Meet Jairo Riedewald – the Ajax starlet compared to Frank Rijkaard

PROFILE: The gifted youngster has been likened to the legend who guided the Eredivisie giants to Champions League glory in 1994-95

By Stefan Coerts

The sale of Daley Blind to Manchester United in the closing stages of the summer transfer window presented Ajax with a serious problem.

While losing the Netherlands international was further confirmation that Ajax’s youth academy remains one of the best in Europe, it also meant they had no time to sign an adequate replacement.

Head coach Frank de Boer has since fielded a number of different players in Blind’s holding midfielder position, including Nick Viergever, Niki Zimling and Thulani Serero, yet none of these pretenders have truly filled the World Cup star’s void.

The coach therefore opted to turn to a rather surprising name in last week’s Champions League match against Barcelona, the inexperienced Jairo Riedewald.

Although the promising youngster couldn’t prevent his side from losing 3-1 at Camp Nou, Riedewald did manage to impress De Boer with a calm and mature display in the middle of the park.

The 44-year-old even went as far as to compare the 18-year-old to one of the biggest names in the club’s proud history; Euro 1988 winner Frank Rijkaard.

“The position of holding midfielder is a complicated one. Jairo has a lot of quality, though. He is very agile, quick and physically strong. He reminds me a bit of Frank Rijkaard. He’s perhaps even more agile, although he’s not as strong in the air,” De Boer stated after the game.

The comparison might be a bit premature after just a few appearances at the highest level, with Riedewald starting the season at Jong Ajax (Ajax’s reserve team who play in the Eerste Divisie), but there’s no denying that the youngster is a special talent.

Riedewald, who is equally comfortable at centre-back or left-back as he is in midfield, first made a name for himself when he made his official first-team debut in the 2-1 Eredivisie win over Roda last season. And a spectacular maiden appearance it was. The Amsterdammer came off the bench with 10 minutes to go and, with Ajax trailing 1-0, scored twice during his brief cameo.

He has since been playing for Ajax Under-19, Jong Ajax and the senior side, but he seems destined to break into the first team on a permanent basis this term following De Boer’s latest comments.

“It’s a huge compliment that the coach has compared me to Rijkaard. This gives me confidence. I haven’t seen a lot of him, but my older brother has and he told me a lot about him. He was part of the Dutch triangle at Milan [with Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit] and was a very strong midfielder. He always kept his calm,” Riedewald told De Telegraaf this week.

“I’ve always seen myself as more of a centre-back, but things went pretty well against Barcelona and Go Ahead Eagles in midfield. We’ll see how things work out as a No.6. I’m the type of player who enjoys having the ball and you see a lot of the ball in midfield. I think I’m a bit similar to Daley Blind, so I think I could thrive in this position.”

Only time will tell whether Riedewald indeed has what it takes to follow in the footsteps of Rijkaard and Blind, yet if there’s one club where he will get the chance to prove himself, then it’s Ajax. 

Like fellow Eredivisie giants Feyenoord and PSV, the reigning Dutch champions value quality over age and will not hesitate to trust a promising youngster. Riedewald is certainly one such promising youngster to watch over the coming months.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *