Edwin van der Sar has told Tuttosport that Ryan Gravenberch has shown some similarities to Paul Pogba with his displays for Ajax that have Liverpool and Tottenham eying transfers.
Gravenberch is one of the latest wonderkids from the Dutch side’s prolific production line. He is also among Tuttosport’s 40 candidates for the 2021 Golden Boy award, with Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham.
Erik ten Hag handed Gravenberch his breakthrough in 2018 as a 16-year-old, and has now amassed 72 first-team appearances. The 19-year-old has scored 10 goals and offered eight assists, as well, including a first Champions League assist last month.
Liverpool were among a clutch of sides keen on signing Gravenberch from Ajax during the summer transfer window. Soccer News reported the Reds weighed up a €30m (£25.5m) approach for the teen, against interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and Barcelona.
Juventus soon joined the race with club chiefs in Turin closely monitoring his progress, per Calciomercato. But the Bianconeri’s former executive, Fabio Paratici, wants Gravenberch at Tottenham, as well. With Calciomercato also noting he began to prepare a bid last month.
Manchester United icon Van der Sar, who has been Ajax’s CEO since 2016, has now offered his praise for Gravenberch, likening the Tottenham and Liverpool transfer target to a current Old Trafford star in Pogba, with their respective styles in the engine room.
“Gravenberch is a midfielder: he is strong, physical, technical and tall,” Van der Sar said. “Let’s say that there is some similarity [with Pogba], but we don’t put too much pressure on Ryan. He’s a boy from 2002.”
Should Liverpool or Tottenham sign Ajax ace Gravenberch?
Van der Sar is not the first to liken Ajax talent and Liverpool and Tottenham transfer target Gravenberch to Pogba. His former youth coach Brian Tevreden told Goal in March the nine-cap Netherlands international is better than the Frenchman was at a similar age.
“Physically, I see Frank [Rijkaard] in him from back in the day, because he’s tall and very strong,” Tevreden said. “But technically, I would say he’s a better version of Pogba in his best days at Juventus. In terms of his technique and his presence on the pitch.”
Gravenberch’s technique also saw the Ajax star become the third-youngest Dutch player to score in the Champions League last November. He opened his UEFA account in his fourth appearance in the competition, and scored in the Eredivisie against Feyenoord and the opening effort to beat Vitesse Arnhem 2-1 in the KNVB Beker final in April.