In the endless cycle that is Ajax’s talent line, Mohamed Daramy could be the next to explode in red and white.
What an incredible month it’s been for Mohamed Daramy. The 19 year-old made the inevitable step up by leaving his boyhood club, Copenhagen, to join Dutch giants Ajax. More importantly on a personal level, Daramy fulfilled a lifelong ambition by making his debut for the Danish national team in their 2-0 win over Scotland in World Cup Qualifying.
The transfer fee of 12 million Euros makes Daramy the second most expensive export of all time from the Danish Superliga, behind only Kamaldeen Sulemana who also left this summer. The fee could serve as both an added pressure and a vote of confidence from the Ajax board. The move to the Eredivisie and regular Champions League football will be a massive step up in quality compared to the Danish domestic league, but Erik Ten Hag will hope that the winger can follow in the footsteps of Mohammed Kudus in transitioning quickly from one league to another.
Jamie Carragher once said that trying to keep up with Thierry Henry was “like trying to chase after someone on a motorbike”.
Mohamed Daramy definitely falls into the ‘motorbike’ category too. His unique running style stands out straight away when watching the winger. Daramy leans so far forward it’s incredible he isn’t falling . The arms move frantically as he goes through the gears and there is absolutely no question that it’s effective.
Although his acceleration is quick, it is really the ability to get faster and faster over a distance that has tormented Danish Superliga full-backs for the last two seasons.
This unorthodox running technique could easily be a hindrance if it wasn’t for Daramy’s fantastic balance. Arguably his best trait, the Danish international has an incredible ability to stay on his feet whilst weaving through opponents at full pace.
To get a glimpse of what Mohamed Daramy is about just look at the goal he scored in his penultimate game for Copenhagen against AGF Aarhus. The wily winger wins a 50/50 challenge, using the bounce off his opponent as momentum to skip past a tackle before somehow regaining his balance to drill home a low finish at the near post.
It’s no real surprise to see Daramy’s impressive stats in his five league games for Copenhagen before leaving this summer. 24 dribbles attempted, 19 of which were successful. The most successful ball carrier in the Superliga.
Throw in two goals and two big chances created and it looked for all the world as if Daramy would have illuminated Danish domestic football if he had decided to stay another season.
As is curiously common with exciting young wingers, Daramy’s decision making in the final third has baffled supporters on occasion. The reality is that when players are moving so much more quickly than those around them, their decision making has to match that speed. Mohamed Daramy has, however, progressed solidly in that area of his game, notably his finishing.
The stats do reflect Daramy’s inefficiency in the final third pretty glaringly. Just three assists last season despite playing in a strong Copenhagen team with an impressive young forward ahead of him, Jonas Wind.
Daramy’s issue wasn’t just assisting though. It was getting the ball in the right area all together. He did not register in the top 30 players in the league for crosses attempted, which is absurd for a player of his quality. Perhaps it highlights that the player is a modern dribbler rather than an old school winger. Either way he’ll need to show more dimensions to his game in Amsterdam.
It’s always interesting trying to identify a player’s potential weaknesses when they’re playing in a ‘weaker’ league. With Mohamed Daramy it may well be the case that he has such a wide set of exceptional attributes but all in the context of Danish football. Meaning when he arrives in Amsterdam it will be a matter of proving he can do what he already does in a much higher standard, at a faster pace and against stronger opponents, as opposed to immediately changing his game.
The Right Move?
Copenhagen manager, Jess Thorup, was quick to point out that despite the £4 million signing of Isak Bergmann Johannesson from Norrkoping, Daramy could not be replaced “by one [player]”.
In contrast Daramy arrives in Amsterdam to a squad stacked with talent. One in which he’ll have to earn his right to play all over again.
The assumption that it could be tough for Daramy early on is based on the wide players that Erik Ten Hag already has available to him. Club captain Dusan Tadic looks set to continue being an ever present in the wide left position of the 4-2-3-1 system. The Serb has started all three league games so far.
Anthony, arguably the clubs most exciting prospect, is likely to retain his spot on the right as he continues to sparkle. Meanwhile the club have also signed “Netherlands best winger” according to Louis Van Gaal in Steven Berghuis. The widely rated David Neres also remains on the books.
Despite the slightly daunting list of players already at the club, Mohamed Daramy has a huge amount going for him. Firstly, his versatility may prove key. The fact that he is equally comfortable playing on the right or on the left to cut in on his stronger right foot, has not gone unnoticed and was mentioned by Erik Ten Hag in his announcement press conference.
Secondly, Daramy has time on his side. Just 19 years of age, he could have easily opted to bide his time and stay another season or two at Copenhagen. Clearly the Dane felt that his development was best served at Ajax. His age would suggest that immediate regular first team football may not be a priority at this stage in his career.
Mohamed Daramy will certainly have his chance at Ajax. The Director of Football Marc Overmars, spoke of a “logical” move away from the club for David Neres in the near future. Plus, with Tadic now ageing, the opportunities for rotation this season are definitely there.
If Ajax are to compete on all fronts including the Champions League, Daramy should have a chance to showcase what he can do on the big stage despite competition.
The stats, as would be expected, very much justify Daramy’s decision to take the step up. Averaging nearly 10 dribbles a game, with a solid 60% success rate, Daramy ranked third in the league dribbles per 90 minutes and fourth for dribbles attempted over the course of the 20/21 season. This is a slightly complex way of saying that the wide-man is a fearless dribbler regardless of the defenders he’s up against. He’s proven this both on international duty with the under-21 side and in this season’s Champions League qualifiers.
Interestingly Daramy also ranked second overall in the ‘second assists’ category last season. This category looks into the pass before the assist, an excellent way of measuring the largely underrated work players do in the middle third of the pitch. In this case, Daramy’s willingness to be a ball carrier even deep in his own half allowed Copenhagen to transition much faster than other sides.
The 2021/22 season is, in many ways, a season without pressure for Daramy. Ajax on paper, looks like the perfect place to manage his transition into playing top level football.
Frequent rotating of wide players should allow for the winger to play his natural game without the immediate pressures of needing a consistent end product right away.
Alternatively if the winger hits the ground running at his new club, it won’t be long before Europe’s super clubs are keeping a close eye on him.