It didn’t take Frank de Boer long to realise that he had a potential star on his hands when he handed Jairo Riedewald his league debut despite Ajax trailing 2-1 at Roda JC back in December 2013.
Aged just 17 years and 104 days, the defender would enjoy a 10-minute cameo he would never forget. In the 87th minute, he tapped in to become the Eredivisie’s youngest-ever debutant scorer, and then in injury-time he bagged a second to snatch a huge win for De Boer’s side, sending them top of the table during the winter break and setting them on their way for a fourth-successive league triumph.
Despite it seemingly like a gamble, De Boer would have known what he was doing in handing Riedewald his chance despite his tender years, having overseen his development since taking the reins as head of Ajax’s academy three years earlier. There, he would have first seen the young defender progressing through the ranks as he had done since the age of 11 when he made upped sticks from his home city of Haarlem to Holland’s capital back in 2007.
It would take him just six years to reach the first-team, when three days before his goalscoring start at Roda JC, De Boer brought him on in a cup match against IJsselmeervogels as a replacement for Daley Blind. However, despite going into the winter break on a high after his two-goal salvo, Riedeweld would continue his education during the second half of the 2013/14 campaign with Ajax’s reserve team in the second tier of Dutch football, but did feature five further times for the first-team as they lifted their final Eredivisie title during De Boer’s reign.
By the start of the 2014/15 season, Riedewald would begin to hold down a regular place in the Ajax defence, building up a solid partnership with Joel Veltman in the heart of the backline. With the appearances racking up, the Netherlands under-19 man caught the eye of national team boss Danny Blind and was handed a first full cap against Turkey in September 2015 in a Euro 2016 qualifier, and would appear twice more towards the end of the unsuccessful qualifying campaign for the Dutch.
He has since dropped down to the under-21 squad for further international experience, but he has gained plenty of knowledge of European football during his time at the Amsterdam Arena. Aged just 18, he featured in the UEFA Champions League group stages in 2014/15 when he played home and away against Barcelona, and has also played regularly in the Europa League over the past few seasons, including Ajax’s run to the final last term when he played all 90 minutes at left-back against Manchester United as the English side ran out 2-0 victors in Stockholm.
That would prove to be his final appearance for Ajax as now he links up with De Boer once again at Palace, with the pair hoping that Riedewald will hopefully make as dramatic an impact as he did when making his Ajax bow less than four years ago.