The name “Kluivert” is a name that many football fans around the world know quite well thanks to the exploits of Patrick Kluivert, who was one of the world’s best strikers for nearly a decade in the mid to late 90’s and early 2000’s. Now, his son Justin is getting ready to ensure the Kluivert name continues to be one associated with a terrific attacker as he gets ready for his first full season of professional football with Ajax.
Justin Kluivert has been in the Ajax academy since 2007 and has flown through the ranks. Most graduates spend a season in the reserve side playing for Jong Ajax in the 2nd division, but Kluivert’s skills were impossible to ignore as he essentially jumped straight to the 1st team from the U19s, only playing a handful of games for Jong Ajax. He made 20 appearances in all competitions last year, but now with a full pre-season under his belt and the departure of Bertrand Traore, Kluivert is hoping to make this his breakout season.
As an Ajax fan, I always want our academy graduates to be given chances and to be the core of the side since that’s the Ajax way. But, unlike so many other clubs in Europe, Ajax fans do not overhype or coddle their young talents just because they are “their own.” Since Ajax is so well known for developing youngsters, most Ajax fans have been watching these talents or have known about them since they were very young, which almost makes us treat them like they are our own kids.
And because of that we are super proud of them, but equally it means we demand a lot out of them and if they aren’t succeeding we won’t be afraid to admit it.
In the past, when pundits and “keyboard experts” have come out and said the likes of Anwar El Ghazi or Riechedly Bazoer could become world beaters I always stated this wasn’t the case. Ajax fans are honest with their talents and if they truly believe they can become spectacular they will say so, and I repeatedly called out Bazoer and El Ghazi for being nothing special and unsurprisingly both were shipped away and no one really batted an eye.
We want them to succeed and we will always support them, but we know there is always another talented kid waiting in the wings, so if the one in the 1st team starts to stagnate, there will be immediate calls to give a new talent his chance. This is what makes the relationship between the fans and the academy graduates so interesting as an Ajax fan (at least for me). I will always encourage our talents to be given chances, but if I see flaws I won’t be afraid to point them out.
That is why I’m so excited about Justin Kluivert. Because I truly believe he has the necessary skills to become a world class player and even if (when) he leaves Ajax after a couple years (which is the sad reality of being an Ajax fan) I will look on with pride knowing where he came from like I do with Christian Eriksen, Toby Alderweireld, Luis Suarez, and co.
Justin Kluivert is our best attacking academy graduate since Eriksen and it is crucial that we develop him properly because while his talent is undeniable, Kluivert most certainly has his flaws that must be fixed if he is to become the world class player I believe he can be.
I’m first going to talk about a problem that isn’t necessarily his fault — the fact that we generally play him on the right wing.
Now, this doesn’t seem like a massive problem considering he has played on the right fairly often throughout his career, but for me, it really hinders some of his qualities and as a result we don’t get to see his best when he plays there. Kluivert isn’t a player who relies solely on his pace to beat players, so he sometimes struggles to get past players down the right hand side. He’s a dribbler who aims to beat players with his skill and quick feet, which is a dribbling style more suited to a player cutting in on his dominant foot or someone who plays through the middle.
Obviously, Kluivert is insanely skillful, so he still manages to get by opponents on the right side, but he generally has the most success whenever he plays on the left or whenever he drifts infield. Hopefully Marcel Keizer will adjust soon and start giving him minutes on the left hand side over Amin Younes or will play him up front alongside Kasper Dolberg or Klaas Jan Huntelaar.
Kluivert has a Dries Mertens-esque play style and Mertens truly only thrived once Sarri moved him to a more central position and I feel Kluivert could do the same.
But, if Kluivert does want to become a starter on the left hand side or perhaps play as a second striker, he’ll have to improve his end product dramatically. One of my biggest issues with Kluivert is his wasteful end product. His well documented skill often gets him into fantastic goalscoring situations, but he routinely does nothing from these areas. Having terrific end product is what separates the good from the world class and if Kluivert wants to reach those heights (which I will continue to believe he can reach) then he will need to improve his concentration in the final third and start to find the goal with more efficiency.
Kluivert’s attitude has also continued to be a problem. Unlike most, I don’t mind players who are arrogant as I think that’s a key trait if you’re ever going to become successful because if you don’t believe in yourself, then no one will. But, Kluivert has a tendency to turn that arrogance into petulance, which harms his overall game. He allows full backs to rile him up and he regularly loses his concentration after a few tussles with a defender. Once this happens, he’ll start trying too hard to get the upper hand over his defender and he starts to dribble too much. A lot of wingers, notably Neymar, have had this issue when they were younger, so it’s clear that you can mature and stop letting defenders into your head and that’s what Kluivert will need to work on this year as well.
Like I said earlier, Kluivert is expected to be one of Ajax’s key players this year following Bertrand Traore’s departure, and for an 18 year old kid that’s a lot of responsibility. Add in the pressure of having Kluivert as your surname and you can see why Ajax need to be cautious with their potential gem of a footballer. Seeing Ajax youngsters break through and become stars is what gives me the most joy as an Ajax fan, but seeing Ajax youngsters fail to live up to their potential is what gives me the most anger as an Ajax fan.
Justin Kluivert truly has the potential to become a world class talent. His technique borders on ridiculous for an 18 year old and he has the proper mentality to handle any challenge he may face. If he can improve on a couple things, Ajax manage him well, and we don’t give the kid too much responsibility and allow him to develop at his own pace, then Ajax will have another Kluivert who could go on to dominate Europe.