Top 10 best players from the Ajax Youth Academy: Why Bergkamp only takes eighth spot

The Ajax Youth Academy has produced some of the greatest players ever to exist. They have won countless trophies across the generations, with much of their success coming from years of perfecting their game and learning from the greats. Many have played for Jong Ajax before joining the senior side too, adding extra richness to their Amsterdam pedigree.

With the club having produced world-class talent since the 1970s, it is tough to rank players on talent alone. So our list is going to be ranked by the glittering trophy cabinets assembled by these stars.

10. Rafael van der Vaart

Former Dutch attacking midfielder Rafael van der Vaart sits fourth in the all-time appearance list for the Netherlands, helping his country reach the 2010 World Cup final. 

At club level, he made a huge impact at the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Hamburg and Real Madrid, with those spells following his highly successful period at Ajax. 

He won three league titles, two Intertoto Cups and one KNVB cup during his career.

9. Christian Eriksen

A regular on the European stage for over a decade now, creative midfielder Christian Eriksen was spotted lighting up Danish youth football and was promptly brought to Amsterdam to hone his talents.

In the decade since his departure, Eriksen has played for Tottenham Hotspur, Inter Milan, Brentford and Manchester United.

Eriksen has won three league titles and three domestic cups.

Bergkamp came through the Ajax Youth Academy
Dennis Bergkamp's beautiful style had a huge impact on English football – Photo by Icon Sport

8. Dennis Bergkamp

Amsterdam born and bred, Dennis Bergkamp joined Ajax aged 11, and lit up the first team until age 24.

Boasting one of the finest goal catalogues in the sport, Bergkamp became synonymous with Arsenal after his move in 1995. 

After scoring heaps of awe-inspiring goals, the non-Flying Dutchman retired with the Gunners in 2006, after starring in the ‘Invincibles’ side of 2003/04.

Bergkamp won four league titles, two UEFA Cups and six domestic cups across his career.

7. Edgar Davids

A superbly well-rounded central midfielder, with a distinct look thanks to his protective goggles, Edgar Davids was a mainstay on the international stage throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

Starting his career at Ajax, Davids left his indelible mark at AC Milan, Inter, Juventus and Tottenham. Along the way, he won six league titles, three domestic cups, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup.

6. Frank de Boer

Spending a total of 15 years at Ajax, Frank de Boer was a world-class central defender with an astonishing range of passing.

De Boer also played for Barcelona, Galatasaray and Rangers, amassing six league titles, three domestic cups and the Champions League during his playing days.

5. Wesley Sneijder

With 134 appearances, Wesley Sneijder is the most capped Netherlands player of all time, and is widely regarded as one of the best midfielders of his generation. 

Best remembered for his incredible World Cup 2010 campaign, Sneijder was a force to be reckoned with at the peak of his powers.

The genius number ten also played for Real Madrid, Inter and Galatasaray. Along the way, Sneijder won five league titles, seven domestic cups and the Champions League.

Clarence Seeforf, Edgar Davids and Frank Rijkaard won the 1995 Champions League together – Photo by Icon Sport

4. Clarence Seedorf

Undoubtedly one of the leading midfielders of his generation, Clarence Seedorf enjoyed a long, successful career after starting out at Ajax. 

Real Madrid and Inter played host to his stunning ability, but his best performances were perhaps saved for the black and red stripes of AC Milan. 

Seedorf is the only man to win the Champions League with three different clubs, as well as five league titles and three domestic cups.

3. Frank Rijkaard

A technically gifted centre-back who could also hold his own in midfield, Frank Rijkaard is a titan of Dutch football. Rijkaard spent a decade at Ajax across two spells, punctuated by a glittering era at AC Milan with Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten

Rijkaard won a staggering seven league titles, three domestic cups, three European Cups/Champions League trophies and the 1988 European Championships.

2. Sjaak Swart

With a record 603 appearances for Ajax between 1956 and 1973, tricky winger Sjaak Swart was a loyal, one-club man, and of the greatest to ever pull on the famous jersey. 

Swart’s presence in some of Ajax’s most successful eras has left him with a glittering trophy cabinet. He won eight Eredivisie titles, three successive European Cups and five KNVB Bekers.

Johan Cruyff was truly one of the greats – Photo by Icon Sport

1. Johan Cruyff

The name Johan Cruyff is synonymous with the beautiful game, from his signature turn that bamboozled defenders to the all-conquering Barcelona side he built as a manager.

Cruyff was the first Dutch superstar footballer, initially with Ajax, but also with Barcelona and the Netherlands national side. 

He netted an astonishing 270 goals in 369 appearances for Ajax, with the club recently naming their stadium after their much-loved legend.

Cruyff won ten league titles, three European Cups and seven domestic cups while a player.

Frenkie de Jong has maintained the Ajax-Barcelona link – Photo by Icon Sport

Which other Ajax Youth Academy graduates deserve a mention?

Despite a torrid 2023/24, there are still several Ajax graduates gracing Europe’s elite, as the Amsterdam club continues to churn out talent.

Most notable among them is FC Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong, a world-class central midfielder, blessed with incredible technique, passing and ability to slalom past his opponents in deep areas.

Matthijs de Ligt has not quite hit the heights hoped of him when he starred in Ajax’s 2018/19 Champions League semi-final run, but the Dutchman has still impressed with Bayern Munich at Juventus.

He may in turn join another Ajax graduate, Andre Onana, at Manchester United this summer. Onana is a truly modern goalkeeper, very skilful and confident with the ball at his feet.

Finally, Daley Blind has enjoyed a superb renaissance at Girona, with the technically gifted defender guiding the club to an unprecedented third place finish in La Liga.

Jorrel Hato and Brian Brobbey are Ajax's great hopes – Photo by Icon Sport

Who is the current generation of Ajax Youth Academy graduates?

Ajax are in need of a fresh crop of academy stars to get them out of their present hole. Fortunately for them, there are a handful who may do just that.

Chief among them is Jorrel Hato. The 18-year-old defender made his debut at just 16 after already playing a season for Jong Ajax, and is already a very good player, aggressive in his duels and supremely confident in possession.

Another is powerful striker Brian Brobbey. The 21-year-old is already a full Dutch international and hit 20 goals for the first time last season, as well as notching nine assists.

Finally, midfielder Kenneth Taylor, rated highly by Louis van Gaal, is expected to step up once again next season, having been key to turning Ajax’s fortunes around late last season.

William Evans is a football and politics fanatic. A first-class graduate of UEA's Broadcast and Digital Journalism MA course, he also achieved a first class degree in politics and media studies during his time at UEA.