Brian Brobbey: Ajax's teenage goal machine aiming to shake off 'new Lukaku' tag

Brian Brobbey NxGnGetty/Goal

For Ajax's academy stars, it has become something of an unwritten rule among the forwards that finding the net on your first-team debut is compulsory.

Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Patrick Kluivert all completed the feat, while current teenage talents Sontje Hansen and Naci Unuvar also marked their maiden appearances with goals.

Now, another prodigy has added his name to the list, and it is hoped that Brian Brobbey's strike against Fortuna Sittard in October will prove to be the first of many in a career that those who have monitored his development expect to be spectacular.

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"At Ajax, there is always pressure, so I'm used to it," he tells Goal in an exclusive interview. "Fortunately, I am a guy who can handle it well.

“It was nice to score in my first game. Beforehand, I was quite nervous, so it makes me feel freer in my head now. Hopefully, I will get more chances soon."

The 18-year-old has long been marked out as a potential first-team star, with his physical gifts and eye for goal drawing comparisons to Romelu Lukaku, given he has dominated defenders with his speed and strength since entering the Ajax academy around the age of six.

However, even though the teenager admires the Inter and Belgium star, he prefers to describe himself as "the new Brian Brobbey".

"I don't think I benefitted much from that [excess strength], because I always played against much older opponents," explains the Amsterdam native, who has scored over 80 club goals since debuting for the Under-17s in March 2017.

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The youngest of four brothers who now all play professionally, Brobbey made his debut for Jong Ajax in the second tier of Dutch football at the age of 16, though he initially struggled with the transition to the men's game.

"I had cramps every game for a year," he admits, with head coach Erik ten Hag having noted at the beginning of the current season that Brobbey would only become eligible for playing time with the first team if he could regularly complete 90 minutes.

Thanks to extra fitness training, Brobbey – who scored three goals to help the Netherlands win the 2019 U17 European Championship – now has sufficient stamina to compete for a place among his more senior colleagues

As always, though, there are also a sprinkling of young talents already making a name for themselves at the highest level.

Brobbey's close friend Ryan Gravenberch has been part of the first-team picture for over a year  while 19-year-old Lassina Traore has become the club's first-choice striker, after a run of form that was headlined by his five goals in October's record-breaking 13-0 win over VVV Venlo.

Brobbey believes he has the capabilities to battle Traore for a starting berth in the coming months, having needed just eight minutes to find the net after emerging from the bench for his debut earlier in the campaign.

"Lassina is doing very well as the striker, but I know that there will be opportunities for me if I keep developing myself," he says.

"I am good with my back to goal, I can keep the ball and I am dangerous in the box. I can also create opportunities for myself or others."

For now, Brobbey is hopeful he can contribute to title wins for both Jong Ajax – for whom he is the top scorer this season with eight goals – and the first team, though in the long term he has his eyes on eventually making his mark outside of Netherlands.

"I would prefer to go to Germany [next], because I think the Bundesliga suits my game best," he says.

"Just like at Ajax, young talents really get the chance there. In England, you can see that another new player is just bought if things go against them, rather than waiting [for them to adapt].”

Still, despite reports linking him with Real Madrid, Brobbey is keen to make his mark at his boyhood club before considering any exit. However, to do that, he needs to sign a new contract, with his current deal set to expire in the summer of 2021.

Brian Brobbey NxGn GFXGetty/Goal

"I don't know exactly when there will be white smoke on my contract, but it is going in the right direction," he says. "I leave all that to my agent."

Brobbey just wants to focus on his football for the time being.

"The coaches say that I am doing well and I notice myself that things are getting better and better," he concludes. "I want people to remember me later as a top striker and a trophy winner, so I'm not there yet."

If history is anything to go by, when it comes to Ajax players scoring on their first appearance, chances are he will reach those levels.