He was just five years old when Andre van Beek took him to the stadium to watch the match of Ajax. Andre is a diehard supporter of Ajax and loves cheering for his team from the stadium. The electrifying atmosphere at the stadium created a huge impact in the mind and heart of that five-year-old boy. He and his brother Rody would play the beautiful game in the backyards and streets.
Back in Holland, they have the role models, ideal football culture, and the best academies to produce the stars for the future – among others; Ajax is rated as one of the best football academies in the world. From Johan Cruyff to Marco van Basten to Dennis Bergkamp – Ajax have given world football plenty.
The likes of Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, and Donny van de Beek are the latest prodigies of Ajax who have already started to stamp their authority at the top level.
Frankie and Matthijs have flown to Camp Nou and Turin respectively, but Donny is yet to move to a high profile club. After the magnificent 2018-19 season, Florentino Perez, the boss of Real Madrid, showed interest in Donny, but later on, Real did not advance further, this gave other clubs to sign the brilliant midfielder in their team.
The newly appointed head coach of Barcelona, Ronald Koeman was upbeat regarding the signing of Donny; but right now, it seems, Donny’s final destination would be at Old Trafford.
The early days
Donny van de Beek began his career as a boy with the local Veensche Boys’ academy where his father, Andre, once played.
In 2014, he joined the Ajax youth academy signing a three-year contract, and was assigned to the D-team. He progressed further through the academy and featured in the A1 team Supercup victory against the Feyenoord A1 team.
In 2015, he signed a contract extension, to keep him at the club until mid-2018.
Van de Beek made his debut for Jong Ajax – the Ajax reserve team – in the Eerste Divisie against Sparta Rotterdam in January 2015.
Two months later, manager Frank de Boer called him to the senior team for a league match against ADO Den Haag as an injury replacement.
However, he was an unused substitute in that match.
At the end of the 2014–15 season, he won the AFC Ajax Talent of the Future award.
The most wanted Dutch
In 2015 November, was called to the senior team for a UEFA Europa League match against Scottish club Celtic.
He made his European debut in the match, which Ajax won by a score of 2–1. He termed his debut as “beautiful” and added, “I have taken my duels well. It was of course difficult because the game went back and forth continuously. But I think I did fine.”
Three days later, Van de Beek made his first-team debut in a 2–0 league victory against PEC Zwolle.
In the following month, he scored his first goal for Ajax in a 1–1 draw against Norwegian club Molde FK.
As he scored the goal, his head collided with opposition player Joona Toivio’s causing his left eyebrow to bleed.
Commenting on the goal, he said that he would not soon forget it.
The goal also won him the club’s Goal of the Month Award.
Voetbal International reported in January 2016 that manager De Boer was impressed by Van de Beek and said he would continue to play with the first team “until further notice.”
After the departures of John Heitinga and Yaya Sanogo, he was officially promoted to the first team in February.
Media reports in March suggested that German club Bayern Munich was interested in signing him. By the end of the 2015–16 season, he cemented his position with the first team and was also playing regularly for the Ajax under-19 team in the UEFA Youth League.
Mundo Deportivo reported that Barcelona was considering options to secure his services.
Donny made his debut in the Champions League back in 2016-17under the newly appointed manager – Peter Bosz. While playing for the reserves during the season he and Abdelhak Nouri were the only players who were given more than a seven rating on average by Voetbal International.
In November 2016, he was included in the UEFA Europa League Team of the Week for his performance against Panathinaikos. He was a part of a midfield trio with Nouri and Lasse Schöne.
In 2017, the Daily Express reported that Barcelona and Bayern Munich were scouting Van de Beek. Van de Beek replaced Schöne in the 70th minute of the Europa League final against Manchester United, with Ajax losing the match 2–0.
Commenting on Van de Beek’s 2017–18 pre-season matches, the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad wrote that he had successfully filled the void created by the departure of Davy Klaassen who had recently moved to English club Everton.
In October, English club Tottenham Hotspur scouted him in the Netherlands. He scored a goal in both legs of the Champions League qualifier against French club Nice. In the first leg, he scored an equalizer in the 36th minute of the 1–1 draw; taking an advantage of an error made by opposition goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale.
