Muhammad Butt

Eredivisie record signings: Top 10 most expensive imports | Squawka

Published: 12:28, 13 January 2021

The amount of money spent in the Premier League can distort perspectives as to how much money there actually is in other leagues, such as the Eredivisie.

While colossal sales coming out of the Netherlands have been a regular thing for over a decade, with Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt both recently going for £65m and £67.5m respectively, big buys are less common.

The Dutch top flight recently set a new record for their biggest-ever incoming transfer fee. But what of their other big incomings? And what happened to those players who made big-money moves to one of Europe’s best talent factories?

We’ve had a look at the biggest incoming deals in Eredivisie history and asked… what happened next?

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10. Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink

  • Signed For: PSV
  • Signed From: Twente
  • Transfer Fee: €9m
  • Year of Deal: 2001

The man with one of the greatest names in football just goes to show the difference in financial might as at €9m his 2001 move to PSV is enough to make the top 10 (for reference, the Premier League saw 50 transfers more expensive than this one in the summer of 2020 alone).

What Happened Next? His performances were as big as his name as he scored 85 goals in 207 games, winning the Eredivisie three times for the Dutch club before moving to Celtic where he won two further titles. Spells at Hull and Vienna weren’t as prolific and he ended his career with one final season back at PSV before retiring in 2012.

9. Hakim Ziyech

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: Twente
  • Transfer Fee: €11m
  • Year of Deal: 2016
  • Football Index value: £1.05 (Sell)  £1.30 (Buy)

Another Twente export, Hakim Ziyech just left the Eredivisie for a massive €40m, but back in 2016 Ajax signed him for just €11m. What Happened Next? Well, he was sensational for the Dutch side and oversaw their return to prominence. Ziyech posted absurd numbers and emerged as one of the attacking leaders of a side that made the 2017 Europa League final and the 2019 Champions League semi-finals; he also smashed 16 goals as Ajax won the 2018/19 Eredivisie. Very much money well spent.

8. Dusan Tadic

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: Southampton
  • Transfer Fee: €11.4m
  • Year of Deal: 2018
  • Football Index value: £0 (Sell)  £0.42 (Buy)

Two years after they sold Arkadiusz Milik (and when it became clear Kasper Dolberg may not emerge as his heir) Ajax signed Dusan Tadic from the Premier League. The Serb had seemed all washed up at the time and it looked a strange deal. What Happened Next? Coach Erik ten Hag played Tadic as a false nine and he and the team exploded.

A gobsmacking 38 goals in his debut season was key in both the Eredivisie title (28 goals) and their legendary run to the Champions League semi-finals (nine goals). He’s since tailed off in terms of his goal output but is still producing sensational football even at 32 years of age. What a signing!

7. Bruma

  • Signed For: PSV
  • Signed From: RB Leipzig
  • Transfer Fee: €12m
  • Year of Deal: 2019
  • Football Index value: £0 (Sell)  £0.33 (Buy)

PSV’s attempts to regain the title from Ajax saw them stump up for Bruma, the Portuguese winger who had done well at Galatasaray and RB Leipzig. What Happened Next? Sadly, nothing much. Bruma scored a grand total of five goals in a season and a half and joined Olympiacos on loan in October of last year. A frustrating failure.

6. David Neres

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: Sao Paolo
  • Transfer Fee: €15m
  • Year of Deal: 2017
  • Football Index value: £0 (Sell)  £0.60 (Buy)

As great as their scouting has been, Ajax have never really been one to pick up young talents from Brazil. However, that changed when they acquired David Neres, the Brazilian winger in 2017. What Happened Next? Neres has proven himself a deadly member of Ajax’s attack, scoring 14 times in his full debut season and winning the title the next campaign. He was developing superbly but a knee injury prevented him from playing the second-half of 2019/20 although now he’s fit again and hoping to bounce back.

