On 24 May 2017, an Ajax side containing a galaxy of young talent lost to Manchester United in the Europa League final.
Seven players in that Ajax squad now ply their trade in the Premier League. Those include Hakim Ziyech (Chelsea), Donny van de Beek (Manchester United) and Davinson Sanchez (Tottenham Hotspur). We’ll reveal the others later.
Probably the least-hyped of the seven was Jairo Riedewald. An unassuming defender, the youngster had been with the Dutch giants since he was 11.
Playing in an unfamiliar left-back role, Riedewald stifled Juan Mata in a performance that paved the way for a five-year deal with Crystal Palace that summer.
Riedewald struggled initially
Riedewald was brought in by doomed Palace manager Frank de Boer. The Holland legend gave the youngster his Ajax debut in 2013/14 and Riedewald arrived at Palace still only 20.
Despite his age, Riedewald arrived as a title-winning player. He had made almost 100 appearances and had the highest pass rate in the Eredivisie (92.4%). He was also a senior Netherlands international.
However, Riedewald was hurriedly thrown into a three-man central defence in a side that lost 3-0 to newly promoted (and later relegated) Huddersfield. It was the first of four straight league defeats in which Palace scored zero goals.
De Boer, with his recklessly idealistic and stubbornly ideological style of play, was sacked soon after. And Riedewald was unfairly cast as the personification of the Holland legend’s hapless tenure.
The following season, Riedewald didn’t play a single minute in the Premier League.
With huge competition for his preferred central midfield position, Riedewald was a long way from selection.
A swathe of injuries meant he was forced to fill in at left-back again. He was named Palace’s player of the month in January 2020 but resumed bench duties when everyone was fit.
However, manager Roy Hodgson’s recent tactical change from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 with two deep-lying midfielders has transformed Riedewald’s fortunes. The Dutchman offers defensive protection as well as the ability to receive and retain the ball, pass forwards and contribute to attacks.
Riedewald scored his first Eagles goal – a cute finish against Fulham – and has been named Palace player for October.
His unique mixture of defensive anticipation and confident ball-playing skills finally seem to have nailed him a spot in Hodgson’s side.
Still only 24, Jairo Riedewald has the opportunity to become a midfield mainstay in SE25.
Did you guess the others?
The other Premier League players from that Ajax side are Joel Veltman (Brighton and Hove Albion), Bertrand Traore (Aston Villa) and Kenny Tete (Fulham).
Meanwhile Frenkie de Jong (Barcelona) and Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus) have also moved on.
And people accuse Palace of always selling their best players!
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