Justin Kluivert impressing at Ajax as he looks to emulate famous father Patrick

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The 18-year-old has recovered from a poor start to the season to make a case to become his side's first-choice winger under Marcel Keizer

In a time when a future Ballon d’Or winner seems to be discovered on an almost weekly basis, there has arguably never been so much pressure on promising young players than there is now. For a product of the esteemed Ajax academy who happens to be the son of one of the best strikers that ever lived, that goes double for Justin Kluivert.

In following the example of legendary Ajax and Barcelona striker Patrick, Justin’s journey through the Dutch side’s youth system attracted a special kind of attention that often overlooked his exploits on the field.

The fact he's the offspring of a Champions League and Euro 2000 Golden Boot winner is often more recognised than his actual talent, the expectation set for him was huge and, as a result, he has had a necessity to prove himself as a promising youngster in his own right.

The winger has never doubted his ability, however, and even invites the pressure that comes with being associated with his dad. But in recent weeks he has made the case that he deserves to be taken seriously as an emerging talent carving out his own career.

He outlined his aim when he signed his first professional contract to “no longer [be] my father’s son, but have my own name”. And he has shown he is on his way recently by achieving something even Patrick couldn’t manage: a hat-trick in the Eredivisie.

GFX Info Justin Kluivert Ajax

It was a spectacular one, too.

The 18-year-old kickstarted Ajax’s comeback from a goal down against Roda JC when he combined with Hakim Ziyech to emerge from a tight spot and slot into the bottom corner on the stroke of half-time.

He topped that in the second half when he carried the ball from the middle of the field to send a rocket into the top corner – his biggest viral hit.

The star performance was capped off with five minutes left when he welcomed a high Frenkie de Jong pass seamlessly into his stride, beat his marker with two step-overs and cut in to send it rolling beyond the goalkeeper.

It was a delightful exhibition of speed, skill and fine finishing and the huge applause that met his substitution was well deserved. His dad was impressed too.

"This has to be the beginning of something beautiful, because he still has a lot to prove,” Patrick said. “But he played for the second time in the position where he seems to be the best, and he scored three good goals, which helped Ajax win. That was what he needed and he must continue like this.”

An assist in the 8-0 win over NAC Breda and a goal in the 3-3 draw with Twente sandwiched his treble, suggesting he is coming into form after a rough start to the season.

His decisive actions have come against three struggling sides, but it is also no surprise that he has looked much better since returning to his natural position.

Coach Marcel Keizer played him on the right wing initially, even though he has always felt more comfortable on the left, and his inability to make an impact allowed David Neres to displace him early in the campaign.

After being consigned to the bench for a while, the recent injury to Amin Younes has presented him with a chance on the left, and it comes at a good time for him.

"I was certainly not happy with my game either, it just wasn’t good, it's important to be productive and that wasn’t the case for me,” he said recently of his early struggles. “The coach then chose someone else and that worked out well.

Justin Kluivert Ajax

Justin Kluivert Ajax

"I’ve talked about my best position with the coach, but he likes to see me on the right because I have more depth and keep the field big, while on the left I have more of a tendency to move inside.

“I feel fitter, happier and better than a couple of months ago.”

Although still a bit lightweight, Kluivert is very direct, fast and skilful, he varies between staying wide and cutting inside, connects with those around him well and is a better finisher than his rival for the position.

When he is at his best, he is delightful to watch as he zig-zags between opponents with swagger and makes use of his control and skill. He likes to start his runs quite far back, targeting the space behind defenders and carving out a path to goal from the wing.

Even at his worst, you can hardly fault him for his effort as he is persistent and always lively, but he can be bossed about when marked well enough.

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Kluivert’s lack of defensive discipline is a big issue and is one reason Keizer has been unsure about him amid Ajax’s erratic results which leave them 10 points behind leaders PSV, who they face on Sunday.

He has plenty of time to add more to his game, however, and knows he must if he is to achieve his goals of becoming Ajax’s top scorer and the second of the family to win a European title and star for Barcelona.

His potential is still a bit of a mystery as he winds down the first year of his time in the senior squad, but with the advice of a man who has already been there before to call upon when he needs to as he looks to carve out his own path in the game.

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