Football Features

Five exciting non-Ajax talents from the 2018/19 Eredivisie season – and the Premier League clubs that should be scouting them

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 18:35, 19 May 2019

Ajax can once again describe themselves as best in the Netherlands.

For the 34th time, and first since 2014, the Amsterdammers are Dutch champions with their recent success under Erik ten Hag being heavily attributed to boasting a plethora of incredibly talented footballers, many of whom are expected to say goodbye this summer.

Frenkie de Jong, the recently named Dutch Football Talent of the Year, is already gone. He’s bound for Barcelona and is expected to be followed by last year’s recipient Matthijs de Ligt, though a number of clubs remain keen in acquiring his services.

But the Eredivisie isn’t solely Ajax, even if it often feels that way, and there are plenty of stars across the league. These individuals, like the ones found in the nation’s capital, are heavily touted for big moves. As follows are five such examples, and we’ve highlighted which Premier League club should be scouting them – if they’re not already.

Steven Bergwijn (PSV Eindhoven)

Who should sign him? Tottenham Hotspur or Bayern Munich

PSV love their wingers; down the years they’ve boasted some of the very best to grace the Eredivisie, with Steven Bergwijn being the latest. Dutch football’s latest rising wide star is heavily tipped to leave Eindhoven this summer.

Already he’s been associated with a shock return to newly-crowned national champions Ajax, whose academy he came through before leaving, but that has been rebuffed by the powers that be. They are, however, believed to be willing to allow him to join another European club – if they meet his true valuation. Bergwijn will not be cheap considering how important he’s become for Mark van Bommel’s team.

Across no fewer than 33 league appearances he’s scored 14 times and created a further 12 goals. A move to the Premier League, à la predecessors Arjen Robben and Memphis Depay, seems likely.

Tottenham Hotspur, who are expected to get busy following their upcoming European Cup final, seems a perfect match given their need to strengthen Mauricio Pochettino’s wide options and the Argentine tactician’s willingness to promote attacking football. Another potential destination is Bayern Munich who are about to enter a post-Robben and Franck Ribery world.

Ritsu Doan (FC Groningen)

Who should sign him? Manchester City or Juventus

For as long as many can remember the Eredivisie has been a fertile ground for the future. Because of the league’s members relative lack of riches, compared to Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues, they’ve placed a greater emphasis on developing their own talent or scouting clever.

This season’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Spurs is laced with plenty who have enjoyed their formative education in the Netherlands’ top division. The most high profile is the current PFA Players’ Player of the Year recipient Virgil van Dijk, who made his name at FC Groningen.

Hoping to follow in his footsteps is Japanese forward Ritsu Doan who has excelled for the Pride of the North since relocating from Gamba Osaka – initially on loan in 2017 – with 15 goals and seven assists in 62 matches. What has, though, made observers sit up and take notice is his playing style; favorably compared with Lionel Messi (like so many) – due to left-footedness, sharp dribbling and low centre of gravity – he’s already been associated with a move away.

Manchester City, heavily reported to be shaking up their forward options, is one destination linked and Doan does come across as someone who can thrive under Pep Guardiola. If not the Premier League then maybe a Dybala-less Juventus.

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Martin Odegaard (Vitesse, on loan from Real Madrid)

Who should sign him? Liverpool or Ajax

Sometimes the most hyped footballers don’t fulfil their potential. We’ve seen plenty of examples down the years (Freddy Adu), but there are of course exceptions. The aforementioned Messi, before kicking a ball in anger, was dubbed as Diego Maradona’s successor – the 1986 World Cup-winning captain – who, after watching him across the last decade, shares the universal sentiment that Barça’s forward belong to the game’s pantheon.

Unfortunately in today’s era, where all eyes are constantly on everyone, there’s less room to breathe. Before turning 16 no footballer was being more discussed than Norwegian forward Martin Odegaard, who was being courted by many of Europe’s super clubs.

In the end he opted for Real Madrid, where idol Cristiano Ronaldo was still the cock of the walk. He’s still contracted to the 13-time European champions, but has spent the last three seasons on loan in the Eredivisie, firstly at Heerenveen (2017-18) and then Vitesse (2018-19).

This season just gone has been Odegaard’s most prolific – eight goals and 10 assists in 29 league outings – leading to many arguing it’s time for Real to give the wide-playmaker a real chance. However, the expectation is he’ll remain on loan somewhere else, or – if reports are to be believed – join Dutch champs Ajax (with a buy-back clause attached). But if he feels he’s outgrown the Eredivisie then Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool would be a perfect fit.

Hirving Lozano (PSV Eindhoven)

Who should sign him? Manchester United or Napoli

It was an up and down 2018/19 season for Hirving Lozano who, since joining PSV, has been nothing but a revelation. The 23-year-old Mexican winger, thrusted into the global spotlight following his winner against defending world champions Germany last summer, ended his second campaign in Eindhoven with a knee injury and the same amount of league goals (17) and assists (11) as his debut.

Despite not quite reaching the heights he did in PSV’s championship-winning season it hasn’t stopped him being linked with a departure from the City of Light. A who’s who of clubs have seemingly been interested in acquiring his signature since joining PSV including Manchester United, who are expected to re-build (again) under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this summer.

Lozano, who is primarily deployed from the left before cutting onto his strong right foot (aka the reverse Robben), is someone who can offer United something different. But, naturally, there might be trepidation given how things turned out the last time the Red Devils signed a wideman from PSV, then again the past really isn’t a good indicator of the future.

Also a lack of Champions League football at Old Trafford could make him think twice. Lozano, if he studies recent PSV departures, will see before Depay moved to England his immediate predecessor Dries Mertens travelled south to Naples and been a success ever since. Napoli are keen on Lozano and there’s likely to be space for him with Lorenzo Insigne expected to leave.

Angeliño (PSV Eindhoven)

Who should sign him? Arsenal or Atlético Madrid

It was ambitious but Angeliño would have known after joining Manchester City from Deportivo de La Coruña’s youth set-up that breaking into their first team and regularly holding down a place would be akin to climbing Mount Everest. Before permanently joining PSV last summer he enjoyed loan spells at New York City FC, Girona FC, RCD Mallorca and NAC Breda where at the latter he truly came into his own.

Since becoming PSV’s first choice left-back his stock has only continued to rise, and recently Angeliño was named the 2018/19 Eredivisie talent of the season. An adventurous full-back he’s created no fewer than nine Eredivisie goals and scored once himself.

Given their difficulties in that position City, who inserted a buy-back clause into his PSV deal, might already be rethinking about his long-term future at the Etihad. Time will tell if they decide to re-sign the Spaniard but for now he’s looking forward to another season in Eindhoven unless an offer PSV can’t refuse falls into their laps.

There are currently a number of clubs seeking a competent left-back, one is Atlético Madrid, who are set to lose Filipe Luís. The Rojiblancos are no strangers to dealing with PSV having signed Colombian right-back Santiago Arias last summer, but maybe Angeliño doesn’t see the next phase of his journey back home. There’s a reason why he initially moved to England. Arsenal, desperately seeking a LB, could itch that scratch.