Over the years, Dutch football academies have been famous for their young talent who are known for their technique, flair and vision, and at the core of their legacy are the famous production lines at Ajax and PSV Eindhoven.
The list of prospects developed at both football clubs who have gone on to prosper elsewhere and become world-class players is too long to even delve into here; it is merely an indicator of the talent that the Netherlands have at their disposal.
Just as the World Cup finalists of 2010 are starting to see their spots threatened by a new batch of promising youngsters, so we should pay attention to the latest developments and prospects coming from Ajax and PSV.
Here are the five best talents to watch out for. Enjoy, and give us your picks in the comments below.
Let’s start first with Davy Klaassen of Ajax, who has been making waves in the Eredivisie this season.
Aged just 20, he has scored seven league goals and notched one assist in just seven starts this term, while also impressing in his three Champions League appearances.
Known as the new Dennis Bergkamp, Klaassen is now fittingly being coached by the Dutch striking legend and managed by Frank de Boer at Ajax.
Inevitably, Klaassen has already been linked, via Simon Jones of the Daily Mail, with Arsenal—Bergkamp’s home for almost 10 years—and possesses impressive technique, vision and a handy eye for goal.
Ricardo van Rhijn
Staying with Ajax, we turn to Ricardo van Rhijn, who came into the first team in 2012 after the departure of fellow highly rated right-back Gregory van der Wiel to Paris Saint-Germain.
Known for his pace and power, van Rhijn has also since forced his way into the Netherlands national team with a series of impressive performances for his club, making his international debut for the Oranje against Belgium in August 2012.
Back in September, he was linked by Ben Jefferson of the Express with a move to Chelsea or Serie A. Expect to hear more about him in the foreseeable future.
Let’s switch our attention to PSV Eindhoven, where our first nominee isn’t actually a youth academy product, but rather one signed aged 17 from Sparta Rotterdam.
Just a few months after his move to PSV, left-back Jetro Willems already began to nail down a permanent first-team slot, and hasn’t looked back since becoming the youngest-ever Dutchman to play in a UEFA competition when he started against Hapoel Tel Aviv in November 2011.
Quick, strong and technically gifted, Willems was linked with a move to Manchester United as early as June 2012, according to Jamie Sanderson of the Metro.
Also impressing for PSV is young striker Jurgen Locadia, who has scored five goals in 10 starts so far this 2013/14 campaign.
At 20 years of age, Locadia has scored 11 career goals for the PSV senior team during his time at the Philips Stadion.
A physical striker standing at 6’3″, Locadia has been compared with Aston Villa’s Belgian striker Christian Benteke, and has duly been linked by Alan Nixon of the Mirror with a move to Villa Park as a potential replacement for Benteke himself.
Finally, we turn to 17-year-old Belgian winger Zakaria Bakkali, who has already scored three goals in just seven league starts this season.
All three goals were scored in one single game, of course, against NEC Nijmegen, making him the youngest-ever player to score a hat-trick in the Eredivisie.
Blessed with impressive dribbling and passing skills, Bakkali has already been labeled as the next Eden Hazard by Belgian national coach Marc Wilmots, according to Ben Jefferson of the Express, and indeed has already been linked with a high-profile move to Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United, as reported by Richard Arrowsmith of the Daily Mail.
A sign of his obvious talent is his meteoric rise to the Belgian national team, for whom he has already made one appearance, despite the strength of the current Belgian golden generation.
This article first appeared on Bleacher Report, where I contribute regularly on Liverpool and the Premier League.