Yet another product of the esteemed Ajax academy, foraging full-back Gregory van der Wiel could be the latest de Godenzonen graduate to depart the Amsterdam Arena for pastures new this summer.
van der Wiel has attracted admiring glances from across the continent for the last couple of years, with Barcelona, Manchester City and Arsenal all rumoured to have kept tabs on the 23-year-old. Chelsea are the latest Premier League team to be linked with the Ajax man. With Jose Bosingwa out of contract in the summer and Branislav Ivanovic preferring to play at centre-back, van der Wiel could be an ideal signing for Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti.
After coming through Ajax’s academy system (initially as a centre-back before being switched to right-back by then-manager Marco van Basten), van der Wiel made his senior debut for the club in March 2007, featuring in a 4-1 win over FC Twente. He has since gone on to appear 97 times for the Netherlands’ most successful club, scoring nine times in the process.
Amassing 14 appearances over the course of his first two seasons at the club, van der Wiel established himself as a key member of Ajax’s starting line-up during the 2008/09 season. Indeed his performances during that season lead to him being named as the club’s “Talent of the Year”. He continued his impressive progress last season, and was deservedly awarded the Johan Cruijff “Young Player of the Year” accolade for 2009/10.
The right-back has also established himself as part of the national team set-up. Capped 20 times, van der Wiel made his debut for The Netherlands in a friendly match against Tunisia in February 2009. He also featured in the side’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to win the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, starting twice for the Oranje in their group stage wins over Denmark and Japan.
As an attacking right-back, van der Wiel has unsurprisingly drawn comparisons with Barcelona’s Daniel Alves. Much like the Brazilian, van der Wiel is equipped with pace and stamina. He is also a good crosser of the ball.
With van der Wiel’s stock continuing to rise, suitors such as Chelsea should look to move quickly if they are to secure his services. AC Milan are reported to have opened negotiations to take the 23-year-old to the San Siro, in a move which would see him reunited with compatriot Urby Emanuelson. A failure to agree a fee prevented the defender from joining German giants Bayern Munich after the 2010 World Cup finals, but it seems likely that this season will prove to be van der Wiel’s last in Amsterdam.
The following video highlights Van der Wiel’s talents:
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