Today then, we’re taking a look at the last seven young players of the year in the Eredivisie. The award is actually known as the Johan Cruyff Trophy within the Netherlands, and has previously been won by the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf and Arjen Robben.
Here are the last 7 Eredivisie Young Players of the Year: Where Are They Now?
7. Matthijs de Ligt – Ajax
This seasons recipient of the Johan Cruyff award, Matthijs de Ligt, has been almost an ever-present for Ajax, – playing in 31 of their 34 league games as they finished second to PSV. The young centre-back is just about the archetypal defensive product of Ajax’s youth system, boasting good technique and accurate passing from the back. He bagged his first goal for the club in February 2017, which put him one place ahead of Johan Cruyff in the list of Ajax’s youngest ever scorers. Naturally, de Ligt is still with Ajax, but Tottenham have supposedly marked him as a potential replacement for Toby Alderweireld.
6. Kasper Dolberg – Ajax
There is a grand history of Danish players in the Eredivisie, and Kasper Dolberg appears to be the latest in that long line. Signed by Ajax after just three appearances for his boyhood club of Silkeborg, Dolberg was already a Danish youth international earmarked for future greatness. His first season at Ajax was quite extraordinary, as the teenager scored 23 goals in 47 games in all competitions. Despite his large frame, Dolberg is quick and technical, and he can operate on the left flank as well as his more familiar role as a central striker. Now aged 20, the Danish international is still at Ajax, and he scored 9 goals in 30 games this season.
5. Vincent Janssen – Fenerbahce
Centre-forward Vincent Janssen is still technically contracted to Fenerbahce up until the end of June, when his loan move will come to an end, and the 23-year-old will return to Tottenham Hotspur. Janssen’s progression as a footballer has been a rapid and admirable one, and it has only regressed since his move to Tottenham in 2016. The 2015-16 season was the one in which Janssen won the Johan Cruyff Trophy, and it was also his only season in the Eredivisie. He scored 27 goals in the league and 31 in all competitions, being named as top scorer as well as the best young player. Since his £17 million move to Tottenham, Janseen has scored 2 goals in 25 Premier League games, managing a slightly better 4 in 15 whilst on-loan at Fenerbahce.
4. Memphis Depay – Lyon
No young player in Dutch football has attracted as much international attention and public adulation as Memphis Depay in recent years. An electric wide man with magic in his boots, he seemed to have it all at PSV. The world was at his feet, and he made a £25 million move to Manchester United. Over that summer, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo sold more replica shirts worldwide than Depay, an indication of the excitement and expectation surrounding him. Sadly however, Louis van Gaal never got the best out of him, and Jose Mourinho sold him just eight first team appearances into his managerial reign, in a move worth a maximum of £22 million dependent on add-ons. Since joining Lyon, Depay has been one of the best players in France, and he has 20 goals and 16 assists from 50 appearances for the club this season.
3. Davy Klaassen – Everton
Davy Klaassen’s summer 2017 transfer from Ajax to Everton has been an unmitigated disaster. A clever, hard working and composed central or attacking midfielder in the Netherlands, English football fans could be forgiven for not knowing Everton signed him in the summer. The 25-year-old who cost the Toffees close to £24 million made only a handful of appearances under compatriot Ronald Koeman, and his since been entirely overlooked by both David Unsworth and Sam Allardyce. He came close to joining Napoli on-loan in January, but the move ultimately fell through due to image rights. Perhaps Everton’s next manager will see something different in Klaassen, or maybe it’ll be a swift exit from Goodison Park for the three-time Eredivisie champion.
2. Marco van Ginkel – PSV
Marco van Ginkel, remember him? Well if you’re Dutch, of course you do – he’s just won his second Eredivisie in his third season on-loan at PSV, but English football fans could be forgiven for forgetting about the 25-year-old. Van Ginkel was one of the 17 million players that Chelsea had out on-loan last season, which is actually more than the population of Zimbabwe.
Joking aside, after a couple of years of stagnation, followed by a couple of nasty ligament injuries, Marco van Ginkel has just had the best season of his career. He bagged a combined total of 14 goals and 4 assists from 32 appearances this season, and he isn’t even an attacking midfielder – he’s a proper central midfielder.
From what I’ve seen of him, Chelsea’s decision to continually loan him out whilst spending £75 million on Danny Drinkwater and Bakayoko, is a bit like lending your mate your Bentley indefinitely and then forking out 250 grand on a tricycle. Van Ginkel is hard working, neat in possession and a good passer of the ball. He won the Johan Cruyff Trophy for the 2012-13 season, which was his last at Vitesse before being signed by Chelsea.
1. Adam Maher – FC Twente
Adam Maher’s career has been a weird and somewhat depressing journey, and the attacking midfielder is still only 24. He broke into an exciting AZ Alkmaar side as a teenager and looked to be the real deal. He played with class, elegance and intelligence, and early comparisons were drawn between himself and Cesc Fabregas. The national teams of Morocco and the Netherlands were fighting for his allegiance on the international stage, a battle the Dutch eventually won.
Fast forward six or seven years, and Maher won his fifth and final cap for the Netherlands five years ago – at the age of 19. After a 2013 transfer to PSV, he only showed glimpses of his undoubted qualities at the Philips Stadion. A tricky and technical customer who can be incredibly frustrating to watch, Maher joined Twente in January, who finished bottom of the Eredivisie, suffering relegation after 34 consecutive seasons in the Dutch top flight.