Josh Hobbs uses TransferLab to see which Eredvisie players could be ready to move into one of the bigger European leagues.
Over the last few seasons, Ajax have gradually wrested back their reputation as a European giant with some strong showings in the Champions League. The Dutch side have impressed since Erik Ten Hag arrived at the club and this has helped put the Eredivisie back on the footballing map as a market worth scouting for talent.
Although other teams in the Netherlands have perhaps underachieved in continental competition in recent seasons, there are plenty of players still making the jump from the Eredivisie to the top 5 European leagues. In the summer, 16 players made that jump, the most successful of which was Teun Koopmeiners’s to Atalanta where he has become fundamental to their midfield. Denzel Dumfries is also beginning to make the right wing back position his own at Inter after a slow start in Serie A.
Using TransferLab’s ‘Best XI’ feature, we can attempt to predict the next players to make the jump up out of the Eredivisie.
Here is what the algorithm deems the best XI to be in a 4-3-3 formation with roles set to ‘all-round’ and minutes filtered to 1000. In this instance, we haven’t used an age filter as players beyond the age of 23 will still interest clubs in higher ranking leagues. That said, we will take more of an interest in the younger players.
Unsurprisingly, given the degree to which Ajax have been dominating this season, there are six Ajax players rated as the top players in their positions. Even selecting three players per position, there are three extra Ajax players added into the mix! We will make sure we don’t only talk about Ajax players as we go on.
Here are four players who could make the step up to a bigger team in the summer:
It’s impossible to ignore Noussair Mazraoui as he is the top-rated right back according to TransferLab and he is available on a free transfer this summer. Here’s why he will have his pick of suitors:
The Moroccan has scored five goals and made two assists from right back in 1617 Eredivisie minutes, and as you can see from his TransferLab profile above, he stands out, particularly in attacking metrics. For instance, his adjusted pass accuracy ranks in the 100th percentile, whilst he also shows up extremely highly for expected assists, touches in the final third and for the quality of his crossing.
Mazraoui is agile, with a tall and slender frame and alongside his excellent ball manipulation, this makes him an accomplished dribbler. He regularly beats players in deep areas and is confident in carrying the ball up the line or in-field. In the final third, he will beat opposing full backs when arriving on the overlap or from a standing start and regularly gets into the box to shoot or create chances.
As you can see in the clip above, he also stands out for his technical ability to play passes in more central areas outside the penalty area. See how he drifts into Zone 14 on an underlapping run and plays the ball into the path of Sebastien Haller with his weaker foot.
The Morrocan full-back has recently been linked with a move to Barcelona and it’s easy to imagine him fitting into Xavi’s system with relative ease.
Next on our list is 21-year-old Turkish midfielder Orkun Kökcü. The Feyenoord man has largely operated as a deep-lying playmaker this season and is rated as the top player in the league as an ‘all round’ defensive midfielder by TransferLab.
As you can see from his TransferLab profile, the Turkish footballer impresses most in his on-the-ball actions, particularly his progressive short passing and through balls his strongest attributes. Kökcü looks to move the ball through midfield to players in advanced positions to score and create from. His own output in terms of goal contributions is very impressive though as he has six goals and eight assists in 2019 minutes, equating to 0.27 goals and 0.36 assists per 90, respectively. Given such an impressive output, don’t be surprised to see Kökcü linked to several clubs this summer.
In terms of the traits in Kökcü’s play – he has two particular passes that he attempts to hit regularly. The first is a driven through ball between centre backs for a striker to run onto:
As well as this, he also regularly looks to chip the ball over the opposition defensive line:
Observe his technique as he strikes the ball. He seems to be attempting to generate spin on the ball so it won’t bounce too far ahead of his teammates. He seems to strike the ball like this whenever he plays this pass. It’s also notable that although both these passes aren’t controlled by his teammates, he manages to take the opposition defence out of the game with two passes from around the area of the centre circle. It’s not hard to imagine a side in a stronger league wanting to leverage this ability.
Dusan Tadic is the highest rated left-winger in Eredivisie according to TransferLab but the Serbian is 33-years-old now and a player unlikely to be moving on from Ajax. On the other side, Anthony will be highly likely to attract offers from the top European sides but again we won’t look at him as he is an Ajax player.
Meanwhile, Cody Gakpo is ranked second in the position on the left, has been impressing in the division for a few seasons, and at 22, is the perfect age to tempt clubs in top leagues to make a move.
As you can see from his TransferLab profile, Gakpo is a creator and a goalscorer, shown by his extremely high rankings for expected goals and expected assists. He has a habit of arriving unmarked at the back post to score tap-ins, accounting for his very high xG but as well as that, his powerful running style and quick feet make him a nightmare for defenders to deal with when he drives inside from the wing. As such, he has scored several goals like the one below:
Gakpo has scored eight goals and made twelve assists this season at a rate of 0.52 goals and 0.78 assists per 90 in the Eredivisie this term. These are extremely impressive figures maintained over 1385 minutes and seem to make him a certainty to be snapped up this summer. He would be well-suited to the Bundesliga as his physical profile and ability to create and score from carrying the ball would suit a league that is full of teams who attack through transitions.
Finally, a player who is perhaps less likely to get an immediate move but one who is worth keeping an eye on after a couple of impressive seasons: Vangelis Pavlidis.
The Greek striker has less impressive headline figures than somebody like Seb Haller, unsurprisingly, but his underlying numbers are very strong in a much weaker team than Ajax. He’s scored ten goals for an AZ side that are a long way down on the last few seasons where they pushed Ajax in title races and he impressed in a relegation battle with Willem II last season.
As you can see from his TransferLab profile, the 23-year-old impresses compared to other strikers in the division for almost every metric with his touches in the box particularly high. In his case, this is the area of the pitch where he does his best work. Although he can run in behind defensive lines and receive the ball back to goal, those are weaker areas in his game. Pavlidis is primarily a fox-in-the-box type striker, shown by many of his goals being scored from central areas in front of the penalty spot:
Considering he only moved to AZ last summer, it may be that nobody wants to pay for Pavlidis. Perhaps a team in Ligue 1 who are in need of a goalscorer might want to take a punt on him, given his knack for popping up in the right place in the penalty area.