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Dutch courage

Will Ajax’s latest generation go on to achieve greatness?

We simmed 10 season on Football Manager to find out what will happen to Ajax’s newest band of youngsters

In the end, the might of Manchester United proved to be too much for the youthful vigour of Ajax.

Red Devils’ manager Jose Mourinho lifted the Europa League trophy, while big-money summer signings Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan grabbed the goals.

Cue one happy Mourinho and a jubilant squad of expensive acquisitions, while a summer of extensive transfer activity surely awaits.

Pricey lot

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Pricey lot

But for Ajax, this is surely only the beginning.

Their starting line-up in the final broke the record for the youngest XI to start in a major European final ever, with an average age of 22 years and 280 days

In fact, centre-back Matthijs de Ligt is the youngest player to feature in one, at 17 years and 285 days.

That makes me feel both old and inadequate, so cheers Matthijs.

Teen idols

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Teen idols

The Dutch club is famed for it’s youth development, with many of football’s greatest ever players coming through the Ajax academy.

Who can forget that 1995 Champions League winning side of Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf, Danny Blind and Edgar Davids?

Not a bad bunch, eh?

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Not a bad bunch, eh?

In fact, we’ve been thinking a lot about the old gang at Ajax, who all went on to achieve greatness, whether in Holland or elsewhere.

So, using science (by science, we mean Football Manager 2017) we’ve simulated 10 seasons of this current Ajax crop to see if they can match the achievements of the old guard.

Obviously this will be super accurate, so prepare yourself for a fascinating insight into the future.

Andre Onana                    

Position: Goalkeeper

Age: 21

Cameroonian ‘keeper Onana cut his teeth at Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy, before moving to Ajax in 2016.

This season, the 21-year-old has gained a reputation as one of the best young shot-stoppers in Europe, but what does his future hold?

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Not too interesting, as it turned out, with Onana opting to stay at Ajax and become a staple of a side that won five league titles, while going on to achieve 73 caps for Cameroon.

Not quite Edwin Van der Sar’s journey from Ajax to Man United via Juventus and Fulham, but you’ve got to admire his loyalty.

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Davinson Sanchez

Position: Defender

Age: 20

Sanchez was snapped up by Ajax from Atletico Nacional in 2016 and has become a key figure in manager Peter Bosz’s defence this season.

The Colombian is expected to make a big-money move over the summer, with Barcelona and Chelsea linked with the tenacious defender.

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But in the world of Football Manager, the man who stopped Jesse Lingard in his tracks in the Europa League final doesn’t really fulfil his awesome potential.

He makes fairly regular appearances for the club until 2022, when he moves to La Liga side Real Sociedad.

His average ratings at the San Sebastian are disappointing, with his final season at the club a lowly 6.54, despite making 31 appearances. by the time we catch up with him in 2026, he’s on the fringes at Napoli having moved to Italy on a free in 2025.

We’re a little disappointed so far, let’s move on.

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Matthijs de Ligt

Position: Defender

Age: 17

The youngest player on our list has been heavily linked with Bundesliga side RB Leipzig in recent weeks, having established himself as a first-team regular for both club and country this season.

At the beginning of July 2016, de Ligt is only 16-years-old but already has pretty tasty attributes, despite starting out in the under-19s in the game.

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It’s quite scary to think that in 10 years time, de Ligt will be at the peak of his powers at 26.

In 2026, the defender is turning out for Monaco, having joined the Ligue 1 giants in 2020 for £17.25million.

Worth over £22m at the end of our simulation, de Ligt finally got his hand of the Europa League trophy with the French giants in 2022.

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Jairo Riedewald

Positionn: Defender

Age: 20

Riedewald made his debut for Ajax back in 2014, and is considered a key member of their squad due to his versatility, with the academy graduate occupying the left-back, centre-back and defensive midfield positions this season.

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At the start of our simulation, Riedewald is heavily linked with a move to Leicester, Everton and Napoli, but stays at the club and eventually wins the league title in the 2017/18 season.

