Wed 22 September 2021 | 11:30

The Next Generation of Dutch Football: The Youth of the Oranje

In the following article from SportMob, we will have a look at the next generation of Dutch football and analyze the Dutch talents for 2021.

Football is the most popular sport in the Netherlands, with players beginning at a young age. We don't mind if we play in the schoolyard, in front of our house, or well-organized clubs. Football is ingrained in our culture and everyday lives. Netherland's club life is likely the bedrock of our success - it's what sets Holland apart from the competition, and it's probably the most critical component.


new generation of Dutch soccer team

are ready to prove themselves as gems. Teun Koopmeiners, Ryan Gravenberch and Donyell Malen are young stars growing into world-beaters. But these are names that are already dominating headlines on the next generation of Dutch talents.

The Netherlands has participated in eight FIFA World Cups, three of which have reached the final (1974, 1978, and 2010). They've also competed in seven UEFA European Championships, winning the West German competition in 1988. In addition, in 1908, 1912, and 1920, the team earned a bronze medal at the Olympic event. The Netherlands and its neighbors, Belgium and Germany, have long had football rivalry.

The Netherlands appeared to boast some of the world's top players. Players like Van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael Van der Vaart, Ruud van Nistelrooy,

Jaap Stam

, Robin Van Persie and Edwin Van der Sar unfortunately are not born every day. However, there are some signs of recovery regarding the

next generation of Dutch football

, especially after the brilliant period they had at World Cup 2010.

Dutch players are noted for their technical abilities and versatility in the field. They're the game's engineers, pursuing innovation, speed, and power with a single goal in mind: to win beautifully. They are the personification of the Total Football qualities that Dutch football has traditionally prided itself on, hailing from various clubs competing in the national top-flight tournament, the Eredivisie, so we intend to make a list of the top 10 best Dutch young football players 2021 that could form the Netherlands’s future and make the country shine.

Top 10 Best Dutch Young Football Players 2021

Football is changing; its future is upon us. Today investing in young people and above all "building them at home" must be the next step in Dutch football. For this reason, it becomes essential today to look at what can be done tomorrow and, in particular, to be able to compose "a generation Z" of players able to face the next challenges of the change implemented.

The players mentioned as

the next generation of Dutch football

are the stars of the new generation of Dutch soccer team. If you are interested in the list of the next generation of Dutch talents, keep reading.

10. Owen Wijndal

First in the list of the next generation of Dutch football. Owen Wijndal was born in Zaandam, the Netherlands, on November 28, 1999. After playing for local club ZVV Zaandijk, he transferred to HFC Haarlem before joining AZ Alkmaar's junior academy in 2010. In the 2016/17 season, the 20-year-old Dutchman made his professional debut for Jong AZ in the Tweede Divisie (third tier), where Jong AZ dominated the league with players like Teun Koopmeiners, Guus Til, Calvin Stengs, and Myron Boadu.

The youngster also made his debut for AZ's first team during the same season. At 17, he made his AZ debut in an Eredivisie match against PSV, making him the club's youngest debutant ever. In the 2016/17 season, he would only play one match for the first squad while appearing in 24 games for AZ's second team. Jong AZ will play in the Jupiler League (second division) next season after being promoted after the 2016/17 season.

For young Dutch players who want to play for a large club, the second division of Dutch football has often proven to be the appropriate stepping stone.

Donny van de Beek

, Matthijs de Ligt, and Donyell Malen all began their careers with Jong Ajax or PSV, which aided them in maturing as football players and acclimating to senior football. This was similarly the situation for Wijndal. In the 2017/18 season, he played sixteen games for Jong AZ and seven games for AZ's first squad in the Eredivisie.

Daley Blind's participation at Euro 2020 is uncertain. Still, if he is unavailable, Netherlands coach Frank de Boer has options at left-back, where the experienced Ajax defender/midfielder generally plays for his country. Patrick van Aanholt and Nathan Ake are possible replacements, but De Boer's current choice is Owen Wijndal.

