Ryan Gravenberch NxGn GFXGetty/Goal

The new Pogba? Ajax wonderkid Gravenberch set to emerge from De Jong's shadow

There are few footballing academies on the planet that can boast the same success rate as Ajax when it comes to unearthing star potential.

The Amsterdam club have handed debuts to some of the most recognisable names in Dutch football over the years, and this season a number of their own crop, including Frenkie de Jong and Matthijs de Ligt, have led to them to within touching distance of the Champions League final.

It says a lot, then, that perhaps one of the most exciting players to ever make their way through the gates at Ajax is yet to fully make his mark on the first team.

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Ryan Gravenberch is a 16-year-old central midfielder who has already been likened to Paul Pogba. He has been linked with the Serie A champions and Pogba's former club in the Italian press during the second half of the campaign, and it is easy to see why.

Standing at over six feet tall, he is not afraid to take opponents on and build attacks from the middle of the pitch. What he currently lacks in strength he makes up for in ability on the ball, and though he has the tendency to be a little casual in possession at times, it is hoped that playing both alongside and against more seasoned professionals will help him channel that laid-back personality in a more positive manner.

Singled out from an early age, Gravenberch - who was named in Goal's NxGn countdown of the top teenage players on the planet in March - was awarded the coveted Abdelhak Nouri Trophy for the most talented player in the Ajax youth system in June 2018. Picking up a prize previously won by the likes of Rafael van der Vaart, Wesley Sneijder, Christian Eriksen and De Ligt only serves to highlight the calibre of player that those in the Dutch capital believe he can replicate.

Three months later he was brought off the bench against PSV to become the youngest debutant in Eredivisie history at 16 years and 130 days, a record he would take off another famous son of De Toekomst: Clarence Seedorf.

Seedorf, who remains the only player to have won the Champions League with three separate clubs, took to Instagram to congratulate Gravenberch, saying: "Congratulations on breaking my record. I wish you a successful career, just like I had. Stay focused and make sure you continue to love the game."

Ryan Gravenberch Ajax 2018-19ProShots

Loving the game was exactly what Gravenberch was doing a few days later when he was handed his first start against non-league side Te Werve in the KNVB Cup. Eight minutes from full-time he grabbed his first goal for the senior side in their 7-0 win, and in the process became the youngest goalscorer in the club's illustrious history.

"I was really looking for that goal," he told FOX Sports in the aftermath. "It's nice to get some minutes in the first team. It's very fast, but I am staying calm and letting it come my way. I'm trying to do my best with everything."

Despite that impact, he has spent much of the season playing for Jong Ajax with fellow under-23 players, but it is expected that next season he will graduate permanently to the first team squad ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.

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"We have plans for him, so that is why he has already made his debut," said manager Erik ten Hag following the Te Werve match. "We have seen his potential in training and he is now continuing that upward trend." That upward trend will see him feature much more prominently under Ten Hag next season.

Unfortunately for Ajax, if Gravenberch does reach anywhere close to his potential then the time will come for the question to be asked which club he will leave Amsterdam for in the years ahead.

Midfield dynamo De Jong has already agreed a €75 million (£65m/$85m) move to Barcelona for this summer and De Ligt will be joining him in leaving the Johan Cruyff Arena regardless of whether the club captain opts to join his compatriot at Camp Nou or go elsewhere.

Ryan Gravenberch Stats GFX

"He could go anywhere," Gravenberch's father told  Ajax Showtime  earlier this season. "I saw all the clubs [that were linked]. Many millions of euros came by, but we discussed that quietly at home. Then we sat down as a family, I explained the situation and finally Ryan gave his opinion. He always said 'I'm good at Ajax'."

That will be music to the ears of the powerbrokers at the Eredivisie giants, and having handed him a contract until 2021 they will be hopeful that he can have the same impact as the likes of De Jong and De Ligt before potentially spreading his wings to move on elsewhere.

One thing is for certain, however: he is likely to form a vital cog in a Netherlands team that is using Ajax's current crop of youngsters to great effect under Ronald Koeman. Gravenberch has already tasted international success after playing his part in the Oranje's Under-17 European Championship win in 2018, and the hope is he can translate that to senior silverware in years to come.

For now, though, Gravenberch must bide his time before showing the world what he is capable of on a week-to-week basis. If he can, then breaking De Jong's record for the most expensive sale in Ajax history is far from out of the question.