Milos Kerkez (AZ, age 18)
An energy bomb has been circulating at AZ for more than six months. It exploded last season during the play-offs for European football. Kerkez played, because permanent left back Owen Wijndal was injured and almost forgot about the captain who had already left for Ajax. Kerkez sprinted down the line like a runaway horse, immediately winning the favor of the AZ fans. After the 6-1 home win against Vitesse, with which AZ reached European football, he continued in the dressing room: in his underpants he made a belly slide over the tiles.
AZ took Mees de Wit from PEC Zwolle, but Kerkez hopes to remain left behind to fulfill his great promise. His journey started in Serbia and continued to Austria and Hungary because of his father’s work. When AC Milan bought him from Györ, his parents followed him, first to Milan and last winter to Alkmaar.
His father is now actually employed by his teenage son as a driver, bodyguard and controller. There is quite a lot of confidence in the family about the success of Kerkez’s career who was allowed to train at AC Milan, where his great example Paolo Maldini advised him, but where he didn’t have enough time to play for an energy bomb.
Kerkez also throws everything into the fight during training sessions, so much so that he was forbidden to make sliding tackles. The pre-university student is reminiscent of the Icelandic AZ back Gretar Steinsson, who still sounds from the speakers before AZ home games with his passionate swipe ‘rettekettettekettet’.
Like a ‘tough guy from Hungary‘ (Kerkez plays for the Hungarian national team) that’s how the AZ crowd should remember him, Kerkez told the Noord-Hollands Dagblad. As fearless, alert and watchful. A bit like his dog Had, a cane corso.
Savio (PSV, age 18)
‘Are you ready to be entertained?!’, PSV shouted in a roaring announcement from Brazilian winger Sávio. PSV and Brazilians, that automatically raises expectations by Romario and Ronaldo, although there is also an army of Latin American failures. The anticipation is no less.
PSV is committed to a multi-year trajectory, although Sávio was initially only rented for one year from the French Troyes, which belongs to the City Group. Anyway, at least a season of entertainment is the hope in Eindhoven. Savio is looking forward to it, preferring to play for his famous compatriots’ club than for Troyes, even though it paid him 6.5 million euros.
The fact that Sávio Moreiro de Oliveira, also known as Savinho, is one of Brazil’s greatest talents, is not only exclaimed by enthusiastic scouts and players’ agents, but is also apparent from the facts. In the Brazilian youth teams he was often the great tastemaker.
The dribbler made his debut at Atlético Mineiro at the age of 16 under the renowned Argentine coach Jorge Sampaoli. The left leg can use both wings, likes to come in, passes easily, shoots skillfully and, as befits a modern dribbler nowadays, also has an eye for the combination.
He gets time to get used to Jong PSV. But PSV coach Van Nistelrooij is not afraid to give attacking talent a chance quickly, as he has already proven in recent weeks. Due to the serious injury of Noni Madueke, there is a vacancy on the right that Ismael Saibari is filling well for the time being, but the 21-year-old Moroccan Spaniard is also only just coming to the highest level.
“This is the best day of my life,” Sávio said at his presentation. And about Romário and Ronaldo: ‘I will do everything I can to mean as much to the club as they have done.’
Kenneth Taylor (Ajax, age 20)
Not that he knows all that much about it, his father always admitted honestly, but maybe Kenneth could do some things better after all. For example, do not always return the ball to his right leg, but just cut or shoot with the left. Taylor is now reaping the benefits of this, the born Alkmaarder is two-legged. And that is still a rarity in professional football.
With Taylor, Ajax coach Schreuder can go in many directions anyway. He also played in the back of the Ajax youth, but was the midfielder who scored the most during the battle for the Johan Cruijff Scale.
His breakthrough took place in the last months of last season in the classic Ajax way: with bluff and swagger. The then coach Ten Hag proposed a rental during the winter break. But Taylor said: ‘I’d rather stay, because I’ll be in the starting line-up this season’. Thus it happened.