The following season, he moves to Barcelona in a £25million deal and becomes a key member of the Catalan club’s defence, with an average rating of 7.29 at the end of the 2025/26 season.

Unfortunately for him, Real Madrid dominate La Liga for the next 10 seasons (we’re not making this up), so he doesn’t manage to add to his title haul.

What’s more, he misses out on lifting the Champions League in 2024, with Bayern beating Barca in that season’s final.

Looks like we have a generation of Barca mediocrity to look forward to.

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Davy Klaassen

Position: Midfield

Age: 24

Klaassen is one of the veterans in this season’s Ajax side, having made his debut for the side way back in 2011, having come through the youth academy (we’re starting to notice a trend here).

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With two great seasons at Ajax under his belt, Klaassen seals an £18million move to Roma in 2018.

After a difficult start to his career in the Italian capital (his average rating in his second season was a measly 6.68) he redeems himself with a 7.52 rating, 33 appearances and 11 goals in 2022 before heading to Chelsea for £25.5m.

His three seasons in West London are mixed, and at 33-years-old he joins Feyenoord on a free and challengeas for another Eredivisie title.

Dirk Kuyt, anyone?

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Donny van de Beek

Position: Midfield

Age: 20

Bayern Munich and Barcelona have reportedly sent scouts to watch midfield dynamo van de Beek, who made a fleeting appearance in the final against United.

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At the start of the game, van de Beek is a raw talent with plenty of potential, and his career more-or-less takes off.

In 2019, he heads to Lazio in a £10.25million deal, and has a very successful season in Serie A before moving to Barcelona for a cool £28m to join up with his ex-teammate Riedewald, although his form in La Liga is sporadic, with the midfielder making only 6 appearances in the league, with an average rating of 6.67.

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Amin Younes

Position: Forward/winger

Age: 23

German forward Younes has been a key member of Ajax’s frontline this season, and as a result has been called up to Germany’s Confederations Cup squad by Joachim Low.

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Mainz are sniffing ’round Younes at the start of the 2016/17 season, but he stays in Amsterdam for one year before leaving for Saint-Etienne.

He’s on the move again a year later, going back to Germany with Hertha Berlin, which results in six unhappy seasons of limited game time.

A free transfer to Sandhausen in 2023 is the stepping-stone to a move to Dortmund, but it’s another spell on the fringes with a Bundesliga club.

As of 2026, he’s a free agent.

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Kasper Dolberg

Position: Forward

Age: 19

Dolberg has excelled this season following the departure of Viktor Fischer to Middlesbrough, with the young Dane scoring 16 league goals on his way to winning Ajax’s Young Player of the Season award along with Eredivisie Talent of the Year.

A host of club’s are chasing his signature in the summer, including United, but where does his future lie?

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Right where he is, apparently.

Dolberg stays at Ajax and becomes a hero, notching 147 goals in 279 league appearances, with his 2025/26 season especially proficient, with 23 goals in 32 appearances as Ajax stormed to the title.

Can we see him staying in real life?

Probably not.

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Justin Kluivert

Position: Winger

Age: 18

Perhaps the youngster with the most pressure to succeed, the son of Patrick burst onto the scene in March 2017 when he scored his first league goal, exactly 10 years and 1 day after his father’s last career goal.

Much is expected of this talented right-winger, who’s been used sparingly in his breakout season.

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And he hasn’t disappointed, earning himself a move to Barcelona just like his dad before him.

It took him a while though, having played 255 league games for Ajax before heading to Spain in 2025 for an impressive £30million.

For Holland, Kluivert has managed 13 goals in 41 caps, which is some way of his father’s tally of 40 goals in 79 caps.

Interestingly, he’s the third player on our list to head to Barca.

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There we go then, folks.

While the majority of the current Ajax prospects go on to achieve fairly solid careers, most of them have perhaps fallen short of the heroes of yesteryear.

 

 

 

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