Ajax are no strangers to losing players. They aren’t strangers to signing players either. Their conveyer belt system of producing top talents thrives on replacing their best stars with players who can do quite the same soon. The case of losing Hakim Ziyech and replacing the former Twente man with Antony is, in that sense, typical Ajax.
What is a bit startling though is how Ajax have spent €15.7 million on a much lesser-known player than the likes of Daley Blind or Quincy Promes. But having said that, the club’s recent acquisitions of Edson Alvarez and Razvan Marin shows that they are adapting to the market. They’re spending higher than they used to in the years gone by.
Antony arrives from Brazilian club Sao Paulo- a club that the Amsterdam side aren’t strangers to. David Neres had arrived from the same side back in the summer of 2016 and he’s had a stellar rise to prominence since.
On the Brazilian’s signature, Marc Overmars did compare Antony to Neres himself. He told Algemeen Dagblad: “Everyone calls him a wunderkind, but Brazilians are often praised to the sky. Once he gets here, he will need time, just like David Neres. We will be more active in the summer market then we were this winter. I think that when it comes to Antony, we will have a good chance because we can offer talents the best overall package. The whole deal will cost around €25 million.”
Indeed, there is every chance he does that as well as his compatriot. Currently 20, he’s a left-footed right-winger and finished his first full season with Sao Paulo last year. His debut did come in the 2018 edition of the Brasileiro but it is in the 2019 season that he really rose to the occasion.
Last season saw the winger contribute to ten goals in 29 league appearances, with four being goals and six being assists. While he was a right-winger on a vast majority of occasions, he did often play on the right and as the second-striker or as the number ten. All of it depended on shapes, as Sao Paulo usually played either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 but would often use a narrow 4-3-1-2 as well.
In his first full season at the club, Antony made an impression with his directness, pace and fearlessness on the ball. As per Whoscored, the youngster completed 2.4 dribbles per game and has a tally of 1.3 key passes as well. His tendency to flaunt his flair is crucial as that helps him win fouls- something that he did 2.8 times per game for the club.
Despite being a winger who is direct, Antony shows the ability to be very good on the ball. He played 44.2 passes per game with an accuracy of 83 percent. Not all wingers can do it, considering how they are likely to cut inside and do things. But that is why Antony is a lot like what Ziyech is.
Both show keen tendency to not hug the touchline. They are more into coming inside and getting involved in the build-up more than a winger who sticks to one side. They thrive on getting more freedom to play and use their ability on the ball.
That isn’t Antony’s only strength though. He is a grafter- something that Ziyech has become over the years. The Moroccan was heavily criticised in his initial years for not being active enough off the ball but that has undergone a big change over the years.
Those concerns though, shouldn’t arrive with Antony. As per Smarterscout, his defensive quantity index is at two but his defensive quality index is at an impressive 91. He is efficient off the ball and also wins 1.6 tackles per game.
Smarterscout suggest that Antony is adept at recovering a moving ball, with that index as high as 92. He might not be an aerial threat by any means, but his passing forward index is at 87. For a club that has the culture of playing a 4-3-3 shape that relies on keeping possession, Antony fits right in.
For someone who is 20, those output numbers will only increase. They may not be as high as that of Ziyech and when he was at Twente but he’s at the right club to take his development forward. He fits into the culture and system and would get first-team football from when he joins with the side next season.
Ajax can be sure that they have another real talent on their hands. Bigger clubs should already start to take notice.