Donny Van De Beek
Born in Nijkerkerveen, van de Beek joined the Ajax academy in 2008. In 2015, he made his competitive debut for the club in a Europa League match against Scottish club Celtic. In the 2016–17 season, Ajax progressed to the UEFA Europa League Final, but lost to Manchester United. During the 2017–18 season, Van de Beek established himself as a key play in Ajax’s starting eleven. Following the 2018–19 campaign, in which Ajax reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, Van de Beek was listed among the 30-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or. With Ajax, he won the Eredivisie title, KNVB Cup and Johan Cruyff Shield.
In international football, Van de Beek has represented the Netherlands at the youth level. On 14 November 2017, he made his senior international debut against Romania. In 2019, he was part of the squad that reached the first ever UEFA Nations League Final, but lost to Portugal.
van de Beek began his career as a boy with the local Veensche Boys’ academy where his father, Andre, once played. In August 2014, he joined the Ajax youth academy signing a three-year contract, and was assigned to the D-team. He progressed further through the academy and featured in the A1 team Supercup victory against the Feyenoord A1 team. On 27 January 2015, he signed a contract extension, to keep him at the club until mid-2018.
Van de Beek made his debut for Jong Ajax (the Ajax reserve team) in the Eerste Divisie against Sparta Rotterdam in January 2015. Two months later, manager Frank de Boer called him to the senior team for a league match against ADO Den Haag as an injury replacement. However, he was an unused substitute in that match. At the end of the 2014–15 season, he won the AFC Ajax Talent of the Future award.
In November 2015, Van de Beek was called to the senior team for a UEFA Europa League match against Scottish club Celtic. He made his European debut in the match, which Ajax won 2–1. He termed his debut as “beautiful” and added: “I have taken my duels well. It was of course difficult because the game went back and forth continuously. But I think I did fine.” Three days later, Van de Beek made his first team debut in a 2–0 league victory against PEC Zwolle. In the following month, he scored his first goal for Ajax in a 1–1 draw against Norwegian club Molde FK. As he scored the goal, his head collided with opposition player Joona Toivio‘s causing his left eyebrow to bleed. Commenting on the goal, he said that he would not soon forget it. The goal also won him the club’s Goal of the Month award.
Voetbal International reported in January 2016 that manager De Boer was impressed by Van de Beek and said he would continue to play with the first team “until further notice”. After the departures of John Heitinga and Yaya Sanogo, he was officially promoted to the first team on 16 February. Media reports in March suggested that German club Bayern Munich was interested in signing him. By the end of the 2015–16 season, he cemented his position with the first team, and was also playing regularly for the Ajax under-19 team in the UEFA Youth League. Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo reported that Barcelona was considering options to secure his services.
At the beginning of the 2016–17 season, new manager Peter Bosz included Van de Beek in the Ajax squad for the UEFA Champions League qualification match against Greek club PAOK for a couple of reasons: Bosz was impressed by Van de Beek’s performance during pre-season friendlies in Austria, Riechedly Bazoer was injured and Nemanja Gudelj was suspended. On 26 July, he made his Champions League debut against PAOK, starting in the 1–1 draw. While playing for the reserves during the season he and Abdelhak Nouri were the only players who were given more than a seven rating on average by Voetbal International. In November, he was included in the UEFA Europa League Team of the Week for his performance against Panathinaikos. He was a part of a midfield trio with Nouri and Lasse Schöne. In April 2017, the Daily Express reported that Barcelona and Bayern Munich were scouting Van de Beek. Van de Beek replaced Schöne in the 70th minute of the Europa League final against Manchester United, with Ajax losing the match 2–0.
Commenting on Van de Beek’s 2017–18 pre-season matches, the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad wrote that he had successfully filled the void created by the departure of Davy Klaassen who had recently moved to English club Everton. In October, English club Tottenham Hotspur scouted him in the Netherlands. He scored a goal in both legs of the Champions League qualifier against French club Nice. In the first leg, he scored an equaliser in the 36th minute of the 1–1 draw; taking an advantage of an error made by opposition goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale. In the second leg, he found the net in the first half of the 2–2 draw. On 18 November, Van de Beek scored a hat-trick in an 8–0 league victory against NAC Breda. Ajax captain Joël Veltman hailed the feat as “extra nice”. He featured 34 times in the league and scored 11 times, besides adding six assists. In July 2018, he rejected an offer made by Italian club Roma citing that “Ajax is the right place for his development”.
Van de Beek played a pivotal role as the attacking midfielder for Ajax in the 2018−19 season, starting almost every match in all competitions, as the team won their first league title in five years and surprisingly qualified for the semi-final of the 2018–19 UEFA Champions League. Van de Beek scored against Juventus on 16 April in the second leg of the quarter-final to help his team knock out the Italian champion with a 3–2 on aggregate. On 7 May, he scored against Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of the semi−final which resulted in a 1−0 away victory for Ajax. Nonetheless, Ajax did not manage to advance to the final, losing the tie on away goals after a 2−3 defeat at home. In the 2019–20 Champions League season, Van de Beek scored against Valencia in a 3–0 away win, and Chelsea in a 4–4 draw; however, Ajax lost 1–0 at home to Valencia to be eliminated from the group stage.
On 30 August 2020, Ajax reached an agreement with English Premier League club Manchester United for the transfer of Van de Beek. The transfer was completed on 2 September 2020, with Van de Beek signing a five-year contract for a reported £35 million, plus £5 million in add-ons. Van de Beek chose to wear the number 34 jersey as a tribute to former Ajax teammate Abdelhak Nouri, who collapsed during a friendly in 2017 and went into an induced coma.
On 11 September 2013, Van de Beek made his debut for the Netherlands under-17 team against Germany. He was part of the squad that managed to reach the final of the 2014 UEFA European Under-17 Championship after defeating Scotland in the semifinal. However, they finished runners-up to England.
On 14 November 2017, Van de Beek made his senior international debut against Romania in a friendly match. He appeared in both games in the 2019 UEFA Nations League Finals as a substitute, as the Netherlands defeated England 3−1 but lost to Portugal in the final 1−0.
Style of play
At Ajax, Van de Beek played as a central midfielder. The Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo writes that he plays a more offensive role compared to his counterparts on other teams. According to former Ajax manager Frank de Boer, Van de Beek plays best at the number six position (central midfield position). Goal.com described Van de Beek as a player who has “excellent control and a great eye for a pass as he links up with the attack and is dangerous as he makes runs into the box”. While playing for the Ajax academy, he was compared with Davy Klaassen. However, Van de Beek rejected the comparison and said that he was a player who wanted to keep the ball at his feet. Ajax captain Joël Veltman described Van de Beek as a player who “works very hard and can play between the lines”.
Donny van de Beek’s parents are André and Gerdina van de Beek. André is a supporter of Ajax and took Donny to their stadium at the age of five. Donny’s younger brother Rody plays for Veensche Boys.
Donny Van De Beek