Name: Jorrel Hato
Position(s): CB, LB
Preferred Foot: Left
Strengths: technical ability, ball-carrying, anticipation, football IQ, maturity
Areas for Development: timed aggression, strength, aerial duels
Stats: 25 Games, 1668 Mins, 10.7x90s, 1 Goal, 1 Assist
After a dismal start to the campaign that saw them fall into the relegation zone under Maurice Steijn, Ajax have found some momentum under John van ‘t Schip and have climbed to fifth in the Eredivisie table. One player who has proven vital in their turnaround is Jorrel Hato, who, at 17 years of age, could very well be the next technically gifted, ball-playing center back to swap Ajax for the Premier League after Lisandro Martínez and Jurriën Timber.
Hato is the desired product of the total football teachings of Ajax. A technically brilliant defender with not just great ball-playing ability, but defensive intelligence which enables him to hold his own around the box, taking his time and avoiding lunging into challenges. A front-footed, aggressive defender, his stellar anticipation enables him to stay one step ahead of the opposing attackers and intercept dangerous passes, and it has enabled him to become one of the first names on the team sheet.
Boasting a top-notch footballing IQ, Hato is skilled at breaking the lines with his passing and opening up defences and slicing through their press, a progressive, technically adept player who oozes composure in possession. The Dutchman is an excellent ball carrier, and at 5’11”, he has a low centre of gravity and strong agility. His quick feet and close control makes him a lethal dribbler in tight spaces, a versatile performer who can shift into a left back or centre back role.
His technical ability and creativity from deep positions make him the perfect candidate for a team who play with inverted fullbacks, overlapping centre backs, or centre backs that push forward into midfield. Hato displays great maturity and leadership beyond his years, wearing the captain’s armband for Ajax’s youth sides on several occasions, and he has even taken on this privilege for the first team. One week after grabbing an assist and captaining them to victory in a 3-1 win against AEK Athens in the UEFA Europa League, Hato closed out 2023 by wearing the armband and playing the full 90 as Ajax lost to fourth-tier USV Hercules in the cup.
At 17, his body is still not fully developed and he clearly needs to add more upper body strength to become more dominant in aerial duels — whilst he already has great jumping ability, he certainly needs to add more muscle in order to make the step up to a bigger league. Partnering him in the heart of defence with a physical monster in the mold of prior Ajax academy graduates such as Matthijs de Ligt or Perr Schuurs would be a match made in heaven.
2023 was Hato’s breakout year, with the Rotterdam native coming off the bench in a 5-0 win vs. Cambuur on February 5 and becoming the third-youngest player to debut for Ajax in the Eredivisie at the age of 16 years and 335 days behind Ryan Gravenberch and Clarence Seedorf. Two months later, he started in the KNVB Cup Final, with Ajax drawing 1-1 to PSV and losing on penalties. In November, he was called up for the Netherlands’ Euro qualifiers, making his debut in a 6-0 win vs. Gibraltar after replacing Virgil van Dijk at halftime.
It remains to be seen whether or not Hato can beat out the likes of Mickey van de Ven, Nathan Aké and Sven Botman and earn a spot in Ronald Koeman’s squad for the upcoming European Championships in Germany, but one thing’s for sure: if he can continue developing at this rate, it’ll only be a matter of time before Hato becomes the latest youngster to depart the Johan Cruyff Arena for greener pastures.
By: Ben Mattinson / @Ben_Mattinson_
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Soccrates Images / Getty Images