“You sell him short if you only judge him on goals and assists.”
AZ coach Arne Slot was right when he pointed out that there is more to Myron Boadu than the numbers suggest.
Expectations have been high since the young striker started banging goals in for AZ’s reserves at the age of 15, but big clubs had been watching him long before then.
Now 18 and still scoring for fun, he is thriving up front for the Alkmaar club.
Flanked by wingers Oussama Idrissi – a fantastic dribbler and direct threat from the left – and 20-year-old Calvin Stengs – another of Netherlands’ most talented young players – Boadu fits perfectly into the middle for Slot’s side. They form a rapid and unpredictable trio that few sides can shut out.
AZ attack in numbers, sending the full-backs forward to stretch the opposition defence while the balanced midfield provides plenty of support to create more options.
Boadu is always lingering around the centre-backs ready for the ball to be played into the space behind them so he can unleash his speed and attack the goal directly.
If they need a slow build-up, he will drop back to combine with his team-mates, but he always makes sure he is perfectly placed in the box to round off an attack when the time comes.
His pace and movement make him impossible for opponents to track, while his close control and sharp finishing make him deadly in front of goal.
"Myron can also apply very good and aggressive pressure, and he works really hard for the team," Slot added.
Alongside the wingers, Boadu has inspired AZ to some incredible results this season. He has 10 goals in 15 league games so far and has been crucial in guiding them into the Europa League knockout stages this season.
Boadu still had it all to do when he received a pass from Stengs and was faced with a line of defenders in the clash with Feyenoord in September.
He created space for himself and sent it wide to Idrissi, who gave it to the overlapping full-back Owen Wijndal. From there, it ended up across the face of goal and right in the middle of the six-yard box, where Boadu popped up unmarked to tap home the opening goal of a 3-0 away win.
Some of his best attributes were on display against PSV in October, meanwhile.
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A smart pass from Stengs found him charging down the left, where his excellent first touch put him on a path towards goal and set him up to slot into the bottom corner. Just a minute later, he was in the middle of the box ready to round off an excellent team move with a simple finish to double AZ’s lead – they went on to win 4-0 in Eindhoven.
It was the start of a run of 10 goals and three assists in 10 games in all competitions, including a fine debut goal for Netherlands against Estonia in Euro 2020 qualifying.
“He is so cool in front of goal and so dangerous from deep,” Netherlands Under-21 coach Erwin van de Looi said. “He has that ability to just score, that is really a talent.”
He will have to be careful to stamp out some bad habits, though, as amid the goals there have been a couple of red cards, the most recent of which will see him sit out Thursday's meeting with Manchester United at Old Trafford.
His occasional spells of inconsistency are to be expected when it comes to such a young player, while he admits he needs to work on his heading, but Boadu’s talent seems so natural that he could have been born to play football.
Growing up in Bijlmer – not far from Ajax’s stadium – his early years were spent playing as much football as he could on the street and even in the house with his brother Reginald. He ended up joining his brother’s team, FC Bijlmer, and around the age of 10 he realised football was his calling.
Ajax wanted to sign him when he was 12, but he chose AZ and blazed through their youth system in no time. Then, Arsenal tried to lure him away, but he knew the quickest way to regular playing time was in Alkmaar.
“I will never forget the moment I got on the plane [to London],” he said. “I thought: ‘This may be an important day in my life.' If we had said yes, it would have had far-reaching consequences for our family. It was attractive, but I also got a very good offer from AZ.
“I’m playing in the first team now. I don’t know if that would have been the case at Arsenal, where I would play with boys of my own age, which didn’t appeal to me.”
He continued to VI: “I never regretted rejecting those clubs... I knew how good I had it at AZ and Ajax had to convince me. They didn’t succeed. Other clubs didn’t either.”
Nothing could stop him from realising his dream, not even serious injuries. He was already pushing for a senior spot at the age of 16, but a knee problem kept him out of action until the final day of the 2017-18 season.
He was thrust into the team by John van den Brom at the start of the following season and impressed with three goals in his first five Eredivisie games, but an ankle problem sidelined him for seven months.
Despite the false starts, Boadu has not lost his pace, control or instinct in front of goal and is finally flourishing, with his 39 senior club appearances to date returning 19 goals and 15 assists.
A career at the very top beckons. His numbers are only likely to get better. And his performances too.