WHY RIEDEWALD IS THE PERFECT ADDITION FOR PALACE

Jairo Riedewald joins Crystal Palace. A really good deal for both club and player. Not many people know about him though, so I wrote a story regarding the versatile defender who’s for sure an addition to Palace and the Premier League.

RIedewald’s official Ajax’ debut © Pro Shots

It is the 19th December of 2013. Jairo Riedewald makes his official Ajax’ debut. Against Ijsselmeervogels, a lower-tier side, he plays a short amount of minutes at left back. But his qualities are clear. He’s well gifted on the ball, is physically strong for his age (17) and less than a week later it’s getting clear he knows the drill at the Amsterdam Football Club; scoring on your (Eredivisie) debut.

I was there that day. In Kerkrade, Limburg. Ajax is 1–0 down against Roda JC and the minutes are counting. Frank de Boer does a change. Christian Poulsen goes off in the 80th minute. Riedewald is his replacement. Daley Blind to midfield, Riedewald the new left back (again). With five minutes to play left, Riedewald gets the ball on the left side of the pitch. He plays the ball inside and it goes to the right. Ricardo van Rhijn, Club Brugge nowadays, crosses the ball low, Hoesen is the target man, his shot is blocked, but Riedewald is in the 16-yard-box for the rebound. Goal.

You think he’ll celebrate his first goal in Ajax’ first team, but no way. He immediately runs back to the halfway line, because: Ajax getting one point away from home against a relegation-side is non-acceptable. That’s the mentality you get when you come through Ajax’ academy and he knows it too. Every second counts. A draw can cost you a league title a few months later. The goal gives Ajax extra energy for the last few minutes. They want a win.

It’s extra time. Van Rhijn misses a clear-cut chance for the win. But Ajax have a corner-kick. Schöne takes it tight, Veltman gets his header to the far post and there’s Riedewald again. Goal. Shirt off. Yellow card. But no one matters. Ajax have their win in the dying seconds and a 17-year-old youth prospect is the main figure in this fairytale.

At the end of this season Riedewald gets his first league title with Ajax 1st team and during 14/15 Riedewald is officially part of De Boer’s side. He played 19 games where he showed himself so well that he was rewarded with Niklas Moisander’s legacy in 15/16. De Finnish defender made a transfer to Sampdoria and the then 18-year-old was his successor.

In a friendly against VFL Wolfsburg it was straight for everyone Ajax had an amazing, multifunctional, left footed defender in there ranks. With the likes of Kenny Tete (Lyon) and Riechedly Bazoer (Wolfsburg) alongside, it was clear Ajax had an amount of talent in their team, which many clubs would be proud of.

It was the start of Riedewald making name for himself. Nationally and abroad. It was his best season in an Ajax kit. He was, despite his young age, a mainstay for Ajax, which was seen by Danny Blind too. De former defender was head coach of the Dutch National Team at that time and he gave Riedewald his Netherlands’ debut against Turkey, which the team lost. Riedewald was one of the highlights though, at again left back that day.

Everything went well, til Ajax-Feyenoord. Riedewald broke unfortunately his ankle, whereby he couldn’t play games for at least three months. At the end of the season he was fit again, but he couldn’t prevent Ajax for one of their biggest blows in the club’s history. Ajax drew away from home against De Graafschap, who were already certain of playing playoffs for promotion/relegation. The draw made it possible for PSV Eindhoven to get their second league title in a row.

It was De Boer’s last season as Ajax’ manager and Peter Bosz took over. The new manager changed a newly-fit Riedewald from position. Searching for balance, Riedewald was made CDM, which he played a few times in Ajax’ youth academy to improve his operational speed in especially possession. It was bull’s eye. He played excellent, especially against PAOK in the CL, was Ajax’ best player (again) in an at that time bad playing side and at least one position on the pitch seemed clear. But nothing was less true.

Bosz wasn’t happy with the balance, so he changed his team in a Cup-game against Willem II. Lasse Schöne played CDM and Riedewald was benched. Bosz himself said, it was his most difficult decision til then to get Riedewald out of the starting 11. He played well and was a true addition with his passing, control and contribution in Ajax’ positional play. Though, Schöne was a much more ball-playing player and that was Bosz’ favorite type at that crucial position.

On the bench, Riedewald had a difficult time, especially when Matthijs de Ligt became officially part of the 1st team. With his strength in both man-marking, tackling as heading, two-footedness and his tremendous performances, he got a bit of an advantage over Riedewald. When a defender felt back due injury or suspension, De Ligt was the first name put to paper. And not Riedewald.

In the very end of last season, Riedewald still got his games. As left back he played a very good match against Lyon-home, he excelled against Willem II-away and in the Europa League-final he was also part of the starting eleven. He was the cause of United’s 1st goal with a bad throw in, but overall he did play decent.

With Bosz leaving to Dortmund, Riedewald was likely to stay for at least one more season at Ajax. He played a few games under new manager Marcel Keizer at Jong Ajax, so new chances were coming. Til the Amsterdam club, without any communication, changed Riedewald’s number from 4 (1st team number), to 36. It was a negative sign towards the true Ajacied, which made him quite unhappy. At training camp he laughed a lot, but he didn’t play Ajax’ first friendly of the new season due a coming transfer.

That transfer is Crystal Palace now. A very good club for him. He knows De Boer, who likes Riedewald, his qualities and his potential. He’s still very young, he’s versatile, he’s left footed, so he’s a good replacement for Sakho, who has left. He needs to adapt to the physical side of the PL, but overall he’s exactly the defender Palace and De Boer needs.

With the brand of football the new Palace manager wants to play, Riedewald is the perfect player. His passing is, as I said before, maybe his biggest quality. He can break lines and is immediately, for sure, Palace’s best ball playing defender. If De Boer surely wants to build up from the back, Riedewald is a true addition to the squad. If De Boer wants to play long balls to Benteke, Riedewald can do that too.

Last season it seemed he was a bit lazy, but that had to do with his situation at Ajax. When he gets minutes constantly, which I think he gets at Palace, he’ll be good and develop himself to an even better defender. Due his versatility, you can say he’s quite complete. He can be stronger in one vs. one defensively, but with the likes of real PL-defenders in the team and De Boer, he’ll improve at that aspect of the game, for sure.

Yes: Riedewald is a great transfer for Palace, himself and Dutch football. He’s a talented defender, who joins a good club for development like Karsdorp, Kongolo, Aké and Tete did before. He’ll get minutes under the manager who saw his qualities perfectly, he’ll develop in arguably the best league in the world and he’s the type of player Palace doesn’t have now.

Riedewald is quite fun off the pitch © Pro Shots

He’s part of the future the club from London wants and he will show himself. With his still young age, strong off, but especially on the ball qualities, his positive attitude on and off the field, he’s with Palace at the perfect place for further development. For himself, the club and even the Premier League, which’s, with the likes of Riedewald, gaining more talent yet again.