At 24-years-old, Davy Klaassen is at a period of his career where he is starting to grow into the player he is meant to be while he also needs to look to test his ability at a higher level. He had a goalscoring debut against NEC Nijmegen in 2011 and not even long-term injuries have kept him from continuing at Ajax in the same vein. The Ajax captain is having a phenomenal season and proving why he won the Dutch Player of the Year, last year.

Davy Klaassen was born in Hilversum, a municipality near Amsterdam and joined Ajax at the age of 11, overcoming injury and doubts about his ability to become the team’s captain. His brother is a Feyenoord fan but Klaassen is a player that breathes Ajax, catching the attention of FOX Sports cameras with his rousing, fist-clenching celebrations at the end of matches where Ajax are victorious. Klaassen is currently honing his ability as an influential goal-scoring midfielder as he has been a pivotal part of Ajax’ phenomenal run to the Europa League final.

In a UEFA Champions League Qualifying match away to Greek side, PAOK Thessaloniki with the home side leading 1-0, Klaassen bagged two late goals to ensure Ajax made it to the next phase. The Dutch International’s ability to be effective in the final third in order to dig his team out of tough spots is one of his greatest assets as a player. He is one of three players that made it to the final of the 2011/12 Nextgen Series to play for the first team including Joel Veltman and Mitchell Dijks (currently on loan at Norwich) while he is on a team with four players who played in the UEFA Youth League last season. He is a player who enjoys leading by example as he looks to enhance his all-around play under Peter Bosz.

He has become much better at pinging balls out of the back to start counter attacks while he also regularly hits brilliant switch balls to switch the point of attack. Something that has been a part of his game, is his ability to drop deeper and play innate little flicks to teammates to set up passing sequences for attacks in games. He is a player who has also grown into his body since making his Eredivisie debut against NEC Nijmegen in late 2011 and spent the next season out with a long-term injury as he is more assured in 50/50s and making tackles. He has also played in many positions, as a defensive midfielder in a double-pivot with Thulani Serero, as a box-to-box midfielder, attacking midfielder and as a false nine.

He may not have the natural creativity of other attacking midfielders like Christian Eriksen and Hakim Ziyech but his ability to come alive in the final third, be it with an elegant chip or subtle flick to a teammate or one of his trademarked measured finishes is what sets him apart from some of his peers. Ajax struggled when he was shoehorned into a role of the creative outlet under Frank De Boer while he also lacked the true instincts of when to play in a teammate and when to shoot to be effective as a false nine but has grown in one of Bosz’s free eight roles. He is dropping next to Lasse Schone to shield the defense and get involved in build-up play more and acts as a pivotal link-man in approach play.

Only Kasper Dolberg has scored more goals than him while only Hakim Ziyech has more assists than him as he has already matched his career-high 13 goals from last season while he is one assist away from hitting double figures in goals and assists for the first time in his career. He exhibited a sense of initiative in the final third against ADO Den Haag when he initiated a one-two with Schone to then apply the finish to earn the side the opener in a 2-0 victory. Against Heerenveen, he took on a Donny Van de Beek pass to dribble the keeper and finish to give his side an important 1-0 win, late in the game.

He opened the scoring again when he volleyed a strike past Jeroen Zoet against PSV Eindhoven at the Phillips Stadion in a 1-1 draw. In a Europa League away match against FC Kobenhavn, he played a chip for Dolberg to flick in against a team that had been on a run of not conceding at home. In the previous round, he was denied a goal away to Legia Warsaw as he latched onto a Ziyech cross to have a goal that was adjudged to have not gone over the line. A player who is so gifted in the art of the one-touch pass is frequently involved in moves on the edge of the box.

Against NEC Nijmegen, he cut back for Amin Younes to score and laid on two passes for Bertrand Traore to score a brace as the Dutchman managed a hat-trick of assists. One will also be more familiar with his matchwinning brace in the first leg of the Europa League Quarter-Finals against Schalke as his ability to perform in the bigger games is a facet of his game that teams will find interesting. In a match against PSV at the Amsterdam ArenA, he scored 1 goal from 2 shots, created 3 chances with an 87% pass succession rate (79% in the final third) and 5 tackles. In another match against Vitesse, he finished with an 80% pass succession rate (75% in the final third), 1 goal from 3 shots, 1 block and 8 ball recoveries.

“This is the best season of my career,” says Davy Klaassen to Voetbal International earlier this year. “I think that is the main line in which I now know my level. Other seasons I could show myself in a positive way, only those periods were shorter. Physically, it’s just going to be top this year. Last season I suffered from some little pains, my groin or my knee. Now I have not suffered for a long time, I’ve been top fit for months now. That’s a nice feeling. ”

“It’s so annoying, sometimes you’re really crazy about it. He has a certain instinct that he always knows where the spaces are and where the ball is going to fall. A falling ball, pass, then he has a foot in between. That’s really a quality, just take a look at how many second balls he’s picking up in a match, allowing us to play football again, ” said teammate, Joel Veltman to Voetbal International. “Davy is so versatile, he can do everything. That’s what he can show at another club, I’m convinced. His perseverance is always at 150 percent, so that’s a good base if he ever had a new adventure elsewhere. ”

Klaassen has scored 18 goals and accrued 10 assists in all competitions for Ajax this season. He completes an average of 41 passes per game at a success rate of 80% with 2 key passes and 1 long ball per game according to WhoScored. He has completed an estimate of 1002 passes with 69% billed as forward passes as he has created 66 chances this season while he created 72 chances in all competitions last season according to Squawka. He will need to be more involved defensively at a higher level as he completes 1 tackle, 1 interception and 1 clearance per game. If Klaassen continues involving himself at an earlier phase of play, he could truly grow into a top midfielder in one of Europe’s bigger leagues.

Kobenhavn coach Stale Solbakken once said that Klaassen was involved in every one of Ajax’ attacking plays when Ajax played his side in Denmark. Johan Cruyff has also lauded Klaassen’s ability of timing and movement in the past as he has cultivated one of his best seasons at Ajax. Earlier in his career, he worked with Dennis Bergkamp on the technical side of his game and he has tried to improve his overall output in every season he has played with Ajax. At 24-years-old, with Ajax having many young midfielders eyeing his position, it could be time for the Dutchman to challenge himself in a bigger league as he won the Dutch Footballer of the Year last season and looks a shoe-in to win it again.

Chaka Simbeye (69 Posts)