The €400 million project: How Ajax are set to make a fortune on De Ligt, De Jong and more

De Ligt De Jong split
The Eredivisie side will rake in big profits if they sell the rising stars, who look destined to go on to bigger and better things in the near future

  1. Frenkie de Jong

    Frenkie de Jong

    Frenkie de Jong is not happy with his reputation as the new Johan Cruyff, but the 21-year-old midfielder will just have to get used to it as he continues to excel for Ajax and Netherlands.

    It seems inevitable that he will become Ajax’s biggest ever sale as Manchester City are prepared to pay €70 million (£62m/$80m) plus €20m (£18m/$23m) in bonuses in order to beat Barcelona to his services.

    De Jong had been touted as a Franz Beckenbauer-esque revolutionary defender when he broke into the starting XI last year but he has now become a key component of the Ajax midfield.

    He is also quickly blossoming into one of the leading figures in Netherlands’ revitalisation under Ronald Koeman, since his debut in September.

    De Jong even showed up N’Golo Kante when he hunted him down to dispossess the Chelsea midfielder in Oranje’s 2-0 win over France, only offering further encouragement to those who expect the Dutchman to become one of the best players in the world.

  2. Matthijs de Ligt

    Matthijs de Ligt

    Just a year after Virgil van Dijk became football's most expensive defender, there is already talk of him being usurped by a young compatriot.

    Matthijs de Ligt may be just 19 years old but he does not look nor play like it. He is a beast, a boss and will only get better.

    A mainstay in the Ajax back line and the team's captain, their only defeat this season – 3-0 to PSV – came in the one game that De Ligt has missed.

    He was thrown into the deep end with the national team and endured a disastrous debut against Bulgaria in March 2017, but he emerged seemingly unscathed and has cemented his place in Ronald Koeman's starting XI.

    Indeed, he now looks so solid alongside Van Dijk that Koeman and Wesley Sneijder have tipped him to break the latter's record as Oranje's most-capped player.

    Barcelona and Manchester City look set to battle it out to sign him in the near future, but a few more of Europe's top sides will be sniffing around too.

    Aware that they will not be able to hold on to him for too long, Ajax will listen to offers at the end of the season and will be demanding a massive fee for the potentially world-class defender.

    Even if he does not smash Van Dijk's £75 million ($96m) record right away, he won't be far off it.

  3. Hakim Ziyech

    Hakim Ziyech

    That the 25-year-old Hakim Ziyech is still playing in the Eredivisie is as much of a mystery as it is a blessing for the Dutch top flight.

    It has been six years since he made his first appearance in the league and he soon grew into a star for Heerenveen before joining Twente and becoming a talismanic figure.

    As Europe’s bigger sides hesitated, Ajax capitalised in August 2016 just before the transfer window closed and Ziyech immediately injected a creative spark they had been missing since Christian Eriksen’s 2013 departure.

    Although the attacking midfielder takes too many long-range shots, he can pull off imaginative passes from almost anywhere on the pitch and has formed a super partnership with Dusan Tadic this season – both have scored seven and set up four in the league. 

    Ziyech has 10 goals from 22 appearances for Morocco, too, and is guaranteed a key role at the Africa Cup of Nations.

    If he maintains this form for Ajax and Morocco for the rest of the season, then big clubs in the Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga will surely be interested.

    He is tied to Ajax until 2021, however, so the club are in a good position to demand upwards of €40 million for a player they will struggle to replace.

  4. Nicolas Tagliafico

    Nicolas Tagliafico

    With three goals and seven assists in all competitions so far, Nicolas Tagliafico has been a sensation at Ajax since his €4.5 million (£4m/$5m) arrival from Independiente in January.

    He had already made 103 appearances for the Argentine side after impressing at Banfield, and in the second tier in Spain with Real Murcia.

    Now, he has been trusted with the captain's armband by Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni three times over the last three months. 

    Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Arsenal have been linked already, but more clubs are scouting him and at 26 he may see Ajax as a quick stop on his journey to bigger and better things.

