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The Ones Who Slipped Away

February 18, 2011

Ajax is very well-known for its youth system. They have produced world class players like Johan Cruijff, Frank Rijkaard, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, just to name a few. What is not so known is that from time to time they have gotten things wrong. Here are five players that slipped away or did not make it from Ajax youth system but made it elsewhere:

1. Ruud Gullit
He is the best footballer from Amsterdam that never played for Ajax. Born and raised in Amsterdam, he played in a local team and on the streets together with Frank Rijkaard. Rijkaard ended up at Ajax, Gullit didn’t.

Ajax knew about Gullit and wanted to get him in the youth academy. The Ajax scouts at the time approached Gullit and said that he can join Ajax if he comes along to the club with his parents. As Gullit was living in West Amsterdam and Ajax was located in the East, this wasn’t really that simple especially with the complex situation of his parents. Both parents were working and Gullit’s mom was an “outside wife” of his dad (basically a second wife). As he couldn’t just go to Ajax with his parents, he asked if Ajax could come to him instead. Ajax refused and Gullit took Ajax’ approach as arrogance and decided not to join Ajax. He joined Haarlemi instead, moved to Feyenoord then PSV followed by AC Milan, captained Oranje at Euro 1988 and the rest his history.

2. Eljero Elia
Elia made furore in 2009 and 2010, first as a winger at FC Twente, then at Hamburg SV and at the World Cup. Even though he couldn’t get into the starting XI at the World Cup, he did catch the eye of the casual viewers with his trickery and skills.

Elia went through the Ajax academy, but at the age of 15 Ajax decided to let him go citing his attitude as the main reason. He then joined ADO Den Haag, made his professional debut there before switching to FC Twente. He was one of the main reasons FC Twente finished second in 2009. Ajax tried to buy him in 2009 and he was willing to go back to Ajax, but FC Twente did not want to do business with Ajax after the affair with Rob Wielaert. Ajax offered the same money as Hamburg SV and in the end Elia went to Germany.

3. Denny Landzaat
Landzaat, born and raised in Amsterdam, came from the Ajax generation that produced Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert. He went through the Ajax academy and even made 1 first team appearance in 1996 but there wasn’t any future for him at the club. He moved to second division side MVV and helped them gain promotion. At Willem II (with whom he played Champions League with) he became the solid midfielder he was known for before ending up at AZ. In 2001 he received his first call-up for the Dutch national team, was part of the 2006 World Cup squad and he ended up playing 38 times for Oranje. In 2006 he joined Wigan then joined Feyenoord in the winter of 2007 to help mentor the younger players. At the end of the 2009/2010 season his contract ran out. He said to Feyenoord that he is willing to add another year for a basic salary but Feyenoord wasn’t interested. After a couple of months without a club he now is at champions FC Twente and is still of value. Not a bad career for someone who was basically rejected by Ajax.

4. Filipe Luis Kasmirski
Filipe is a Brazilian left back, currently plying his trade at Atletico Madrid. Ajax hasn’t had a proper left back since Maxwell got injured in 2004. All the players who have played there are not left backs by trade. Urby Emanuelson is a creative midfielder, Vurnon Anita a right footed defensive midfielder, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen both are center backs, and Daley Blind is also a midfielder. Even Nigel de Jong had a game or two at left back. The only proper left back that Ajax bought, Timothee Atouba, only played twice and has been dogged by injuries ever since.

Back in 2004, Ajax took on Filipe on loan for a year from Figueirense, Brazil, with a view to sign him as a replacement for Maxwell. He mainly played in the youth team but didn’t impress the Ajax trainers. He then went to Real Madrid B and then popped up at Deportivo La Coruna in 2006. There he has been a solid left back even making it into the Brazilian squad. He was supposed to go to South Africa as the left back but an ankle injury prevented him playing in the build up and going. He moved to Atletico Madrid for €12M in 2010 while Ajax is still struggling with finding a left back.

5. Andre Ooijer
Ok, so he is now at Ajax but only joined in the very twilight of his career. Also hailing from Amsterdam, he was part of the Ajax generation that produced Michael Reiziger and Edgar Davids. He never made it into the first team though, so he joined the small FC Volendam. Via Roda JC he ended up at PSV Eindhoven where he became their main right back for 9 years. He also made it into the Dutch national team and was the main right back in 2006 and 2008. He moved to Blackburn Rovers in 2006 before going back to PSV again in 2009. After the World Cup 2010, where he had a great game against Brazil, his contract ended with PSV. PSV did not want to resign him, so Martin Jol – who worked with him at Roda JC – took him to Ajax on a free with a small salary. He is happy to be back at the club he supported as a child.

I am sure that there are more players (Mbark Boussoufa at Anderlecht is another one). Let me know who you think should be on this list as well.

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