By Stuart Griffiths.
Even before joining Ajax from their fierce rivals PSV in 2013, Riechedly Bazoer had already attracted attention from Europe’s elite.
If not for his mother intervening, Bazoer could today be playing for the blue side of Manchester, having been offered a 3 year deal by the then Manchester City manager, Roberto Mancini.
Still only 19, it has been a quick rise through the ranks for the Dutch wonderkid, having already represented The Netherlands at International level and Ajax in the UEFA Champions League.
His first Ajax goal came on 19th February 2015 in a 4-2 victory over FC Twente. He has 5 goals to his name so far this season, which includes a right-footed thunderbolt against Eredivise arch-enemies Feyenoord, which subsequently turned out to be the match winner.
Many in his native homeland see Bazoer as a holding midfielder, protecting the back four which he has done with great maturity at such a young age within this vastly inexperienced Ajax team. This key role allows the likes of Davvy Klaasen and Nemanja Gudelj to advance and support the front three.
Having said this, Frank De Boer has occasionally played him in a more advanced role. In an interview with Dutch national newspaper De Telegraaf, De Boer was asked of the reasoning behind this decision.
“He is so talented. I see him as a major force in the future of Ajax and Dutch football, I was just saying to Dennis (Bergkamp) he plays so free and uninhibited. He is so fast and powerful.” He said.
I’ve witnessed Riechedly playing a few times this season and he immediately stood out on each occasion. His strength on and off the ball caught the eye, with this undoubtedly helped by his six foot frame.
Recently, football-oranje caught up with former Ajax youth coach Fons Groendijk and he envisioned the young midfielder as the ‘Patrick Vieira of Ajax’, as he has an ability to drive forward with the ball at great speed and has extremely quick feet for a large man.
With a passing accuracy of 86%, it’s easy to see why he is so increasingly sought after. This accuracy has seen him create numerous chances this season, assisting in 3 goals and creating 19 chances for his teammates, according to squawka.com.
In a recent match against Vitesse Arnhem, he had one of his best games in an Ajax shirt scoring the only goal of the game, creating 3 chances and completing 91% of his passes.
With The Netherlands missing out on the European Championships this summer in France, whilst many of the current squad seem to be coming towards the end of their International careers – Bazoer looks finely positioned to cement his place in the team.
Matters are helped further with the oranje adopting a similar 4-3-3 formation to Ajax that includes his favoured holding midfielder position.
The position is currently occupied by Daley Blind in the national team, but with Blind now playing centre-half for his club and his versatility across the pitch a well-known attribute, it will only be a matter of time before we see Bazoer taking up the defensive midfielder role, and potentially making it his own.
As to where life after Ajax takes him – your guess is as good as mine. According to recent reports, Barcelona have had him watched numerous times this season and Luis Enrique has him pinned as an ideal replacement for Sergio Busquets – should the long-serving Catalan choose to try pastures new this summer.
He has also been linked with a move to the Barclays Premier League, with talk of Pep Guardiola and Txiki Begiristain, Manchester City Sporting Director, meeting his agent in Amsterdam a fortnight ago.
Personally, I’d like to see him continue to apply his trade at Ajax before making a move. If a move to Manchester City does materialise, the guidance of Pep Guardiola would allow Bazoer to prosper and develop much like Sergio Busquets all them years back at La Masia and Barcelona B.
Whatever comes of him this summer, The Netherlands will be glad to know they have a young prodigy from Utrecht to build their new era around.