In Oranje's recent 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the young AZ full-back has been a constant (even grabbing a pair of assists in the 7-0 rout at Gibraltar). Given his lack of experience on the biggest stage, his meteoric ascension has raised some concerns, but he's handled it all with grace so far. Wijndal scored six league goals this season, one less than the previous campaign. He'll only grow better as time goes on. He is a future star in

the next generation of Dutch football


9. Calvin Stengs

In AZ’s surprising form, Calvin has come into his own and made himself know as a pillar of

the next generation of Dutch talents

. Calvin Stengs, a right-winger, is one of the club's brightest and most reliable players, having secured a permanent spot in the starting eleven at the age of 21 and is regarded as a vital member of the squad.

Stengs has been playing for Alkmaar since he was 12 years old, so he knows everything there is to know about the club and vice versa. This was the winger's fourth Eredivisie season with the first team, and many players of the present squad had been "classmates" for several years, such as

Myron Boadu

, Teun Koopmeiners, and Owen Wijndal.

Accomplice in crime Calvin Stengs has a lot of potentials. However, AZ's super-agent Mino Raiola represents him, so you can bet some clubs throughout Europe are aware of the talented Dutch winger. Stengs has 15 goals and 17 assists for his teammates since going professional, but it's not just the numbers that make him a name to remember.

He has a superb technique and a level of confidence that belies his age. Stengs, who learned his trade on the streets, combines the classic with the contemporary in his aesthetic. A true whirlwind of a winger. His ambidexterity, cunning, and lightning speed have made him a terror for defenders. A big star and a member of the next generation of Dutch football.

8. Myron Boadu

The Cheeseheads, in particular, have without a doubt the most influential group of youthful talent in the Dutch top flight. AZ has mastered the art of creating stars, but retaining them is a different issue entirely. They don't want to lose their top shooter Myron Boadu anytime soon, but AZ's No.9 has piqued their interest.

Boadu, like compatriot Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, is a modern-day poacher who lives for goals, scoring 15 in the league last season, including a hat-trick in a stunning performance against Feyenoord February. It was his best productive season, surpassing his 14 in 2019/20, where Boadu got his first call-up to the national team.

Given the high level of competition, Boadu will have to wait before representing his country regularly. Boadu, a striker who can also play as a winger when necessary, has a natural ability for speed, which allows him to burst and make his run into space late in an offensive phase. As previously said, the Dutchman excels at employing this skill by waiting right on the shoulder of the last and deepest defender, racing into the open space moment a teammate is about to make a pass.

While this is a signature move of Boadu's, as shown in the Heerenveen match, it doesn't always go unnoticed - which creates space for a teammate to exploit since a defender is bound to have followed Boadu's run. Keep an eye on The Netherlands’ largest asset in the next generation of Dutch football.

7. Guus Til

The exploits and progress of the 20-year-old midfielder for a promising AZ have brought him to the attention of his nation, much to his surprise. At 16, the offensive midfielder considered leaving the Dutch youth system due to his diminutive stature, but he was cautious enough to enroll in a business economics study.

On the other hand, his coaches believed he could make it, and his rapid physical growth catapulted him into the senior team, where goals in his first two Eredivisie games showed he had a lot to give. His rapid rise in Noord-Holland is drawing greater attention. Even though he is only getting favorable press, the Eredivisie's endlessly cheerful camper has forced to accept it grudgingly.

The media's attention on his game makes him uncomfortable, but it hasn't stopped him from building a reputation as a charming character with his rude comments and honesty in interviews.

Guus Til

is considered as one of the stars of new generation of Dutch soccer team.

6. Joey Veerman

Rafael van der Vaart, the original ‘Golden Boy,' knows a thing or two about budding stars. He is now a television analyst, and he recently made waves when he stated his view on who the best player in the Eredivisie was. He wasn't representing any of the typical suspects, as it turned out. Mid-table Heerenveen and their outstanding midfielder Joey Veerman, the ex-Spurs man compared to Andrea Pirlo, is an exaggeration, perhaps, but you can see the grace in his play.

“Delicious balls, each one custom-made. For him, everything appears to be extremely simple. Everything is very casual and spontaneous. He also enjoys playing football. With only two full seasons under his belt at senior level, Veerman can already claim to be one of the stars of

top 10 best Dutch young football players 2021


5. Mohammed Ihattaren

Mohammed Ihattaren, a generational potential, is dazzling for

PSV Eindhoven

's first squad this season. Although only being 19, he is already a part of Ronald Koeman's plans for the Dutch national team. Ihattaren had a strong reputation in the PSV youth and made his first-team debut when he was 16 years old. He couldn't be stopped after that, and he's been the club's most crucial player this season, with nine assists and seven goals in 33 games.

