Eric ten Haag he gave debuts to 23 Ajax academy players during his five years as coach and some of them have already achieved great things in the game.
The 52-year-old’s youth record caught the attention of Manchester United and they announced him as their new manager in April.
Ten Haag is currently overseeing a promising campaign and 13 of his 31-man squad have graduated from United’s academy.
Zidane Iqbal and Charlie Savage have impressed, while James Garner, Alejandro Garnacho and Hannibal Mejbri are trying to impress.
Whatever effort they make, it will not be in vein. Every player who has debuted under ten Hags is still at Ajax or playing top-flight football elsewhere in Europe.
No one guarantees success, but ten Hag’s eye for talent is as close to perfect as you can get.
Using Transfermarktwe’ve tracked down every ten hag player who made a first professional start between 2017 and 2022. Some of these names will be familiar.
1.) Noussair Mazraoui (right back)
where is he now Bayern Munich
Mazraoui made his debut in the Hag’s thirteenth game as manager and left a lasting impression. The following season saw him overtake Joel Veltman as the main right-back and play a vital role in Ajax’s last three Eredivise title wins. The Morocco international’s contract expired in July and he signed a four-year deal with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
2.) Dani de Wit (middle)
where is he now AZ Alkmaar
De Wit struggled to get minutes, with a packed midfield including Frankie de Jong and Donnie van de Beek stifling any chance of regularity. Lasse Schone’s experience was also vital. He left for AZ Alkmaar in 2019 and remains a regular to this day, playing in all eight Europa Conference League games last season.
3.) Jurgen Ekkelenkamp (middle)
Where is he now?: Hertha Berlin
Ekkelenkamp made an impressive 40 appearances in all competitions before swapping Holland for Germany last year. He scored a minute on his debut after replacing former AC Milan and Barcelona star Kevin Prince-Boateng.
4.) Azor Matusiva (middle)
Matusiwa’s only appearance came on the final day of the 17/18 season, a 2-1 win over Excelsior. No one would complain about a 100 percent winning record. He now plies his trade with Ligue 1 side Reims after a spell with Groningen.
5.) Kaj Sierhuis (Straker)
Where is he now?: Hercules
Sierhuis played three times in total and like Matusiwa, joined Reims before spending a season with Heracles. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in February and has yet to return.
6.) Ryan Gravenberch (middle)
Premiere: September 23, 2018
Where are they now?: Bayern Munich
Ten Hag’s youngest debut and one destined for superstardom comes four days after his 16th birthday against PSV Eindhoven. Ajax lost the game 3-0 and that means Gravenberg is the first on this list to make his debut in defeat. Ironic. He is regarded as one of the world’s top midfield talents and moved to Bayern for £15m last month, with his contract set to expire in 2023.
7.) Mitchel Bakker (left back)
Premiere: September 26, 2018
Who knows; Bayer Leverkusen
Bakker never played a league game and was limited to cup appearances. He sensationally joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2019 and made the top 20 contenders for the 2020 Golden Boy award. Injuries to Juan Bernat and Lewin Kurzawa saw Bakker given more minutes under Mauricio Pochettino and featured in their Champions League semi-final defeat League from Manchester City. He was sold to Bayer Leverkusen three months later, but PSG have a buy-out clause.
Where is he now?: Club Brugge
Talented, and he knows that’s probably the best way to sum up Lang. Ten Haag gave him a public dressing down during a cup game and told him to “shut up and listen”. The bad blood continued to simmer and Lang eventually left for Club Brugge after a successful loan spell. Lang has attracted interest from a number of clubs this summer and is still bitter towards ten Hug, claiming everyone at the club loved him apart from ‘one person’.
9.) Sergino Dest (right back)
Where is he now?: Barcelona
Probably the player on this list that everyone has seen the most. The United States international played 38 games for Ajax before sealing a move to Barcelona in 2020. He was a regular starter under Ronald Koeman, but the return of Dani Alves in 2022 and the appointment of Xavi saw Dest slip away. He has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou this summer.
10.) Sontje Hansen (Winger)
Hansen is still at Ajax and appears regularly at Young Ajax. He received his debut at 17 and is likely to get opportunities this season.
11.) Naci Unuvar (Winger)
Another extreme. Another one for the future. Where does Ajax find these talents? Unuvar scored 16 goals in 31 games for Young Ajax last season. New coach Alfred Schreuder will be keeping an eye on him.
12.) Danilo Pereira (forward)
where is he now Feyenoord
Not to be confused with the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder of the same name, Danilo was primarily a backup to Sébastien Haller during his time at the club. He left on a free transfer this summer but stayed in the Eredivise.
13.) Jurrien Timber (Central Defender)
If you’ve been following any Manchester United transfer news in recent months, chances are you’ve come across this name. Timber is already a calming presence in the backfield despite just turning 21 in June. Ten Hag wanted to bring him to Old Trafford but rejected a move for fear of losing his place in the Netherlands squad. Definitely one to watch.
14.) Brian Brobbey (Straker)
Perhaps the most interesting player on this list. Brobbey was considered the heir to Haller’s throne, but opted to join RB Leipzig when his contract expired in 2021. Realizing the grass wasn’t greener in the Bundesliga, he returned to Ajax on loan in January. He scored seven goals in 11 games and made the move permanent in July. Haller is now at Borussia Dortmund and Bromby will likely be the main man for the future.
15.) Devyne Rensch (right back)
Devin Rennes could see their chances of making the first team collapse with the arrival of Owen Weidal, but right-back is Ajax’s biggest weakness at the moment.
16.) Kenneth Taylor (middle)
This season could be a defining one for Kenneth Taylor. Gravenberch’s departure means there is an opportunity for someone to step up and it could be him. Taylor has impressed in pre-season and was given a start in last month’s Johan Cruyff Trophy defeat to PSV Eindhoven.
17.) Victor Jensen (middle)
Where is he now?: Rosenborg (on loan from Ajax)
Jensen spent half of 2021 on loan at Danish side Nordsjælland and captains Denmark at youth level. He signed a new contract in March before joining Rosenborg on a two-year loan deal.
18.) Yuri Reger (middle)
Reger played five times last season and for a change of pace, featured more in the league than the cup. He scored in the latter though, a 9-0 win over Excelsior Maassluis.
19.) Christian Hlinson (Central Midfielder)
Hlinson became a cup specialist, scoring in both appearances against Barendrecht and Excelsior Maasluis. You’d get two goals in two at the start of any season, never mind your debut.
20.) Amourrichio van Axel Dongen (Winger)
Making his third debut in the same game as Barendrecht, van Axel Dongen is already attracting interest from some of Europe’s top clubs. We’ve said it so many times already on this list, but you should watch it.
21.) Liam van Gelderen (right back)
Where is he now?: Groningen
Van Gelderen came into the limelight during last season’s title run after a string of injuries. He left in the summer to join Groningen where he hopes to establish himself as a regular.
22.) Jay Gorter (Goalkeeper)
Ajax’s goalkeeper situation in recent years has been strange. The last two years of Andre Onana’s career have been complicated and often, Ajax relied on veteran goalkeepers Remko Pasveer and Maarten Stekelenburg. Gorter started last season’s final game against Vitesse with the ten-year-old knowing he was on his way to United. Was this the last gift?
Where is he now?: FC Twente (On loan from Ajax)
Salah-Eddine came on for Nicolas Tagliafico against Vitesse and has since moved to FC Twente on loan.
Who do you think will be the standout academy graduate at Manchester United under Erik ten Hag?
Let us know in the comments.