Manchester City plot summer move for Ajax teenage star Justin Kluivert

Manchester City could land Justin Kluivert in a cut-price deal. (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2018

Manchester City plot summer move for Ajax teenage star Justin Kluivert

  • Super agent Mino Raiola is looking to move the Dutch international
  • Kluivert is also admired by Jose Mourinho

LONDON: Manchester City have added Justin Kluivert to a shortlist of potential summer signings as Pep Guardiola seeks to further strengthen an attack that has scored over 100 English Premier League goals this season. The teenage Netherlands international has refused to sign new terms at Ajax Amsterdam, who are resigned to losing him in the coming transfer window. And sources close to the player and at Ajax expect the Premier League champions to lead the race to sign him.
Kluivert turned 19 this week and has scored 10 goals in 30 top-tier appearances for Ajax this season, having broken into the Eredivise side’s first team during a run to last year’s Europa League Final. Fast, two-footed and comfortable playing anywhere in the second line of the attack, his skill set is an obvious fit to the system with which Pep Guardiola had led City to a runaway domestic title success.
As Kluivert is approaching the final year of his first professional contract, the Dutchman also represents a relatively low-cost alternative to other candidates for the position. City attempted to use Abu Dhabi’s prodigious funding to recruit Alexis Sanchez and Kylian Mbappe last summer, and were stymied in a January move for Riyad Mahrez.
AS Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard rank among the top-end options on the coming window’s market. City also hold a strong interest in Portugal U-21 international Rafael Leao; however Sporting have so far refused to even discuss the possibility of selling a player the Portuguese club considers central to future plans.
Kluivert is represented by Mino Raiola, who has applied the strategy with which he moved a teenage Paul Pogba out of Manchester United in 2012, setting his client’s salary demands at a level Ajax refuse to match. Ajax chief executive Edwin van der Sar held an unsuccessful meeting with Raiola this week.
“We have been talking for 10 months now, and we are a bit done with it all now,” Van der Sar said this week. “He is difficult to keep. His agent pushes him toward the exit, which is a shame. It is not our intention to let players aged 18 or 19 leave the club. That is not the philosophy of Ajax.”
Although Ajax’s bargaining position is constrained by the length of Kluivert’s contract and an expectation that Raiola will attempt to maximize financial return from the player’s next employer, the club will attempt to secure as high a transfer fee as possible. “We think he is better than Raheem Sterling,” a club source told Arab News. “We’ll try to get as much as possible.”
Manchester United are also in the market for a winger comfortable playing off his left foot, with Kluivert included on their own recruitment short list last year. Jose Mourinho made a point of personally complimenting the forward on his debut campaign in the immediate aftermath of United’s Europa League Final defeat of Ajax last May.
Raiola’s relationship with United, however, has deteriorated in recent months. The Dutch-Italian agent has offered marquee player Pogba to domestic and Champions League rivals and unnecessarily complicated January’s Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan exchange deal. It is unclear whether the Old Trafford club would be prepared to enter into another complex negotiation with him.
Raiola and Guardiola have also been at odds this season, with the agent branding the City manager “a coward, a dog.”
Kluivert’s father, former Netherlands striker Patrick, has publicly stated a preference that his son’s next club be his own former home, Barcelona. While the newly crowned Liga champions are considering a bid for Kluivert, he is just one of a number of candidates on a recruitment list that also includes Real Betis forward Fabian Ruiz.

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

Updated 21 March 2019

Bert Van Marwijk only has one thing on his mind: getting the UAE to the 2022 World Cup

  • Former Saudi Arabia coach wants to guide the Whites to their first World Cup since 1990.
  • "If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here," Dutchman says of his new job.

LONDON: Bert van Marwijk has told the UAE he only has one thing on his mind: Getting the side to the 2022 World Cup. 

The former Saudi Arabia boss was unveiled as the new coach of the Whites before watching his new team beat his former team 2-1 in a friendly in Dubai (see right). While he was in the stand rather than the dugout — interim boss Saleem Abdelrahman took charge — he would have liked what he saw as he set himself the challenge of leading the UAE to their first showpiece since 1990. 

“I’m here for only one thing, and that’s to qualify for the World Cup,” the Dutchman said.  

“It takes a long time and the first thing we have to deal with is the first qualification round. That’s why I’m here.”

Van Marwijk was celebrated after he led the Green Falcons to last year's World Cup before calling it quits. (AFP) 

Van Marwijk guided Saudi Arabia to last year’s World Cup — the Green Falcons’ first appearance at the showpiece for 12 years — during a two-year stint which ended in September 2017.

That was one of the key reasons the UAE fought hard for the 66-year-old and while it is never easy getting through Asian qualifying — 46 teams going for just four direct slots at Qatar 2022 — the Dutchman claimed his experience, combined with his knowledge of the UAE, will stand him in good stead. 

“The Saudis and the UAE are about the same level. With the Saudis we qualified for Russia, so we will do really everything to go to Qatar in 2022,” Van Marwijk said. 

While he is fondly remembered in the Kingdom — only a contractual dispute regarding backroom staff meant he did not stay on as Green Falcons coach for the Russia tournament — it is his time as the Netherlands coach that really stands out on his managerial resume. Van Marwijk coached the Oranje to within minutes of the World Cup trophy, with only an Andres Iniesta extra-time winner preventing him from tasting ultimate glory against Spain in 2010. 

So why did he return to the Gulf for another crack at World Cup qualification in a tough, crowded race? 

“One of the reasons is the feeling. I have to have the right feeling when I sign a contract,” Van Marwijk said. “We analyzed the UAE, we played four times against each other with Saudi, so I can see the potential.

“I have had the experience to go to the World Cup twice. The first time we were second in the world, the second time was with Australia (which he coached last summer) and we were a little bit unlucky — we played very well. 

“So to go to the World Cup for the third time is the goal.”

Van Marwijk is all too aware his task will be difficult. The “Golden Generation” of Emirati footballers, spearheaded by Omar Abdulrahman, tried and failed to make it to football’s biggest tournament, and a lot of the next three years’ work will likely depend on a new generation.

“I heard there were some young talents, so I’m anxious to know how good they are,” the Dutchman said. “I know the team has a few very good players — the UAE has a few weapons. 

“That’s the most important thing. If I didn’t see the potential, I wouldn’t sit here.”