The son of the former Netherlands international would love to follow in his father’s footsteps by joining the Catalan giants
As two of the most promising graduates to come out of Ajax’s famed youth academy in years, Justin Kluivert and Matthijs de Ligt are already being tipped for superstardom.
Both feature in NxGn, Goal’s list of the top 50 players in the world born or after January 1, 1998, and both are as ambitious as they are talented.
Indeed, Kluivert already has a stellar career path mapped out for himself, which is perhaps unsurprising, given he is the son of former Netherlands international Patrick.
Kluivert’s father announced himself to the footballing world at just 18 by netting the only goal in Ajax’s Champions League final win over AC Milan in 1995.
Just two years later, Patrick joined the Italian giants on a free transfer but struggled to settle at San Siro and was promptly moved on to Barcelona, where he scored 90 times in 182 Liga games, helping the Catalans win the title in 1999.
It will not be a surprise to learn, then, that while Real Madrid ace Cristiano Ronaldo is Justin’s role model, the 17-year-old would dearly love to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“I look up to Cristiano Ronaldo,” the striker tells Goal . “Not just because of his qualities, which are obvious, but also the way he lives and eats and how hard he trains. He is really an example for me.
“But Barcelona is my dream club. Within seven years, I would like to be at Barcelona. But before that I would like to play in England as well. I really like that competition [the Premier League] and I would like to play there.”
Again, a move to England would also mean emulating his father, who spent a season at Newcastle during his illustrious playing career.
Given his obvious admiration for Patrick, there has also been understandable speculation linking Justin with a move to his father’s current club, Paris Saint-Germain, where the 40-year-old currently works as director of football.
“No, no, no, we haven’t spoken about that,” Justin insists. “Of course, sometimes we joke about that, but it doesn’t go further than joking!”
De Ligt, though, has already received plenty of concrete offers. “Around the time I signed my first contract, when I was 15 or 16, there were always clubs coming around for Ajax talents,” he explains to Goal .
It is easy to understand why they were particularly interested in De Ligt. The well-built, ball-playing centre-half is still only 17 but he has been included in the Netherlands squad for this month’s World Cup qualifier against Bulgaria and the friendly with Italy.
However, while it is only a matter of time before De Ligt attracts even more attention, Ajax need not worry about losing him to one of Europe’s elite – not yet, at least.
The teenager has heard first-hand how hard it is for youngsters to break into the starting line-up at bigger, richer clubs and would rather remain in Amsterdam to continue his footballing education.
“Ajax has always been my club and, as a young kid, I was always at the stadium,” he reveals. “So, I don’t really have a foreign club that speaks to me actually.
“Players like Javairo Dilrosun and Rodney Kongolo are at Manchester City now and they tell me about their experiences. They say that the big difference is physical.
“It is really survival of the fittest over there and in other countries. I think that is the main difference.
“You don’t get a lot of chances as a youth player, because a club like Man City will buy someone for 20 or 30 million euros if they need to.”
Even Kluivert is aware of the pitfalls of trying to achieve too much, too soon, admitting that he, like De Ligt, just wants to establish himself in Amsterdam before trying to realise his full potential elsewhere.
“My ultimate football dream is to become the man at Ajax, then make a nice step to a bigger club and try to perform well,” he adds.
“But I also hope to just stay fit, without injuries, because that is really important. And besides that I want to be happy with my family.”
With such a mature head on his shoulders already, Justin certainly looks set to do dad proud.