thumbnail Hello,

They may have headed back home without the main silverware, but the Godenzonen kids lit up the Memorial Gaetano Scirea tournament in Italy last week

SPECIAL
By Kris Voakes in Cinisello Balsamo

Babel, De Jong, De Ridder, Emanuelson, Heitinga, Schilder, Sneijder, Sno, Van der Vaart, Vermeer ... the official programme for the Memorial Gaetano Scirea boasted of a huge contingent of former Ajax youngsters who have featured at previous versions of the Under-14 tournament and gone on to grace the top end of the professional game. And over the course of 10 days the Godenzonen provided some of the stand-out players in this year's 22nd edition of the competition just north of Milan.

With some typically 'Total Football' abilities on show, Ajax were the star attraction of the 18 sides invited to the tournament, and while they fell just short of the big silverware - finishing fourth in the end - many of their 18-man contingent left a great impression on the northern Italian public.

Below we run through the Eredivisie champions' three most prominent youngsters in their run to the final four.

GINO DEKKER
Date of Birth
22/03/1997 (age 14)
Position Left Winger/Midfielder
He's a bit like
Robert Pires

When playing in the centre of midfield, as he did in the disappointing final two games against Juventus and Roma, his threat was slightly nullified, but when coming off either wing, Dekker was simply the best player in the tournament. With the bold, chest-out running style of Robert Pires, his ability to cross from absolutely any position could easily have led to many more Ajax goals than it did. With great vision, a selfless approach, and a decent right foot to go with a phenomenal left, he more than makes up for an occasional lack of pace. Add a constant desire to receive the ball and that stand-up cross from the byline which few professionals can master more than 50 per cent of the time, and the Godenzonen have a real talent on their hands.

ABDELHAK NOURI
Date of Birth
02/04/1997 (age 14)
Position Attacking Midfield
He's a bit like
Ronaldinho

While Dekker certainly has very noteworthy skill sets, Nouri is simply a coach's dream. His ability to go either way past his man, on either foot, using his low centre of gravity to his advantage, allowed Ajax to get into countless great positions over their five matches. With magical footballing attributes in his feet, Nouri has the kind of talent that many an observer will want to see in their team in the future, but could yet fall under the category of players discarded at any earlier age for being too small. His lack of stature could well eventually prove an issue, although, still only 14, he could yet be due for an extra growth spurt.

DONNY VAN DE BEEK
Date of Birth
18/04/1997 (age 14)
Position Centre Midfield
He's a bit like
Gokhan Inler

Few 14-year-olds are able to show the calm and controlled demeanour on a football field that Van de Beek displayed in the Godenzonen's five fixtures in Italy. With height and physical presence on his side, the central midfielder uses his imposing build when bursting forward on the ball or when seeing off an advancing opponent, but also has an innate ability to spot almost any pass from the base of the midfield. While not always a starter during the Scirea tournament, it was invariably during his spells on the pitch that Ajax excelled, and though they fell short at the finish line, Van de Beek was a player who very definitely wouldn't have looked out of place in the winning Inter side.

Follow Kris Voakes on

Related

From the web