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Ajax’s Next ‘Crown Jewel’

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The football culture of the Netherlands is just special. A player’s excellence in multiple facets of the game is an absolute necessity to be successful there. There are attackers who press maniacally to force turnovers, and then there are defenders who are better at carrying the ball with their feet than most of the good midfielders of other nations. A list of “World-Class Dutch Centre-Backs” would probably be as long as the day feels on a Monday. Hoping to add his name to that list in due time is Ajax’s crown jewel, Jurrien Timber. 

Also Read: 10 Jurrien Timber facts you don’t know

From classic Dutch CBs like Ronald Koeman to the present day where Virgil Van Dijk is arguably the world’s best in the position with Matthijs de Ligt not far behind, Timber has some way to go before being considered in the same bracket. Still, if there was one player who you wouldn’t bet against making it like former right-footed Ajax wunderkind de Ligt, it would be present right-footed Ajax wunderkind Timber. 

Playing career so far

Timber is a product of the famed Ajax youth academy, home to numerous legends of the game. After impressing scouts in his hometown, he was snapped up by Feyenoord. However, Ajax’s history of developing young talent was too great to ignore. So, he joined Ajax at the age of 13 for the formative years of his footballing education. 

Also read: Erik Ten Hag already eyeing Jurrien Timber as a transfer target in a double swoop with Darwin Nunez

Jurrien Timber has emerged as one of the biggest success stories from Ajax academy in recent times. He made his debut in March 2020 and put in a calm and composed performance against Heerenveen. His progress was curtailed due to the suspension of the Dutch League, Eredivisie, due to COVID-19. 



The then Ajax coach Erik Ten Hag, however, was impressed with what the youngster showed on his debut. “He has proven himself, and I will take that into the new season,” Ten Hag had said after the season abandonment was confirmed. 

Must read: Erik Ten Hag’s ideal Man Utd team, featuring Jurrien Timber.

Ten Hag was true to his word and season 2020-21 was a true breakout year for Jurrien Timber. He took every chance that came his way en route to making 20 appearances in Eredivisie, with 16 coming from the start. He added another five appearances in the Europa League as he gained some continental pedigree, never once looking out of his depth, a testament to his strength of character.  

On the international scene, he has appeared for Netherlands age group teams, from U15s to U21s. He has even made his international debut for the Netherlands. Jurrien Timber has won six caps for his country at the age of just 20. Therefore, he is well on his way to matching his esteemed colleagues at the international level, like de Ligt and Van Dijk.

Jurrien Timber stats

As is the case with almost every player to come out of Ajax’s youth academy, regardless of position, Jurrien Timber profiles as a smooth operator with the ball at his feet.

Here’s what ‘Progressive Passes‘ is and why it’s the most important statistic to judge the modern player. 

The same is the case with other passing statistics. Be it his dribbles complete, progressive passes received or shot-creating actions. Timber is the perfect player with the ball at his feet.

Jurrien Timber Stats on-ball, Season 2021-22

Stat type Attempted passes Pass completion rate Progressive passes Progressive carries Dribbles completed
/90 minutes 79.93 94.7% 6.45 6.45 0.94
Percentile 98 99 99 97 99

(Stats courtesy of fbref.com)

There is a slight youthful exuberance to his game which is reflected in his slightly poor tackling rate. He makes 1.57 tackles/90 while conceding 0.5 fouls/90 leading to a below-average 70% tackling success rate. 

Due to his comparatively small stature, at about 5ft 9inches, he could lack the height to play as a CB long-term. Recognising this, Ten Hag also played him as a right-back last season. His dribbling abilities have shone through in this role as he has looked adept at taking players on and beating them off the dribble. It is a necessity for a modern full-back, which teams like Man Utd lack on the right side. 


Jurrien Timber scout report

Despite not being very tall and at an age where he is yet to fill out his frame, he relishes physical contact and can more than hold his own in one-on-one duels on the ground. He contests aerial duels with fearlessness despite his height and profiles as someone who can grow into a leader with some more reps under his belt. 

Jurrien Timber transfer could be the first under Erik Ten Hag at Man Utd

“He will not immediately be the leader of the Ajax first team,” Ten Hag had told Ajax TV in September 2020. “But he dares to speak out immediately and has not been shy in the dressing room. Those are important qualities to get far,” he said. Moreover, to compensate for his height, he has developed a strong sense of positioning to sniff out the attacks before they even gather steam. 

Like another player who made a big-money move from Ajax, Frenkie de Jong, Timber might also be someone who ends up taking his career to the next level with a change of position. Ten Hag has already marvelled at his ability with the feet, saying the 19-year-old might have a future at centre-midfield. 

In the long term, this versatility should ensure that he remains a key part of whichever club he plays for. However, if he wants to gain command over the full-back position, where he has played extensively this season, he will need to improve his confidence in his crossing.

Although Ajax normally don’t rely on aerial bombardment in the box, Timber still visibly lacks conviction in his delivery. Dest’s transfer to Barcelona opened up more minutes for him. He took his chance with both hands, despite being played out of his preferred position, showing flexibility and a workmanlike ethic to his game. 


What makes him special

His fundamentals and intangibles are on-point which makes it only a matter of time before the on-field issues, as minor as they may be, are soon ironed out. It is often said that talent is only as good as the talented person’s willingness to work on it. Fortunately for Ajax and any prospective buyers, Jurrien Timber has looked like a model professional so far. Rarely are there any ‘bad eggs’ in Ajax’s academy and Timber looks sure to continue that trend.

Players with a driven mentality and a single-minded focus to improve can improve the whole atmosphere and personality of the dressing room. Timber looks to be of the character that a successful dressing room craves. There should be no off-the-field caveats attached to the youngster which is a rare situation in modern-day footballers.


Jurrien Timber transfer prediction

Jurrien Timber has shown consistent progression in his career thus far. Be it a change in position, an international call-up, playing at the UCL level or solidifying his place at Ajax, Timber has looked unfazed. Now a pretty much established member of the national setup, Timber’s next career move will be crucial.

Jurrien Timber hasn’t left yet, but his replacement is already here!- Read about Devyne Rensch here

He has two paths he can take. He might fancy going to a European elite straightaway as de Ligt did. There’s also an option to do a “van Dijk”, which looks like the case after he committed his future with Ajax, by signing a contract extension till 2025. Virgil van Dijk excelled step by step in his career. From Celtic to Liverpool via Southampton, his progress was slow but continuous.

Ajax are not known to stand in the way of an upwards career move by their players. If Timber keeps up his trajectory of progress, he will soon end up in the bright lights of a major club in Europe, just like his famed seniors. FootTheBall believes that Jurrien Timber is ready to follow the path taken by de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.

He has shown quick progress in his career so far. With Erik Ten Hag’s appointment as Manchester United manager confirmed, Timber was rumoured to be close to a move to the Red Devils. Rumour mills kicked into gear but Timber opted to stay at Ajax instead, with regular playing time his priority in the buildup to the World Cup. 

If anything, this kind of mature thinking shows Timber has a calm head on his shoulders, that doesn’t get turned by the bright lights. However, things can change in future transfer windows. He would enrich the whichever team he chooses to continue his career at.

Vatsal Gupta
A die-hard Red Devil, who has straight up not had a good time since 2012. Lives on Korean dramas and books and can often be heard talking about armchair psychological stuff.

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