The Eredivisie has always been a hotbed for talent and Michael Bell has picked seven talents aged 18 or under that have been making a name for themselves in the Netherlands this season.
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It’s hard to believe when watching De Ligt in action, but the centre-back only turned 17 in December. De Ligt started the season in Ajax’s U19 side but he has quickly risen through the ranks and has already made six appearances in the Eredivisie. Last week, with Davinson Sanchez suspended, De Ligt was chosen over the experienced Heiko Westermann to start the Europa League quarter-final with Copenhagen and looked the more than ready to perform at the biggest stage.
De Ligt is strong in the air, powerful on the ball and has great footballing skills. His future is in the centre of defence, but De Ligt also has the capabilities of playing at full-back and could even move into midfield if needed. You would be hard-pressed to find any defender more talented at this age group than De Ligt.
An absolute revelation, Justin Kluivert, son of Dutch football legend Patrick, was only expected to make the step up into the Ajax reserve side this season, However, the 17-year-old played so well in the Eerste Divisie that he was given the chance in the first team against FC Twente in January and he hasn’t looked back since. Kluivert is now a regular for Peter Bosz’s side and has made nine appearances, including one in the Europa League.
Kluivert is a speedy winger full of tricks and confidence and should be a permanent member of the Ajax first team next season when Bertrand Traore returns to Chelsea. Patrick Kluivert is a legend in the Amsterdam Arena and his son is on his way to joining him.
NEC Nijmegen have had an indifferent campaign but one of the bright lights of their season has been the emergence of 17-year-old midfielder Ferdi Kadioglu. The playmaker made his debut four weeks into the season and announced himself to the Eredivisie at the end of October with a stunning strike against Utrecht. Kadioglu has gone on to make 19 appearances, scoring twice and adding three assists for Peter Hyballa’s side.
The Netherlands U18 international, who could also represent Turkey, has excellent vision and ability for his age and potential suitors have already been lining up at Stadion de Goffert to run the rule over the Nijmegen wonderkid.
Utrecht are currently in pole position for fourth spot in the Eredivisie and one of their most impressive performers this season has been right-back Giovanni Troupee. The 18-year-old has only missed two games all season and has chipped in with four goals and four assists.
The long-haired defender is a bull on the right wing for Utrecht, with great strength, dribbling skills and a powerful right-foot that has netted some spectacular goals already this season. Troupee is a superstar in the making and is already being linked with a move to the traditional Dutch top three this summer.
One youngster who is quietly impressing in the Eredivisie this season is Heracles centre-back Justin Hoogma, who is turning heads in Almelo after some distinguished performances. The 18-year-old made his first team debut last season but has played every minute of this Eredivisie campaign for John Stegeman.
Hoogma is well developed for his age and has proved this season that he is comfortable on the ball, has a good reading of the game and is strong in the air. Hoogma makes on average 4.8 clearances a game, 1.5 interceptions and has an average pass completion of 86.3%.
Over the past few years, Vitesse have been relying on the loaning of youngsters from English Premier League giants Chelsea, but the clubs academy is now starting to churn out a number of talents of its own. Head of the queue for a place in Henk Fraser’s side is 17-year-old winger Mitchell van Bergen who has been making a big impression in Arnhem.
The hugely talented attacker started the season opener against Willem II and provided an assist in a 4-1 victory. Since then, van Bergen has made 17 more first team appearances, adding another three assists. Van Bergen has blistering pace, a low centre of gravity and outstanding dribbling skills.
Van Bergen is a star in the making. This is his breakthrough campaign and big things are expected of the Netherlands U19 international next season.
Van Drongelen became a regular in the Sparta line-up before his 17th birthday and helped the club gain promotion back to the Eredivisie last season. He has been a key member of the club’s line-up this year and despite Sparta languishing near the bottom and van Drongelen having his struggles at times its key to remember that he only just turned 18.
Like Hoogma and De Ligt, van Drongelen is very strong and well built for his age and is also more than comfortable with the ball at his feet. He already has two seasons in professional football under his belt and there is not a shortage of clubs that would be willing to take him on if Sparta are relegated back to the Eerste Divisie.
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