"He reminds me of Frank Rijkaard," says Ajax coach Frank de Boer – meet Jairo Riedewald, the 18-year-old centre-back also likened to former team-mate Daley Blind.
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A product of Ajax's revered academy, Jairo Riedewald graduated to the senior squad last year but has become a regular at the heart of the defence this term. Meet UEFA.com's latest weekly wonderkid ...
Name: Jairo Riedewald
Debut: 19 December 2013 v Ijsselmeervogels (Dutch Cup)
Date of birth: 9 September 1996
Preferred foot: left
They say …
"He has a lot of potential, everyone knows that. Jairo is also eager to make the next step. He reminds me a bit of Frank Rijkaard – he's even more agile, but not as strong in the air."
Frank de Boer, Ajax coach
"Jairo has risen through the ranks. He is a physically strong lad, but can also play. We are confident that he will succeed at Ajax."
Marc Overmars, Ajax director of football
Born in Hoofddorp, Riedewald initially impressed scouts while playing for local club SV Overbos before joining Ajax at 11. Six years later, after honing his skills in De Toekomst academy, the teenager debuted for the Dutch giants. Impressed in the UEFA Youth League in late 2014 before becoming a permanent fixture in the first team. Set to make his senior international bow this season, having featured for the Dutch Under-15, U16, U17 and U19 national sides.
Playing style …
Blessed with strength, fine distribution and composure, he has become a frequent starter this term. Having made his bow at left-back before being deployed in midfield in front of the defence – following the sale of Daley Blind to Manchester United – the 18-year-old is finally playing in his favoured position, as the left centre-back. The departure of captain Niklas Moisander has enabled him to partner Dutch international Joël Veltman at the heart of the defence. In Riedewald – along with Anwar El Ghazi, Riechedly Bazoer and Kenny Tete – Ajax's academy has delivered again.
Shades of …
Compared to Rijkaard by his coach when deployed as the No6 last season, while Riedewald sees similarities with former team-mate and Oranje star Blind.
Eureka moment ...
On 22 December 2013, three days after his maiden appearance for the Godenzonen in the Dutch Cup, the defender made a spectacular contribution in his first Eredivisie game. Introduced by De Boer for the final ten minutes with his side trailing 1-0 at Roda, he scored twice – including a last-gasp clincher in added time – to secure a dramatic victory.
Best-case scenario …
Following his promotion to the first team last year, the youngster agreed a two-year contract extension – binding him to the club until 2018. He now looks set for a breakthrough campaign having played every minute of Ajax's UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League qualifying ties this term. Could make his debut for the Netherlands in September having been included in new coach Danny Blind's first provisional squad for the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying matches against Iceland and Turkey.
He says …
"I want to develop this season as a centre-back, and also as a person. [Ajax captain Davy Klaassen and Veltman] are young but have become leaders in the group. Perhaps, in two or three years, along with [right-back] Tete I can take over."
Have you seen Riedewald in action? How do you rate him?