Who is Jurrien Timber, the £50million rated Dutch international defender that Arsenal are chasing?

Thirteen minutes after his debut with Ajax in March 2020, Jurrien Timber experienced a nightmare.

The 18-year-old prodigy of Ajax saw how Hicham Faik’s free kick raced past a two-man wall and ended up in Andre Onana’s net. Heerenveen 1, Ajax 0.

It was a free kick that he had needlessly conceded and booked for, and which left Erik ten Hag’s team on shaky ground as they attempted to chase down AZ Alkmaar at the top of the Eredivisie.

In other words, not a good start. And as it turned out, there was little time to make amends – after Ajax won 3-1 to move into first place, Covid-19 ended the season.

Now, after that inauspicious start three years ago, Holland’s most legendary club is telling Arsenal they want £50 million for him. They’ve already turned up their noses at £30 million.

Arsenal is after Ajax defender Jurrien Timber, for whom the Dutch club wants 50 million pounds

How did we get to this stage?

Since his ill-fated debut, the 22-year-old Dutch international has won the Eredivisie twice, the KNVB Cup once and the league’s Player of the Year award – not to mention the Cruyff Talent of the Year award for young players .

With 160 appearances behind him, Timber has had time to make mistakes and learn from them at a club that values ​​his progress.

Under the watchful eye of figures such as ten Hag, Edwin van der Sar and the now disgraced Marc Overmars, he developed into a sparkling jewel of the Ajax defense.

An important feature of him is versatility. Timber can play in a back-four for his club and a back-three for his country, either as a centre-back or right-back, and was comfortable with Ten Hag’s regular formation change in 2021/22.

He’s also remarkably progressive without being wasteful. According to the statistics website FBrefTimber is in the top percentile of Eredivisie defenders for attempted and completed passes, as well as passes to the last third and progressive passes.

It’s much the same story for his number of touches in more advanced areas of the pitch, his total number of passes and his ability to take on players – and yet he barely loses the ball.

Perhaps none of this comes as a surprise to a player who joined Feyenoord at the age of six and has grown up at Ajax since 2014.

The 22-year-old was a regular in the Dutch team and reached the last eight in Qatar

The 22-year-old was a regular in the Dutch team and reached the last eight in Qatar

Some of history’s most creative players, such as Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp and Wesley Sneijder, have passed through the club’s brilliant youth academy and, while Timber plays further back, the philosophy has undoubtedly permeated his game.

Admirers who closely follow Timber’s play note his confidence on the ball – and in a leadership role.

Growing up with footballer brothers (Quinten and Dylan play for Feyenoord and Jong Utrecht) brought to Timber a certainty on the ball that is rare for someone his age.

Jurrien and Quinten both moved to Ajax in their early teens and won both the national cup and the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in 2018 after beating England on penalties.

Way back in 2019, his then coach ten Hag said, “He could even play as a left back or central midfield” because of his composure. ‘He will not immediately be the leader of Ajax’s first team, but he dares to speak out right away and has not been shy in the dressing room. Those are important qualities to get you far.’

Brother Quinten Timber left Ajax for Utrecht before signing for Feyenoord and winning the title

Brother Quinten Timber left Ajax for Utrecht before signing for Feyenoord and winning the title

Admittedly, he is poor in the air. Standing at 5ft 7in and winning less than half of his duels, he invariably draws comparisons to former teammate Lisandro Martinez.

Timber himself almost joined United last summer before turning them down in spectacular fashion and has also been linked with Liverpool in recent months.

He told De Telegraaf at the time: ‘Ultimately, my gut feeling will be the deciding factor. The picture must be correct.

“You can go to a big club. But if you are not going to play there, you better stay with Ajax. And Ajax is also a big club.

‘We play football in the Champions League and I play there together with the best players in the Netherlands. That’s not nothing.

‘Of course I can develop further [at Ajax]. I am 100 percent sure of that. I don’t feel like I’m done with the club. But I can also develop at other clubs.’

Erik ten Hag supervised the development of Timber at Ajax and relied heavily on young players

Erik ten Hag supervised the development of Timber at Ajax and relied heavily on young players

One of those other clubs that has sprung up is based in North London, but Bayern Munich, who took over Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax last summer, is also enthusiastic.

He could be a perfect fit for Arsenal’s style of play. Oleksandr Zinchenko has revolutionized Arsenal’s midfield by coming forward from left-back, leaving Martin Odegaard free to wreak havoc further down the line.

It’s likely that Timber will be asked to do the same on the right side when he plays there, and seeing how comfortable he is playing higher up in tight spaces, you suspect he’s a perfect fit.

Each departure from Amsterdam would close a chapter on a remarkable gestation period as a footballer. With three solid seasons under his belt, including Champions League and World Cup experience, the time is probably right for him to fly out of the nest.

Hitting another Dutch prodigy to the big leagues would also put an end to current sleeping arrangements. Jurrien still shares a bedroom with brother Quinten. If he moves, Quinten can at least not tease him all night if he gets a free kick.