Donny van de Beek has yet to feature in a competitive international but the midfielder’s form for Ajax has ignited calls for him to start for Netherlands against England.

  • By Michael Bell
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What a season it has been for Ajax. Eredivisie and KNVB Cup wins have ended their long wait for a trophy, while they captured the hearts and imaginations of many fans with their run to the Champions League semi-finals, which sadly ended in last second agony against Tottenham.

Four members of that squad are now preparing for Netherlands UEFA Nations League semi-final with England on Thursday, with three Ajax stars certain to start The odd one out at the moment is Donny van de Beek, whose national team career is yet to get going.

Van de Beek’s development since the turn of the year has been rapid. The 22-year-old was in and out of Erik ten Hag’s side at the start of the campaign and even spoke of his desire to possibly leave in January. However, by the end of the season he was one of the first names on the team-sheet and played a crucial role in Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-final with goals in the quarter-final against Juventus and semi-final first-leg at Tottenham.

His form has even led to speculation that clubs such as Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan are ready to splash around €50 million to prise him away from Amsterdam.

Yet, van de Beek has only made five international appearances for Netherlands and all of those have come in friendly matches. The midfielder has been the victim of the growing options that Ronald Koeman currently has at his disposal but against England the calls are growing to finally give ‘Maradonny’ his chance in Oranje.

Koeman singled out Van de Beek for praise during his press conference last week but is he willing to break up his usual midfield trio of Frenkie de Jong, Marten de Roon and Georginio Wijnaldum?

De Jong is certain to start the game against England but there are doubts over the fitness of Wijnaldum after his exploits in the Champions League final. Speaking in a Q&A earlier this week, Koeman confirmed that the Liverpool star would start against England if he can prove his fitness. Wijnaldum has been bullish and told AD that he is fit and even revealed that he did not touch any alcohol during the Liverpool celebrations because of his focus on Thursday evening’s clash.

That means that Koeman has a choice to make about de Roon. The tough tackling midfielder has had an outstanding season in Italy with Atalanta, who will play in the Champions League next season after finishing third, and offers more protection to the Oranje defence.

Does Koeman dare to drop De Roon for the more attack-minded van de Beek in such a crucial match? Then there is Brighton’s Davy Propper, who has also been a regular for Netherlands when not injured.

The big positive for van de Beek is his versatility, which allows him to play in either a number six role or further forward behind the attack. Should Koeman select him ahead of De Roon, he also has the option of switching van de Beek and Wijnaldum’s roles throughout the game.

Koeman has a big and crucial decision to make ahead of Thursday night but it’s clear that fans want to see van de Beek given a chance in Oranje sooner rather than later. We at Football-Oranje put out a poll on Twitter asking who you want to see starting alongside De Jong and Wijnaldum in the Netherlands midfield and van de Beek was the clear winner.

The man himself recently told Fox Sports that he is determined to become a key part of Netherlands squad, “I will have to keep knocking on the door. We have several good players, so the competition is high, but that is part of it.”

Van de Beek’s form means he will surely make his competitive Netherlands debut in either the game against England or the match to follow on Sunday against Portugal or Switzerland. The big question is just how big a role will the Ajax star get?

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