    Given his talent, Ajax would be in a good position to demand upwards of €25m.

  5. David Neres

    David Neres

    Ajax will have to get used to batting away offers for David Neres if they are to get the most out of their investment in the Brazilian winger.

    The 21-year-old revealed that Borussia Dortmund and Roma tried to sign him in the summer, but he opted to continue his development in Amsterdam and, in September, extended his contract to 2022.

    Rangy, skilful and a good dribbler, Neres is a tricky one for full-backs to contain. He is excellent at creating space for himself with a neat touch or flick before putting a dangerous cross into the box.

    The Under-20 international needs to find some consistency, but his bursts of brilliance and the 18 goals and 16 assists in 52 Eredivisie games show Ajax have a gem on their hands.

  6. Kasper Dolberg

    Kasper Dolberg

    Injuries have disrupted Kasper Dolberg's progress in 2018, but he quickly found his form again upon his return to action.

    The 21-year-old Denmark international has scored five times in eight league games this term and added another year to his contract in October, taking it to 2022.

    He is in his third season of first-team football and has sharpened his fine finishing skills to net 38 goals for the Amsterdam side, sparking rumours of interest from Napoli and Barcelona.

    Dolberg is not planning an early departure at this stage, but he is on the right track to reach a high level in the next few years. Indeed, if he stays on this path, his value could rise beyond €35m (£31m/$39m) by the time Ajax start listening to offers.

  7. Donny van de Beek

    Donny van de Beek

    Donny van de Beek has been on a steady rise to Ajax stardom since his days in the academy, where he thrived alongside Abdelhak Nouri in midfield as they progressed through the age groups.

    The 21-year-old's subtle but invasive runs into the box see him pose a threat on goal, while he also combines well with team-mates to create chances.

    Manchester United, Tottenham, Roma and AC Milan have all been linked with the midfielder who has made 106 appearances in all competitions since making his senior debut three years ago.

    On track to make this his most prolific campaign so far with six goals in all competitions, that interest will only grow as he continues to improve.

  8. Andre Onana

    Andre Onana

    Signed from Barcelona in 2015, Cameroon international Andre Onana has been a sturdy shot-stopper for the Dutch giants.

    The 22-year-old has already made over 100 appearances for Ajax and although he has made the occasional error, he has been a reliable presence in goal since replacing Jasper Cillessen.

    Ajax’s failure to challenge PSV for the league title and their collapse in the continental qualifiers last season prompted him to consider his future and hit out at the club’s head honchos Edwin van der Sar and Marc Overmars.

    He decided to remain in Amsterdam for the time being but having established himself as one of the league’s best goalkeepers, he will likely attract a few offers before his contract runs out in 2021.    

  9. Noussair Mazraoui

    Noussair Mazraoui

    After joining Ajax at the age of eight, Noussair Mazraoui rose through the youth system as a midfielder, but his breakthrough has come at right-back and he has excelled in the role to cement his place in Erik ten Hag's first team.

    The 21-year-old has looked excellent as he dashes down the right flank and has already scored two in the Champions League this season.

    His decision to represent Morocco over Netherlands at international level proved controversial among Dutch fans, but that they were so disappointed to miss out on him shows he is already highly rated. 

    Still only in his first full season with the senior squad, Ajax will be keen to hold on to the versatile youngster, who has two-and-a-half years to run on his contract.

  10. Max Wober

    Max Wober

    The 20-year-old Max Wober has had limited playing time this season following Daley Blind's return to Ajax, but he has looked bright since joining from Rapid Vienna last year.

    After announcing himself with a scrappy goal on his full Eredivisie debut against Heerenveen, he became an important presence at centre-back before a knee injury disrupted his season.

    The Austria international has found his backup role frustrating and has good reason to expect more after an impressive display against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

    With his contract running until 2021, though, he has time to establish himself in defence for club and country before earning a move to a bigger league in Europe.