A dou­ble Dutch de­light has Oranje dream­ing

NATHAN AKE

Sport360 - - Interview - @alamkhan08 By Alam Khan [email protected]

As part of a Nether­lands team that has risen from the depths of de­spair, Nathan Ake be­lieves the fu­ture is bright, the fu­ture is Oranje. And his op­ti­mism and en­thu­si­asm is un­der­stand­able when you con­sider the young tal­ent the Dutch now have at their dis­posal, in­clud­ing two play­ers seem­ingly des­tined for great­ness.

In de­fender Matthijs de Ligt, 19, and 21-year-old mid­fielder Frenkie de Jong, Bournemouth’s Ake says they have su­per­stars in the mak­ing.

Cov­eted by Barcelona and Manch­ester City among many lead­ing teams, the pair are set to leave Ajax for sums that could to­gether top £120 mil­lion in the sum­mer.

And Ake, 23, told Sport360°: “If they asked, I would say to come to the Pre­mier League, it’s a very nice com­pe­ti­tion. But it’s up to them.

“I think they will do well in the Pre­mier League. Both of them are very good. I think they can do re­ally well be­cause they are top play­ers for sure.

“They have the po­ten­tial to be world class, su­per­stars, 100 per cent. I think ev­ery­one can see that. If you can play in the na­tional team at that age and for Ajax ev­ery week then they must be good.

“Matthijs is very good, just 19-years old. To be cap­tain of Ajax at that age, what he’s do­ing, and to play like this shows he’s a very good player.

“He’s got ev­ery­thing re­ally, he’s calm on the ball, calm in de­fence, can de­fend one v one and is good in the air too. He’s got ev­ery­thing to be a top player.

“When we meet up he hasn’t asked me about the Pre­mier League, but just how my club is do­ing, how I’m do­ing and I ask about him, just nor­mal con­ver­sa­tions.

“I’m not sur­prised peo­ple are talking about him and Frenkie. They are very good play­ers, they show it ev­ery week in the league, and in the Cham­pi­ons League too, play­ing re­ally well, so it’s nor­mal that peo­ple are go­ing to talk about them.

“At the youth lev­els in Hol­land they teach you to be con­fi­dent on the ball, to play and both of them are do­ing that.

“Frenkie is quite chilled, but he’s fear­less on the pitch. He goes out and does his thing, ev­ery time. He’s con­sis­tent and he’s a nice guy as well.

“What’s also good is they don’t worry about the pres­sure, they just go out and play. There is a lot of pres­sure on them out­side, they are in the pa­pers ev­ery day, but they don’t show that when they play in the games.”

The duo will also be cen­tral to the Nether­lands’ bid for Na­tions League glory next June.

Stun­ning wins over France and Ger­many in the group saw them seal a semi-fi­nal meet­ing with Eng­land, a re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion of for­tunes af­ter they had failed to qualify for Euro 2016 and then the World Cup fi­nals in Rus­sia.

Ake says credit is also due to coach Ron­ald Koe­man, who re­placed ex-UAE boss Dick Ad­vo­caat in Fe­bru­ary.

“It was tough be­fore, but the team is do­ing re­ally well now, much bet­ter, as we have shown in the Na­tions League,” added the cen­tre-back.

“The new coach has come in and done re­ally well. He’s got the team re­ally united and it’s been good so far and hope­fully we can con­tinue that in the fu­ture.”

Ake, who has 10 caps, will hope to play his part for the na­tional team af­ter an im­pres­sive start to the sea­son that has also seen him linked with City, Manch­ester United and Tot­ten­ham.

Hav­ing joined the Cher­ries for £20m from Chelsea in 2017, he ad­mits more first-team foot­ball has helped his progress and he rel­ishes the chal­lenge of fac­ing the top teams, de­spite Satur­day’s 3-1 loss at the Eti­had to City.

“I’m re­ally happy un­der this man­ager [Eddie Howe], he’s giv­ing me games, show­ing faith and I’m learn­ing a lot,” he added. “I’m play­ing more games, get­ting more ex­pe­ri­ence and it’s been good. Tough games, like against City, is a good way for me to learn and to grow.”

He is also learn­ing from Dutch cap­tain Vir­gil van Dijk, whose Liver­pool side visit Bournemouth on Satur­day.

“Of course he is some­one I ad­mire and want to fol­low,” said Ake, who made his league de­but for Chelsea at 17 af­ter ar­riv­ing from Feyeno­ord a year ear­lier.

“Vir­gil is a very good player and I look at him on the field to see what I can im­prove, what he does. I’m try­ing to take things from him, but also off the pitch.

“When you talk with him he’s very hum­ble, very nice. In train­ing ses­sions and in games, he’s al­ways talking to you, to get you in the right po­si­tions and to pre­pare for those match sit­u­a­tions, try­ing to get you ready. He’s be­come a leader for the na­tional team.

“He’s a very good leader, the cap­tain of our group and you can see how he pushes us and lifts us. You see what he did in the game against Ger­many, the way he helped us through to the semi­fi­nals with that equal­is­ing goal [in the 2-2 Na­tions League draw]. He’s a top player.”

Van Dijk’s Reds will pose another tough test for Ake, but he says they will learn from the loss at City.

“They are very ruth­less,” he said of Pep Guardi­ola’s cham­pi­ons. “They get a small chance and they score, they have top play­ers and you can’t give teams like that chances, es­pe­cially af­ter we had com­peted so well.

“It will be the same against Liver­pool. Those teams are sim­i­lar and very dif­fi­cult to play against.

“Liver­pool’s at­tack is strong. You just have to be pre­pared, have to be fo­cused all the time. Top play­ers like [Mo­hamed] Salah can do any­thing at any time so you have to be ready.”

Back in the big time: Nathan Ake is a Dutch reg­u­lar.

Hot prospect: Matthijs de Ligt (l).

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