Transfer Talk: Mazraoui looks a Premier League player in waiting
Noussair Mazraoui is one of the Eredivisie’s brightest full-backs — and he is attracting serious interest from the Premier League.
The versatile Moroccan, 23, has been a key man for Ajax over the last three seasons.
But with his contract set to expire next summer, English duo Arsenal and Leeds are on red alert.
Ahead of the Dutch outfit’s Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund tonight, we turn the spotlight on Mazraoui.
Another off the production line
De Godenzonen’s memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals during the 2018-19 campaign spectacularly announced young stars such as Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong and Hakim Ziyech to the world.
But a lesser-known member of that team was a then 21-year-old Mazraoui — another academy graduate who started all but two of Ajax’s 12 games in that run, including wins against European heavyweights Real Madrid and Juventus.
He also claimed goals against Bayern Munich and Benfica in the group stage, showcasing as much as anyone that he was capable at cutting it at the top level.
But while the aforementioned names moved on to pastures new in big-money transfers, Mazraoui stayed in Amsterdam.
Injuries halted his progress but he has looked back to his best this season and is now a key part of how Erik ten Hag’s team play.
Attack from the back
As is now customary for modern full-backs, Mazraoui thrives in the attacking third.
Predominantly operating at right-back, he is one of Ajax’s main outlets going forward and his astonishing numbers so far this season back that up.
In just eight Eredivisie games, Mazraoui has scored four goals and registered two assists, while also chipping in with a further assist in the emphatic 5-1 Champions League victory over Sporting.
He followed up that European performance with another influential showing in a 2-0 defeat of Besiktas, earning him back-to-back places in LiveScore’s Team of the Week for Matchday 1 and .
Mazraoui is delivering the goods after being challenged by his boss to improve his numbers in attack this term.
Speaking last month, Ten Hag said: "He [Mazraoui] is in top form right now. I hope he will keep it up.
"Last year, I said he can contribute a lot more offensively and he has shown that in matches this season."
Not only does he enjoy bursting runs forward, the Morrocan possesses both fine technical skill and dribbling ability that make him a handful for any defence.
Strings to his bow
While his goalscoring contributions grab the headlines, it is not the only area where Mazraoui excels.
He is comfortable on the ball and has an eye for the creative side of the game, boasting an impressive 94.9% passing accuracy rate in the Champions League this season.
Of the 52.31 passes he has completed per 90 minutes, 27 have come in the final third.
This makes Mazrouai well versed to playing in midfield, which he has done on numerous occasions for Ajax.
He has also featured at centre-back, with his defensive statistics also impressive.
Mazraoui is averaging 2.4 tackles per game in all competitions this season, as well as 1.2 interceptions.
That particular skill set was abundantly clear in the win over Besiktas, where he completed four tackles and won possession five times in a dominant display.
While he is a tidy and easy-on-the-eye player to watch, he is also not afraid to do the ugly side of the game, showing a penchant for a slide tackle.
Primed for the Premier League
The range of attributes Mazraoui has seemingly makes him a perfect fit for Premier League football.
Recent reports indicate Arsenal and Leeds are both ready to step up their interest in January — and it is easy to see how he could fit into both sides.
The Gunners’ current right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu takes a more defensive approach and sometimes plays at centre-back, meaning Mazaraoui’s forward threat there would add balance alongside Kieran Tierney on the left.
Mikel Arteta also occasionally operates with a back five, so Tomiyasu could slip in as the third centre-back alongside Ben White and Gabriel and allow even more freedom for Mazraoui and Tierney to roam on the flanks.
He also seems to suit Marcelo Bielsa’s full-frontal style of football at Leeds.
With 30-year-old Luke Ayling his only option at right-back, Mazraoui would be a welcome addition to the squad.
The ground he covers in both directions would surely make him a dreamy option for Bielsa, while his versatility to play in other positions is also in line with the way the Argentine likes his sides to operate.
There is little doubt Mazraoui would likely continue to achieve impressive returns for goals and assists in the Premier League, while both sides would benefit from the defensive attributes he has to offer.
On his way?
With his Ajax contract expiring in 2022, Mazraoui has been strongly linked with a move away from the Netherlands.
And the defender, whose agent is Mino Raiola, recently opened the door for a departure from the Johan Cruyff Arena.
He said: "I’m not hiding it. When you have played for a club for 17 years, you want to feel a certain appreciation in all areas.
"But as long as we haven’t reached that point, you just don’t know what the future will bring."
Reports suggest he could even be available for a cut-price £9million in January as Ajax look to avoid losing him for free in the summer transfer window.
But whether a fee is required or not, Premier League clubs should not sleep on trying to get a deal done for Mazraoui.