Daley Sinkgraven needs to make it happen this season. After six months of adaptation, the 20 year old midfielder is now accustomed to Ajax. During the De Lutte training camp last week, he summarizes.
During his holiday in Turkey last month, he learned once again what it means to be an Ajacied. In previous years at Heerenveen, the youth international had easily been able to walk the streets anonymously. “It was only in Friesland that I was regularly recognized. That’s completely different now. I saw during my holiday what a big impact Ajax has. I was recognized everywhere I went. Ajax truly has a global reach, as I’ve discovered.”
Sinkgraven’s life has shifted into high gear in the past eighteen months. Since his debut with sc Heerenveen in 2014, his football life has gone steadily uphill. As an under 19 player, then-Herevneen coach Marco van Basten gave him his debut in professional football. Exactly one year and 38 official matches later, Sinkgraven was presented to Ajax. “It’s all gone so fast. Sometimes I forget that I’ve only just turned 20 this month. Because of everything I’ve experienced, I feel quite a bit older. I’ve grown up quickly.”
During his summer holiday, he finally had time to stop and not worry about anything. This gave him the opportunity to gather energy for his first full season with Ajax. It’s a season in which he’ll have to perform as of day one. Obviously this will be necessary for the upcoming Champions League qualifying matches, but also because of the high competition within the selection.
“Competition within Ajax is very high. The coach especially has many options at midfield. It’s up to you to get chosen, it’s no one else’s responsibility. It keeps you sharp. I need to show that I belong on the squad.” According to Frank de Boer, forty per cent of the squad is fixed. At the end of the De Lutte training week, Ajax’s coach dropped the names of Jasper Cillessen and captain Davy Klaassen as being among the selected ones. He has not revealed who else is among that forty per cent. What definitely is in Sinkgraven’s advantage is the more offensive style that Ajax wants to use this season. “Playing with a ‘10’ is good for me. As an attacking midfielder, I can be more decisive with a cross-pass. That gives me more opportunities to distinguish myself.”
Sinkgraven needed the past six month to adapt to his new club. “I’m someone who always first takes a look around before finding my spot. I did that during the second half of last season. From now, I can focus one hundred per cent on football. In addition to that, a more coaching role at midfield will be expected of me. That will be especially important with a more attacking style of play.”
Up until now, Sinkgraven has played in fourteen official Ajax 1 matches. Four of those matches were UEFA Europa League, which marked his debut at the European level. If Ajax succeeds in beating Rapid Wien and its next opponent in the CL qualifying rounds, his Champions League debut will be in sight. “I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve only seen it on television. For the club and for me, it’s important to reach the highest European level. I can develop further that way. It’s a nice challenge for the new season.”