In the second leg, he found the net in the first half of the 2–2 draw.
In November 2018, Van de Beek scored a hat-trick in an 8–0 league victory against NAC Breda. Ajax captain Joel Veltman hailed the feat as “extra nice.”
He featured 34 times in the league and scored 11 times, besides adding six assists. In July 2018, he rejected an offer made by Italian club Roma citing that “Ajax is the right place for his development.”
Van de Beek played a pivotal role as the central attacking midfielder for Ajax in the 2018−19 season, starting almost every match in all competitions, as the team won their first league title in five years and surprisingly qualified for the semi-final of the 2018–19 UEFA Champions League.
Van de Beek scored against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the second leg of the quarter-final to help his team knock out the Italian champion with a 3–2 on aggregate.
In the first leg of the semifinals, he scored against Tottenham Hotspurs in the first leg, which resulted in a 1−0 away victory for Ajax. Nonetheless, Ajax did not manage to advance to the final, losing the tie on away goals after a 2−3 defeat at home, courtesy of a Lucas Moura magic.
In the 2019–20 Champions League season, Van de Beek scored against Valencia in a 3–0 away win and Chelsea in a 4–4 draw; however, Ajax lost at home 0–1 to Valencia to be eliminated from the group stages.
The star in the midfield
Mundo Deportivo writes that he plays a more offensive role compared to his counterparts on other teams.
According to Ajax manager Frank de Boer, Van de Beek plays best at the number six position – central midfield position.
At the center of the park, he can dictate the game, has excellent control over the ball and a great eye for a pass as he links up with the attack and is dangerous as he makes runs into the box – he is well-equipped to play in between the lines, likes to do layoffs and play short-passes and providing key passes is one of his specialty.
That is why the big fishes in Europe always wanted to have Donny on their side.
How Donny might fit in Manchester United?
But at the moment, Manchester United are closing in on the signing of Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek after the two clubs agreed on a fee in the region of £40m.
The Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is a huge admirer of Donny.
It is understood that Manchester United have now firmed up their interest with medical and personal terms still to be concluded.
The transfer is expected to be finalized within days.
Man Utd have agreed a £40m fee with Ajax for midfielder Donny Van de Beek 🤝
Solskjaer's first new signing of the window 🇳🇱➡️🏴
Check out some of his recent Champions League highlights… pic.twitter.com/f6QMqC1Yd0
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 31, 2020
Van de Beek is set to sign a five-year deal, which should allow him to be available for United’s opening game of the 2020-21-season, against Crystal Palace on 19 September.
Donny would be a great addition to Manchester United who are going through a transition period.
At Ajax, Van de Beek is described as a central midfielder.
But he has featured as a central attacking midfielder and defensive midfielder as well.
According to smarterscout:
Positions played during the Champions League 2019/20 season, according to smarterscout: CAM/SS (345 minutes), CM (210), DM (181)
Positions played during Champions League 2018/19 season: CAM/SS (1,223 minutes), CM (17), DM (72)
The numbers suggest Donny spent most of the time in that central attacking position under Erik ten Hag. And, in fact, Donny delivered his best from that position. But in Manchester United, right now, Bruno Fernades occupies that position – playing just behind Anthony Martial with Marcus Rashford occupying the left side and Mason Greenwood on the right of midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Donny van de Beek is an allrounder in the midfield. He can play as a central midfielder, defensive midfielder and central attacking midfielder. Manchester United would sign a gem!
— Faisal Caesar (@faisalyorker1) August 31, 2020
If the central attacking position is occupied, then, Ole might play Donny either on the right side of the midfield at the cost of Greenwood. But keeping in mind the kind of contributions Greenwood provide, might force Ole to use Donny as a pure central or defensive midfielder along with Paul Pogba, thus, forming the double pivot.
As WhoScored suggests, as a central and defensive midfielder; Donny has a rating of 7.36 and 7.54 respectively, which is better than his role as a central attacking midfielder and this can inspire Ole to use all the better options he has at the moment.
Let us wait and see how impactful the star in the midfield could be in the Premier League!