Ihattaren, a playmaker with excellent talent and technique, is the most effective number ten, but he can also play on the flanks. For a guy so young, his confidence in his abilities is impressive, and it's no surprise that all of Europe's top clubs are circling to sign him.

Ihattaren put any speculation about his international future to rest earlier this season by committing to the Dutch national team, earning his first call up to the squad before the coronavirus forced the games to be postponed. Ronald Koeman has named Ihattaren as one of his choices on the right-wing, so it's just a matter of time before he gets his shot.

Ihattaren is one of the most brilliant players of his generation and is a treat to watch. He will strive to continue his rapid progress at PSV and cement his position in the Oranje squad over the coming year. Without a doubt, Jorge has a special in the list of

the Dutch talents for 2021


4. Teun Koopmeiners

To understand

Teun Koopmeiners

' journey to fame - as a member of the Dutch talents for 2021 list, it is necessary to understand how his club, AZ Alkmaar, wishes to develop players. Like many of their Eredivisie counterparts, each club has a well-articulated philosophy aimed at producing as many players as possible for their respective first teams.

Koopmeiners is a product of an academy designed to produce players who can assist the first team in dominating games with their attacking style of play. The future of the Oranje's midfield appears bright, especially as Teun Koopmeiners continues to progress. Another skilled Arizona footballer played a key leadership role in the team's third-place finish last season. Koopmeiners scored 15 goals and added five assists while being primarily a "defensive midfielder."

We could see him developing into a solid box-to-box midfielder, a threat in the opposition half, and a presence in his own, breaking up and leading, and completing attacks. His excellent tackling and positioning understanding allows him to win possession and then successfully distribute it, but his engine most impresses observers; his runs enable him to cover ground and are highly valued by Gasperini.

The young Dutch midfielder, who plays in the double pivot, is prominently involved in AZ's build-up play, looking to receive the ball from his center-backs and deliver a forward pass to Dani De Wit or Calvin Stengs, who comes off his wing and gets the ball centrally.

Koopmeiners does not tend to advance beyond the ball and make runs into the box when AZ has moved the ball into the opposition's final third, as shown in his heatmap below. Instead, he drives and puts himself directly behind the ball, providing support while the ball is circulated across the field in an attempt to break through the opposition's defensive system.

3. Ryan Gravenberch

If we are talking about new generation of Dutch soccer team, Gravenberch should be there. With 186 cm and 77 kg, Gravenberch has a close to perfect body stature for the role that Erik Ten Hag seems to assign to him. He is mainly used as a critical defensive midfielder in Ajax’s usual 4-3-3 tactics or as a left-defensive midfielder if the team is set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation.

He primarily serves as the most profound lying member of the central trio, which allows his two other teammates to join the attacks more often and play a free-roaming role. At the same time, Gravenberch instead sticks to his position and aims to provide stability to the team. As illustrated in the below chart, his defensive statistics are above the league average in general.

No side is more associated with youth development than Ajax, who have started at least one academy graduate in every match since September 1981 - a streak of 1,850 games and counting.

Ryan Gravenberch

, probably Eredivisie's most promising prospect, is the current poster boy of their prestigious finishing school.

There were excited murmurings about his ability before he broke through under Ten Hag. Some saw him as Frenkie de Jong's natural successor, and while he has a different style, Gravenberch is just as talented. He's still a teenager, so he's in the ideal situation to develop and meet those lofty goals.

He may easily create a fantastic decade-long partnership at the international level with the guy he succeeded in Ajax's midfield as the current "Dutch Football Talent of the Year." Gravenberch is a solid progressive passer of the ball who frequently looks to break lines with his passing, whether it's from deeper areas or when moving into the final third.

The 18-year-old can disguise his passes to make it less likely for the opposition to predict and intercept them, and he has a decent pass weight and rarely undershirts his passes into players between the lines. Gravenberch, like any other player his age, has a lot of things to learn and develop. There's no denying his talent and abilities, but they won't be enough to help him reach his full potential: a lot will hinge on his personality, which has already sparked debate in the media and among fans.

He has a lot of self-confidence, which some people mistake for arrogance, but it's an attribute that may set a player apart from the pack if it's combined with humility and respect for the game. Ajax places a high value on its players' mental development, ensuring that Ryan Gravenberch is in the best possible hands. Gravenberch may expect much more playing time next season if he continues to play in the same way he has thus far.

