The 2016/17 Eredivisie season saw a fresh batch of young players flourish for their clubs but which ones should you keep your eye on in the future?

  • By Michael Bell
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Kasper Dolberg

A year ago, Ajax seemed to have a striker issue with Arkaduisz Milik leaving for Napoli and no natural replacement coming in. Luckily, Kasper Dolberg was on hand to fill the void and establish himself as one of the most talented young forwards in world football. Dolberg netted on his debut against PAOK and didn’t look back from there, scoring 16 times in the Eredivisie and a further six in the Europa League. He netted in both legs of the semi-final against Lyon to book Ajax’s place in the final and has broken into the Danish national team. The 19-year-old has been compared to Dennis Bergkamp and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with some of Europe’s biggest clubs circling for his signature. However, Dolberg is remaining very calm about his future and has stated his preference to remain at Ajax next season.

Strengths: Calm in front of goal and an excellent finisher. His first touch and movement are also very strong along with his dribbling ability. An all round excellent striker.

Weaknesses: Not as strong in the air as he is with the ball at his feet.

The goal for next season: Despite Klaas-Jan Huntelaar joining, Dolberg will remain first choice striker and he must aim to become the Eredivisie top scorer and lead Ajax to the championship. Will look to test himself in the Champions League, should Ajax make it through the qualifier.

Justin Kluivert

The son of Ajax legend Patrick Kluivert started the season in the U19 squad but quickly rose into the reserves before making his first team debut after the turn of the year against PEC Zwolle. The 18-year-old immediately impressed and was a member of the first team squad for the rest of the season, contributing two goals and five assists in 20 appearances. Kluivert has a star quality about him and seems totally unfazed at being in the first team squad at such a young age. He will be a big part of Ajax’s squad next season and looks set to have a big career with several of Europe’s big clubs already circling.

Strengths: Explosive pace and excellent dribbling skills. His end product is also good.

Weaknesses: Small and lightweight, Kluivert could be bullied by stronger defenders, but he will bulk up in coming years

The goal for next season: With Bertrand Traore heading back to Chelsea, Kluivert will look to establish himself as a first choice winger under the new Ajax coach. If his development continues a Netherlands call-up isn’t out of the question next season.

Matthijs de Ligt

What an unbelievable campaign De Ligt has had, starting in the Ajax U19 squad before forcing his way into the first team and the Netherlands squad towards the end of the season. De Ligt’s ability and potential at 17 is huge and he has shown great maturity to bounce back from the errors made during his Netherlands debut against Bulgaria. A leader at the back, De Ligt was undroppable towards the end of the season for Peter Bosz and looks to have an excellent future ahead of him.

Strengths: Calm, mature defender that is strong in the air and with the ball at his feet. An excellent tackler and a threat in the opposition’s box. De Ligt has everything a world-class centre-back needs.

Weaknesses: De Ligt has been caught out a few times by balls over the top of the defence, which is the area of his game he really needs to work on.

The goal for next season: Another season as a starter in Ajax’s defence will help de Ligt’s development and he should look to challenge himself in Europe, whether that is in the Champions League or Europa League. Will look to stay in Netherlands squad, but may benefit from dropping into Jong Oranje squad.

Ferdi Kadioglu

NEC had a horrible campaign which ended with relegation, but in Ferdi Kadioglu the club have found a diamond in the rough. The hugely talented attacking midfielder announced himself to the Eredivisie with a wonder goal against Utrecht in week 11 which earned his side a 1-1 draw. Then, coach, Peter Hyballa tried to protect the 17-year-old by keeping him out of the starting eleven, but it was clear that when Kadioglu came off the bench he was something special, and he contributed four goals and three assists. After Hyballa was sacked, Kadioglu was used sparingly before the end of the season and couldn’t prevent his side from going down. However, Kadioglu won’t be at NEC next season with Utrecht and Ajax looking to sign him along with clubs from Turkey.

Strengths: Dribbling and vision. Also has a great strike from distance.

Weaknesses: Still a little lightweight

The goal for next season: Moving from NEC back to the Eredivisie is a must. Utrecht would be perfect in order to gain more first team action.

Calvin Stengs

Incredibly, Stengs only made two appearances for AZ during the regular season, but his impact in the European play-offs was so great that he has been earmarked as a future superstar. The 18-year-old right winger was a key player for Jong AZ who won the second division title, contributing nine goal and seven assists. With Alireza Jahanbakhsh suffering an injury, Stengs was given his chance in the first leg of the play-off with Groningen and made an instant impact with a goal. He was awarded a start in the second leg and contributed another goal and a man of the match performance. Two assists in the first leg against Utrecht in the play-off final cemented Stengs as a huge talent and AZ fans can’t wait to see more of the youngster next season.