With Taylor in midfield, sometimes even instead of internationals Steven Berghuis and Davey Klaassen, Ajax won the national title. That was quite difficult in the end, but that was not so much due to Taylor as to the shaky defense. It is significant that Ajax attracted attackers and defenders, but, for the time being, no midfielders, while Ryan Gravenberch left.
Taylor was often compared with Gravenberch, his bosom friend actually got in the way of Ajax. But where Gravenberch did not want to extend his contract and was therefore sold (to Bayern Munich), Taylor signed shortly afterwards until 2027.
Opinions about Taylor are still divided. Isn’t he still too anonymous for a base place at Ajax? Is he reliable enough to enter the Champions League?
His old teacher in the Ajax youth Ronald de Boer sometimes cursed him because of his nonchalance and somewhat aggrieved behaviour. But the ‘doerak in the good sense of the word’ is ready to become really important, says De Boer.
Quinten Timber (Feyenoord, 21 years)
The transfer record dates back to 2003: Feyenoord paid 7 million euros for Serbian striker Danko Lazovic. Two years ago, a similar amount was put on the table for Marcos Senesi. And now it’s finally broken, for a partly self-trained player. For Quinten Timber, Feyenoord reportedly paid 8 million to FC Utrecht, an amount that can rise to double digits due to bonuses.
Feyenoord is not rich, and two midfielders, Amrabat and Ayoub, who were picked up earlier at Utrecht, do not make it in De Kuip. But the club had to act after half of the basic team was bought away and coach Arne Slot had put his phone away, too often frustrated, because the players he had in mind (Veerman, Bazoer) did not come. PSV, Ajax and a trio of foreign clubs drove up the asking price for Timber.
10 million for Timber. That also sounds like a pittance somewhere, because his twin brother Jurriën makes such an impression at Ajax as a multifunctional defender, who usually fools strikers themselves instead of the other way around. They are unimaginably similar, Quinten is the one who asserts himself the most verbally, who seeks adventure the most and who used to be captain more often.
Q, as teammates call him, impressed FC Utrecht last season where the midfielder became increasingly dominant. ‘Timber is Til’s successor,’ announced coach Slot. That brings pressure. Guus Til is a lesser footballer than Timber, but did sign for fifteen league goals, where Timber only made two last season. Feyenoord hired another attacking midfielder with Sebastian Szymanski, it still has Orkun Kökcü and Jens Toornstra on board. It will be an interesting battle for two places.
Also interesting: the night before Ajax – Feyenoord and Feyenoord – Ajax in the Timber house. What is then discussed in an attic room in Utrecht where the twins still sleep side by side?
Jonathan de Guzman (Sparta, age 34)
22 years after he first set foot in Rotterdam, Jonathan de Guzman returned there this summer. At the age of 12, the midfielder left home in Canada where he was waved off by his Filipino father and Jamaican mother. He went to Feyenoord and after his stormy debut in South Rotterdam he played in all the top competitions: Spain, England, Italy and Germany.
And not at small clubs: Villarreal, Napoli and Eintracht Frankfurt. But perhaps he was in Swansea City’s service at his best. He guided that to the win of the League Cup and there he made it to the Dutch national team. He even started as a basic player at the 2014 World Cup.
In all those top competitions he scored, no Dutchman did that. He experienced everything, had a warm relationship with Michael Laudrup and Louis van Gaal, fought with a director of Napoli, was seriously injured several times, and, in addition to the League Cup, also won the German DFB Pokal. He scored in the Champions League against Bayern Munich. The lives of football players with less baggage have been filmed or described in a book.
De Guzman therefore brings a wealth of experience with him to Sparta, which barely maintained itself last season and to date is the most active club on the transfer market with twelve newcomers. De Guzman has played for OFI Crete for the past two seasons and has yet to become top fit. He has long since ceased to be the natural talent who loves to play as an attacking midfielder, and who didn’t care much for meddling teammates. He is a connector with still that excellent basic technique and mentality.
‘I really wanted to go back to Rotterdam’, said De Guzman. His children continued to live there. Son Jaden de Guzman of 15 just exchanged the Feyenoord training for that of PSV. He also harbors an idiosyncratic adventurer and a gifted footballer. “Great to see him play a lot, but I also want to show something myself.”