‘They are always a step ahead of everyone else’: Jan Vertonghen says Ajax start training players to be fearless from six years old
- Jan Vertonghen says Ajax train fearlessness in their young academy players
- The Tottenham Hotspur defender played 220 times for the Dutch club
- He’ll be up against his former team in the Champions League semi-final
Jan Vertonghen says Ajax are ahead of every other club in world football because they start training fearlessness in their academy kids from as young as six years old.
Vertonghen rose through the ranks to feature 220 times for the Dutch club and will tonight go up against his former side with Tottenham in the Champions League.
The 32-year-old was a teenager when he first joined Ajax’s stellar academy and says it is the confidence they instil in their youngsters that stands out.
Jan Vertonghen says Ajax are ahead of every other club because they train fearlessness
Vertonghen featured 220 times for the Dutch club before moving to Tottenham Hotspur
‘That’s what they do,’ Vertonghen said. ‘Always, when you’re six or seven years old, you start and you’re in the best team in the league. Always.
‘You have to dominate away from home. A draw is never enough. A win is never enough. You always have to win in a certain way. That’s what you’re seeing right now.
‘Ajax is playing at an unbelievable level. You don’t expect teams apart from the big countries to do this. They have shown the way to do it.
‘They are always a step ahead of everyone else. I’m happy it pays off.
‘They just prepare everyone for the highest level. Then the kids that come on, because they almost are kids when they’re 18, 19, and making their debuts at 17 sometimes, they are ready.
‘They are hungry. They are ready. They are fearless. They feel the support from the academy and they’ve got confidence in their qualities.’
Tottenham will have to deal with the likes of Dusan Tadic and David Neres on Tuesday
Vertonghen was hesitant about joining Ajax from Belgian side Beerschot AC in 2003 at first. ‘I had doubts because I don’t like moving,’ he said.
‘I remember my old coach told me, “Jan, just go. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here”. I always remember these words. Ajax is the best academy in the world.’
Tonight, though, Vertonghen will try to stop the likes of Dusan Tadic and David Neres from getting an all-important away goal ahead of next week’s second leg. ‘It will be extremely special,’ he added.
‘When we moved into the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I did not expect us to play against each other, but it will be very special.’