WWith Ajax making losses of some œ17million last season, Andy Van der Meyde is just one of a talented crop of young Amsterdammers who could be sold off to reduce the deficit.

Only last spring, the winger signed a contract extension until summer 2005, but few in Holland would be surprised if the 23-year-old was the first out of the door.

Yet another product of Ajax’s celebrated youth system, Van der Meyde has never concealed his long-term plans to emigrate to the English Premier League, and, significantly, it would seem his relationship with Ajax coach Ronald Koeman is far from harmonious.

Koeman has publicly admonished the Holland winger for being too individualistic at times and, in an attempt to rectify the problem, recently switched him from his usual right-wing spot to the opposite flank.

“When Van der Meyde plays on the left he keeps the ball better and doesn’t look to make big plays all the time,” explained Koeman.

He was proved right. Stationed on the left against Heerenveen in November, Van der Meyde gave one of his best displays of the season, scoring twice in a 3-0 victory. Then again, he is probably used to criticism. Early in his career, some of the Ajax coaching staff thought he did not have a strong enough personality to make the grade. While they gave him top marks for speed, technical prowess and crossing, questions were raised about his lack of confidence and consistency.

After making his debut in October 1997, events seemed to bear out the widely-held view. He could not make the breakthrough permanent and in the next 20 months played only four more times. But Van der Meyde came of age when farmed out to Twente Enschede for the 1999-2000 campaign. He was picked regularly by coach Fred Rutten and played with the sort of purpose he had rarely shown at Ajax.

“My year at Twente was great for my development,” says Van der Meyde. “I learnt a lot and gained valuable experience of playing in the top flight. I went back to Ajax a more complete player.”

On his recall, he quickly established himself as a first-team mainstay and last season improved still further, making a vital contribution to Ajax’s League and Cup double. He also scored on his full debut for the national team in a friendly win over the United States in May.

Van der Meyde obviously has much more character and drive than he was once given credit for.

Club Ajax
Country Holland
Born September 30, 1979, in Arnhem
Previous club Vitesse 1892
International debut May 2002, v United States
International caps 3 (1 goal)
Honours Dutch League 1998, 2002; Dutch Cup 2002