Connect in the back of the net

Ricardo Kishna: Exceptional raw talent. An Ajax youth system product. Future star winger for the Dutch national team. Recently moved to Lazio after having a fallout with Ajax manager Frank de Boer. Can he develop his skills at Lazio under Stefano Pioli?



At the beginning of his career, Ricardo Kishna joined ADO Den Haag academy at the age of nine. His talent being discovered and delivered to strengthen the Dutch national team U-15 in 2009. The next year, the Dutch-Surinamese player receives an offer from one of the best academies in the Netherlands, even the world, Ajax Amsterdam.

Within the Ajax academy, Ricardo Kishna developed rapidly. Frankly a very meteoric rise considering at the start of 2013/14 season he began from playing in Ajax A1 (the under-19 team) competing in the Nike A-Juniors Eredivisie and UEFA Youth Cup to getting a call up with two other talented Dutch players, Jairo Riedewald and Riechedly Bazoer, to winter training camp in Turkey with the first team.

He made his senior Ajax debut in a friendly tournament, the Antalya Cup vs Trabzonspor.


Professional debut

After winter camp, manager Frank de Boer announced Kishna would join the reserves Jong Ajax team, playing in the Dutch Eerste Divisie, but also be available for the first team as well.

At just 19 years old, he made his professional debut with senior Ajax squad  playing in the last 32 of the Europa League vs Red Bull Salzburg,  replacing star Icelandic forward Kolbeinn Sigthorsson in the 60th minute in February 20, 2014 home leg.

He would make his Eredivisie debut for the first team three days later in a 4–0 home victory over AZ Alkmaar, scoring on his league debut in the 61st minute, after substituting in for Bojan Krkic in the 46th minute of the North Holland derby.

He would make a total of eight appearances for Ajax that year, with only that lone goal vs AZ but with two assists to his name throughout the campaign.



The 2014/15 season was Kishna’s first and,as it turns out, only full season with the Ajax first teams. Primarily featuring at left wing with the occasional start on the right wing, Kishna is a tall forward, whose pace and power in possession make him a real threat in the final third.

As a winger that enjoys taking on the opponent’s opposing fullback as he favors making driving runs to the byline and using his extensive toolbox of tricks and flicks to maneuver deliveries into the box in addition to providing the standard well-placed cross into the area, as well as cutting inside and unleashing a well-placed shot on goal. That is why he always makes life difficult for defenders and especially his direct marker.  

A growing YouTube sensation, one can see these amazing skills on display. In particular, a delicious nutmeg vs Heerenveen’s right back during an Eredivisie match. That nutmeg exhibits a youthful excitement in his ambitious and adventurous play.



However, as with almost every young player, Kishna still has work to improve his decision-making. His pace advantage and skill will get him past his opponents, but all that means nothing if he fails to make the right decision when it comes to his final ball.  Moreover, Kishna’s defensive contribution is deficient. He is more likely to wait for the counter attack than regain possession. He is good at tracking back full-backs, but only when he is required to.

Perhaps with his obvious weaknesses considering his age, moreover his lack of contribution in the defensive end to help generate counterattacks against Ajax’s opponents started to lead to friction between Kishna and manager Frank de Boer.  

Consider for all the physical attributes, Kishna in 37 appearances, had 6 goals and 11 assists. Also according to an article in Voetbal International, Frank De Boer growing agitated with his inadequacy going forward as he completed an average of 18 passes per game at a pass success rate of 74%. He also held one of the least successful dribble rates of most wingers in the De Boer era with a success rate of 33%. These are attributes/characteristics a successful winger in the Ajax 4-3-3 must exhibit on the pitch.

One should remember that last season, as De Boer shuffled around his midfield in search for balance, most of Ajax’s penetration came from the flanks and Kishna was integral to this.


How will these strengths and weaknesses translate to Serie A, where Italian teams are traditionally more organized and disciplined in defense?

For one he is joining a Lazio team under Stefano Pioli who encourages creative freedoms with with wingers.  Ricardo Kishna’s agent, Mino Raiola, chose Lazio for him for this reason (yet he was trying to sell Kishna to Juventus for the past years). This leads to the pecking order at the wings, namely Brazilian starlet Felipe Anderson and the non-stop active motor of Antonio Candreva.  

Additionally Stefano Mauri recently returned to the squad adding his offensive efficiency and Le Aquile still have the talented Spaniard Keita Balde for which Kishna will be fighting for playing time. If he is to have any chance of succeeding at Lazio, he needs to refine his game.  Competition for time at his usual position is fierce with aforementioned players (without mentioning Ravel Morrison).

If he can develop skills as center forward, especially given his height, he can compete for that deputy striker role to Miroslav Klose. There will be ample time for him to develop his skills in the training ground of Formello between games in Serie A as well as in Europe.  It will be an uphill battle just for Kishna to make the starting lineup, but a fresh start and a new system to integrate himself into is exactly what he needs to improve to be a top player.

The hope is he can progress like say Yannick Ferreira-Carrasco developed the past two seasons at AS Monaco before moving to Atletico Madrid this summer.  He has the talent to develop into an Angel Di Maria-type winger.  


Written by Vic Charnetsky

Follow Vic on Twitter @VanDerCharks

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