A product of Willem II, Frenkie de Jong worked his way up the youth ranks before making his Eredivisie debut for the club against Den Haag in May 2015, two days before his 18th birthday. Signed by Dutch giants Ajax that summer, the young midfielder spent the majority of his first two seasons there on the fringes of the first-team squad while playing for the Under-21s. He still made a number of appearances in the senior team, however, including as a substitute in the 2017 Europa League final Ajax lost to Manchester United.
The following season was De Jong’s breakthrough year, and it actually started in the centre of defence after the departure of Davinson Sanchez to Tottenham. With another potential star in Matthijs de Ligt playing alongside him, Ajax boasted one of the youngest but most exciting central-defensive pairings in Europe. De Jong’s distribution, even from deep in his own half, marked him out as a genuine talent.