Strengths: Dribbling and an excellent passer. Has shades of Arjen Robben when cutting in from the right, but prefers to pass instead of shoot on sight.

Weaknesses: No real weaknesses established yet.

The goal for next season: Will be AZ’s first choice winger if Alireza leaves, and Stengs will look to build on his excellent start in John van den Brom’s side.

Justin Hoogma

One talent has flown under the radar is Heracles centre-back Justin Hoogma, who played every minute of the Eredivisie campaign for the Almelo side despite only being 18. The youngster is a calm head on young shoulders, who looked unfazed throughout the season and put in some excellent performances. His ability hasn’t gone unnoticed by bigger clubs with German Bundesliga side Hoffenheim reportedly very keen on signing the defender.

Strengths: A calm and reliable centre-back with excellent ball skills.

Weaknesses: Can improve his aerial ability.

The goal for next season: It looks unlikely that Heracles will be able to keep hold of Hoogma, meaning he will be looking to establish himself in a new club next season. His reputation will undoubtedly rise around Europe and he will be looking to establish himself in Oranje’s U21 squad.

Juninho Bacuna

After breaking into the Groningen first team during the 2015/16 campaign, Bacuna was expected to be a star this season, but the midfielder was a frustrating watch at times. The 19-year-old is hugely talented and provided some moments of magic in a poor Groningen side, but was often let down by indiscipline and inconsistency. Bacuna was shown three red cards during the season, which was more than any other player, and this limited him to only 26 appearances, in which he netted once and contributed three assists.

Strengths: Dribbling and through balls

Weaknesses: Discipline and tackling.

The goal for next season: Establish himself as the main man in the Groningen midfield and contribute more goals and assists. Also needs to cut out the reckless tackling and red cards.

Mitchell van Bergen

Vitesse Arnhem have had to rely on loan deals with Chelsea over the past few years, but the club is starting to produce big talents of their own, with 17-year-old attacker Mitchell van Bergen the pick of the bunch. The explosive winger made his debut at the end of last season, and was a regular off the bench at the start of this campaign, impressing with some lively cameos and contributing three assists. He was used less and less by Henk Fraser towards the end of the season but his talent is clear and he will be a key player for the club in the future.

Strengths: Extremely quick and skilful winger, who can be deployed on either wing. Has quick feet and good dribbling ability.

Weaknesses: A little lightweight at the moment to deal with stronger defences.

The goal for next season: Establish himself in the Vitesse starting line-up. With a number of players leaving this summer and a Europa league campaign to come, van Bergen should be given plenty of chances to impress.

Giovanni Troupee

Utrecht had an excellent campaign with Erik ten Hag’s side easing to fourth place and reaching the Europa League through the play-offs. One standout performer was 19-year-old right-back Giovanni Troupee, who made 35 appearances, scoring four goals and adding four assists. The youngster’s bullish defending and strength going forward were a big asset for Utrecht all season and have alerted all of the big three in Netherlands. However, Utrecht have been quick to tie their young star down to a new deal to keep him at Stadion Galgenwaard next season.

Strengths: Pace and dribbling skills going forward, but also an excellent tackler at the back. Has all the attributes of a top-class full-back

Weaknesses: No significant weaknesses. Not a tall fullback, so can be beaten in aerial challenges.

The goal for next season: Impressing in the Eredivisie and Europa League for Utrecht which will inevitably lead to a move to a bigger club.

Rick van Drongelen

With Sparta Rotterdam returning to the Dutch top flight a lot of attention was on van Drongelen, who has been considered one of the Netherlands biggest talents since making his first team debut at 16. The defender, now 18, was a regular in the Sparta eleven, whether at left-back or in the centre of defence, missing only three matches in the league all season as the club finished 15th. The campaign wasn’t perfect for the youngster, but there was some standout performances which proved that he has a big future in the Eredivisie, especially the 1-0 wins over Feyenoord and Twente, which were crucial for Sparta in avoiding relegation.

Strengths: Pace, strength and positioning

Weaknesses: Needs to improve in the air and with his passing.

The goal for next season: Van Drongelen is likely to remain at Sparta this summer and will look to build on his first campaign in the top flight. A good start to the season could lead to a move to one of Netherlands big clubs.




Michael Bell (54 Posts)