5. Antony

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: Sao Paolo
  • Transfer Fee: €15.75m
  • Year of Deal: 2020

After their success with Neres, Ajax went back to Sao Paolo to pick up 20-year-old winger Antony. What Happened Next? Antony has enjoyed a promising start to his Ajax career, scoring eight times in his first 19 games for the club, as well as winning the Eredivisie Player of the Month award for December. The jury is still out but his potential is obvious.

4. Miralem Sulejmani

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: Heerenveen
  • Transfer Fee: €16.25m
  • Year of Deal: 2008

When Ajax lost Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in January 2009 to Real Madrid — a transfer that was bubbling under the surface for months — they were ready to trust Luis Suárez to be the starting no. 9 and so their big money buy to ‘replace’ Huntelaar was to bring in Miralem Sulejmani to the club in the summer just before. What Happened Next? The Serbian proved to be a deft foil to the Uruguayan and Ajax won the Eredivisie in 2010/11.

Even after Suárez left, Sulejmani continued to produce and Ajax won two more titles to make it three in a row before he agreed a free transfer to Benfica in secret, angering Ajax management and causing him to miss out on a winner’s medal as Ajax won a fourth straight title in 2014.

Sulejmani won titles with Benfica before joining Young Boys where he won his second career threepeat with Swiss titles in 2018, 2019 and 2020 (the first of those being the club’s first title for 32 years). He’s now out to do what he couldn’t in 2013/14 and win a fourth-straight title.

3. Daley Blind

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: Manchester United
  • Transfer Fee: €16m
  • Year of Deal: 2018
  • Football Index value: £0 (Sell)  £0.27 (Buy)

Daley Blind grew up at Ajax as the son of a club legend, Danny, and after winning four consecutive titles he joined Manchester United in 2014. He played well with the Red Devils even though they were a bit of a mess at the time. And he ultimately left Old Trafford after four years, returning to Ajax for a hefty fee. What Happened Next? Blind helped bring experience and leadership to an Ajax side full of young talent. With him at the back they won the Eredivisie and reached the Champions League final in his first season, and although they were denied a second straight title by nature, they’re out to retain their crown this season.

2. Mateja Kezman

  • Signed For: PSV
  • Signed From: Partizan
  • Transfer Fee: €16.34m
  • Year of Deal: 2000

After watching Ajax dominate the 1990’s, PSV were determined to make the 2000’s their decade. After losing Ruud van Nistelrooy to injury, they brought Mateja Kezman in for massive money (20 years ago €16.4m was a huge fee, especially for the Eredivisie).

What Happened Next? Goals. Lots and lots of goals. Kezman formed a deadly partnership in attack with a young Arjen Robben and the Serb ripped 129 goals in 176 games across four seasons, winning two Eredivisie titles in that time.

After that? A whole lot of nothing. Kezman moved to Chelsea, and it didn’t work out. Then Atlético Madrid, and it didn’t work out. He moved down a ‘tier’ and joined Fenerbache, getting his groove back and winning a couple of trophies in Turkey, but then he moved to PSG and was once again a bust. A few more ‘one-year spells’ dotted around the world followed before he retired in 2012, having never recaptured that amazing PSV form.

1. Sebastian Haller

  • Signed For: Ajax
  • Signed From: West Ham
  • Transfer Fee: €22.5m
  • Year of Deal: 2021
  • Football Index value: £0.28 (Sell)  £0.36 (Buy)

Sebastian Haller looked a surefire Premier League smash when he signed for West Ham but like so much at the East London club, it soon turned to dysfunction and misery. Haller lasted a season-and-a-half before they decided to cut their losses with Ajax more than happy to swoop in and pick up the inconsistent striker for a reasonable fee.

What’s Going To Happen Next? Well that’s anyone’s guess. Haller has already made his debut, playing 44 minutes and picking up an assist as Ajax came from 0-2 down to draw 2-2 with PSV. Given Ajax’s fleet of young wing-forwards, a selfless striker like Haller could thrive as a target man in Amsterdam. Let’s see if he will.