Ajax Amsterdam’s world famous youth academy, or perhaps better known in Holland as ‘De Toekomst’ Academy, which translates as ‘the future academy’, has very few competitors when it comes to producing world class footballers. Located outside the Amsterdam Arena, the youth academy has a state of the art training facility and 7 full sized pitches. With a massive budget of 4.5 million euros, the Ajax youth academy has an impressive 240 youth players which are divided into 7 different teams ranging from the seven year old age group, up to the under 19’s. Even more impressive is the fact that Ajax have 7 youth teams playing in a number of national leagues in Holland.
Most of the players in the academy are recruited via the Ajax scouting network, where scouts often travel around Holland, South America and Africa, looking for the best young talent available. The only other way to join the Ajax Amsterdam youth academy, apart from being scouted, is through the annually hosted 3-day ‘talent week’. During these 3 days, over 1,000 children and teenagers attend this event, putting their footballing abilities to the test through a number of drills and tests. Edgar Davids (retired), and Rafael Van Der Vaart (currently at Real Madrid), are among the few who made their mark at this event, and eventually graduated to the first team.
What is even more interesting is the fact that every youth team within the academy are trained in exactly the same way (execpt for physical / fitness training) as the Ajax first team, hence making the players accustomed to the core playing style, and making it easier to adapt when they make it to the first team. The same 4-3-3 formation and ‘total football’ style of play have been central to the club’s success over the last 20-30 years, where creativity, technique and speed are an absolute necessity. This philosophy has been used to develop the current T.I.P.S model, which stands for technique, insight, personality, and speed, with each one of these attributes are considered vital for the development of a trainee. Perhaps this is why a graduate from the Ajax Amsterdam youth academy are rated as among the best when it comes to technique, balls skills and creativity.
Other competing youth academies such as the FC Barcelona’s ‘cantera’, have recently caught up with the standards of the Ajax youth academy, but still have some catching up to do when it comes to comparing the number of world class players that have been produced. To prove this, we have compiled a short list of some of the top players who have come through the ranks of the famous Ajax Amsterdam youth academy:
- Johan Cruyff (retired)
- Marco Van Basten (retired)
- Johan Neeskens (retired)
- Frank Rijkaard (retired)
- Edgar Davids (retired)
- Dennis Bergkamp (retired)
- Ronald De Boer (retired)
- Patrick Kluivert (retired)
- Marc Overmars (retired)
- Clarence Seedorf (currently at AC Milan)
- Edwin Van Der Saar (currently at Manchester United)
- Wesley Sneijder (currently at Inter Milan)
- Rafael Van Der Vaart (currently at Real Madrid)
- Klaas Jan Huntelaar (currently at AC Milan)
- Ryan Babel (currently at Liverpool)
- Nigel De Jong (currently at Manchester City)
- Maarten Stekelenburg (currently at Ajax Amsterdam)
- Thomas Vermaelen (currently at Arsenal)
- Steven Pienaar (currently at Everton)
- Danny Blind (retired)
That has got to be one of the most impressive list of players, even more so considering that every player had come through the same youth academy and is now playing for a major European club (including Ajax). Please let us know if we missed out on any notable player in the list via the comments section. It is also worth noting that Ajax have currently got a scouting network in South Africa through its Ajax Cape Town Club, where players such as Steven Pienaar and Aaron Mokoena made their way to Amsterdam, hence further expanding their reach outside Europe. Finally, to close this article, we have the video from youtube below showing the 1995 UEFA Champions League Final which was won by Ajax Amsterdam, with a team that included no less than nine homegrown youth academy graduates. Enjoy!