Jurrien Timber responded to the Manchester United transfer rumours with all the composure that has made the club so desperate to sign him.
The Ajax defender has strongly been linked with following Erik ten Hag to Old Trafford, having been impressed by his development in Holland.
Yet despite praising the United manager for making him the ‘footballer and the man’ he is today, Timber played down the prospect of starring at the Theatre of Dreams.
He told Het Parool: “I’m good at Ajax. I can still learn a lot, especially if we continue to play in the Champions League.”
Timber’s priorities in playing for a club that can best service his path to greatness over one with sentimental value has always been clear.
Barcelona are a club in which Ajax have shared a number of greats in the past including Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and Patrick Kluivert.
And most recently, Frenkie de Jong, but Timber claimed he’d rather join Man City – a team that wins!
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“I like to play for prizes; that’s why I say (Manchester) City (over Barcelona) now,” he told Helden Magazine.
“Barcelona has a less good period at the moment.
“I want to grow as a player, use my time at Ajax to become even better. At Ajax, you have to be happy if you are in the starting line-up; that’s why I want to enjoy this time consciously.
“I play for the prizes here; there is no better place to be. Ajax was always my dream club; I also slept under an Ajax duvet.
“I plan to stay here for a while. But if Manchester City calls, what should I do?”
Timbers reputation as a logical but determined defender actually goes back even further to when he was a child.
Born in Utrecht in 2001, Jurrien and his twin brother Quinten’s talent was evident during their tenure with their local amateur club DVSU.
“We actually only took on children from the age of six and there was a considerable waiting list, but as four-year-olds they were simply too good to refuse,” Twan Lenders, their ex-youth coach told Ajax Showtime.
“Nobody was afraid of the team beforehand, but they made sure that we immediately became champions against boys of seven and eight years old.”
Jurrien and Quinten’s ability attracted attention from the top clubs in Holland and Feyenoord soon came calling but again the pair were unfazed.
Their older brother Dylan told Ajax Showtime: “They are so calm. We once drove through the Bokkenbuurt in Utrecht with the Feyenoord van.
“Suddenly some balls and food were thrown at the bus. I was shocked and all the boys around me didn’t know what to do. Jurriën and Quinten looked ahead. Nothing wrong. They didn’t care.”
Similarly, neither Timber cared when they jumped ship from Feyenoord to rivals Ajax’s academy in 2014.
During their teenage years, Jurrien and Quinten were inseparable and naturally drew comparisons to another set of legendary twins Frank and Ronald de Boer after becoming European champions with Netherlands U17s.
Their other brother Chris added: “Quinten is a good one, who often fights hard against hard. Jur, on the other hand, is calm.
“Where Quinten is fierce, has an opinion and if he loses and says nothing in the back seat after a defeat, Jurriën is in turn more critical.
“If you ask him what went well in a match, he simply says who did and did not reach the level.”
Creative midfielder Quinten never played for Ajax’s first team, but Jurrien’s leadership qualities led Ten Hag to handing him his first-team debut against Heerenveen in 2020.
Timber’s mature display helped his side to a much-needed 3-1 win during their title race with AZ in their final game before coronavirus ended the campaign prematurely.
However, he had made enough of an impression to stake his claim as a regular when the next season started and he’s never looked back.
Timber, as a product of Ajax’s academy, is naturally comfortable on the ball but he also reads the game well and is strong in the tackle.
Timber – who previously played under his father’s surname Maduro – is only 5’9 but his speed and power have seen him handle the strongest of forwards.
“He could even play at left-back or in central midfield,” Ten Hag told Ajax TV.
“He will not immediately be the leader of the Ajax first team, but he dares to speak out immediately and has not been shy in the dressing room. Those are important qualities to get far.”
The 20-year-old was part of De Boer’s Netherlands squad for Euro 2020 and has since enjoyed another brilliant season in 2021/22.
During a title-winning season with his club, Timber also started his country’s 1-1 draw with Norway in September, saying afterwards: “Haaland is the best player I’ve played against so far.”
If things had been different Timber could have been lining up alongside the striker at the Etihad next season – now he might be United’s best hope in stopping him…
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