Today I would like to focus on one Ajax player; Jan Vertonghen, 24-year Belgian captain, competent central back and currently most sought-after player in the squad.
Vertonghen has been linked with big European clubs, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and many others. It seems that he is catching attention by English clubs. I don't know why. Maybe because he is considered to be fitting to the Premier League football style, maybe because those British clubs are just rich. But I believe he is one of the best defenders in Europe. And especially in the Eredivisie, it is no doubt that he is the best central defender in the league.
Why are so many clubs interested in him? What is his strength?
The answer is simple. He is an ideal central back in modern football. By modern football, I mean football where ball possession is the key to victory and where even defenders have to participate actively in attacking.
He is reasonably tall and strong in the air. He is good at covering and clearing the ball. He is of course good at one-on-one defense. In this sense, he has everything that's required for a central defender in a classical sense. But this does not explain all of his strengths. He has scored goals consistently in important matches. Ajax's ball possession often starts with his short passes to midfielders or attackers. He has a good vision and and he always looks at those who are the nearest to the opponent's goal. When midfielders are not ready to receive a pass from him, he often makes an effective long pass to attackers. Furthermore, he has consistently scored goals. He is good at middle shots and volley shots as well as headers. When there is an opportunity, he often advances to the opponent's half by speedy and powerful dribbling. Japanese centaral back at VVV Venlo Maya Yoshida once told in his interview that Vertonghen was an ideal type of central defender that the Dutch are likely to be fond of.
In short, he is both offensive and defensive. He is an all-rounder.
Recently Ajax coach Frank de Boer has told expressly that Ajax will sell Vertonghen when his contract expires in the summer of 2013. Vertonghen himself once told that it was also likely that he would continue playing in Amsterdam without being transferred to another bigger club, but it is highly likely that he will be bought by a big European club this summer, most likely a Premier League club, at a high price. Tottenham Hotspur reportedly held talks with Ajax over a 10 million euro deal for Vertonghen.
As a fan of Ajax, it will be sad to see Vertonghen leave the club. But it will be a good step-up for him. It would be very exciting to see him in a first-rated club like Manchester United and Arsenal, and when he moves to another club, Ajax, with the greatest youth academy in the world, will produce a new young player who will someday be compared with Vertonghen.