The famous red and white strip of Ajax has been donned by many a star in their formative years. Among the recent graduates, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of the grander names in world football. It comes as no surprise thus that Zlatan retains a touch of affection for his old club as well as some wise words to go with it.
Considered to be one of the finest finishing schools in football, Ajax’s academy is a hotbed of glowing prospects. The Dutch giants have a long-standing policy of drafting in academy graduates into the first team.
Speaking to Voetbal International, Zlatan Ibrahimovic remarked that Ajax is the best place for ambitious young footballers to learn their craft. Addressing the ethos that runs through the club, the LA Galaxy forward asserted that De Toekomst is the most fertile place for a young upstart to find his feet:
“As a young ambitious football player, there is no better club than Ajax…the way of training, the philosophy of the club, the fellow players with whom you are surrounded as a youngster: it is all at a very high level. I would advise any talent to start his career at Ajax.”
Zlatan isn’t the least bit surprised by Ajax’s foray into the Champions League quarter-finals with mostly home-grown talent. The way he sees it, it is merely the result of the club’s sustained efforts to nurture young footballers in the best traditions of the club – by marrying individual brilliance to a collective whole:
“That is precisely what I find so strong about the club: the long period in which they prove that their philosophy works. It is incredible how many top players they have produced.
“If you have the right mentality, it is easy to take big steps at Ajax: keep your eyes and ears wide open, learn from the professionals at the club and work hard. These are the first steps to becoming one of the best football players in the world. I am still grateful to Ajax for being the first foreign club to offer me that.”
While present stars such as Frenkie de Jong and even Matthijs de Ligt are soon going to outgrow Dutch football, the machine ticks along at De Godenzonen and another batch of hopeful teenagers will soon take their place.