A renowned organization. With the possible transfer of Donny Van de Beek, who is currently the heart of the midfield and plays the box-to-box role that seems to be the most beneficial for Gravenberch, given his technical abilities, rhythm, vision, and explosive runs, he has a great chance of earning a place in the starting eleven very soon, most likely in a more offensive position. Until then, all he can do is wait and appreciate the trust he has been given at such a young age by such an influential person.

2. Donyell Malen

Before suffering a season-ending knee injury in 2019/20, the sky was the limit for Donyell Malen, who earned his first international appearance. He was expected to play a prominent role for

the Netherlands

at Euro 2020 last summer before it was rescheduled, allowing him to resume his career with this goal in mind. Malen returned with a point to prove, and he’s gone about business like any upstart young striker.

A near ever-present under Roger Schmidt (just missing two league games), Malen ended his 2020/21 campaign with 19 league goals, by far the most he’s produced in a single Eredivisie season. The bulk of those appearances came at center-forward but, given his ability to play across the frontline, the former Arsenal academy star could become a handy weapon for the Dutch at the forthcoming European Championships if he’s called up as expected.

His on-the-ball and off-the-ball work demonstrate his football ability. We can see how easily he manipulates the defender into making a challenge in the shot above. Rather than taking the safe route and holding the ball up, Malen chooses to take advantage of the open space behind him. Before spinning off and losing his man, he glides towards the ball, pushing the defender to close in.

Because of his stocky frame, the Ajax youth product's flare and pace typically take defenders off guard. He is one of Europe's most prolific young players due to his ability to pick up the ball and explode into awful situations. However, Malen has all the potential to make it into the list of

the next generation of Dutch football


1. Matthijs de Ligt

It is the most important player’s turn - the most significant player on the next generation of Dutch talents list. Matthijs de Ligt joined Juventus from Ajax as one of Europe's most sought-after players, having become the youngest player to start for the Netherlands since 1931 at the age of 17 and the youngest player to appear in a major European final at the age of 17 years and 285 days – Ajax's Europa League defeat by Manchester United in 2017.

He made his senior debut at the age of 16 in a 5-0 win over Willem II, becoming the club's second-youngest goalscorer after Clarence Seedorf, and is primarily expected to lead a new defense that has been so impressively led by Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini, and

Gianluigi Buffon

for so long.

De Ligt is very impressive in possession, even for a modern central defender. Suppose he prefers to play as a right-sided central defender. In that case, he can swiftly combine with the defensive midfielder in front of him by moving into the openings created by that midfielder by dragging opponents out of position and then progressing play with accurate passes into feet.

His passing range is also improving, and he's now posing an attacking danger by delivering longer-range keys across the pitch to the far-side winger, advanced full-back, or a wide-moving attacker.

His aerial ability, both offensively and defensively, is equally excellent. Substantial leaps from static or moving positions complement his stature and power. He is equally capable of carrying on an opponent's blindside as he is sprinting through his marker and winning the first contact, whether against zonal or individual marking systems.

De Ligt still has work to do in other areas. His long-range passes haven't proven to be as accurate as those he throws to his teammates. He also loves tight marking - in line with Italian football history and depends on constant body contact and disrupting opponents' rhythm, especially when waiting for a cross, but is occasionally guilty of allowing his attacker to advance across goal and attack into space. Despite his immense strength, agile opponents can put him to the test.

If he can do so, given that he is already capable of monitoring his opponent and the ball's trajectory at the same time – and thus discouraging his opponent from moving to his blindside and defending as he prefers with the game in front of him via blocks and tackles – there is little stopping him from becoming one of the best in the world.

. If he is not distracted by an adversary, he will neutralize those lower deliveries at the earliest possible moment and remain awake for the cross' second phase.

He can open his body upon his more muscular right foot from the left, receive possession from those on his left on the same foot, and target the spaces to the right after lifting his head, scanning the pitch, and playing a more adventurous pass. The rapidity with which he demonstrates his ability to switch play especially in a squad that has long preferred filling the center sections of the pitch with numbers – is enhancing his potential importance, so, and for this reason, no one would be surprised if we set him in the first place as a pillar of the next generation of Dutch football.

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