The Story of How Jairo Riedewald Became a Palace Player
After what seemed like an eternity, Crystal Palace finally announced the signing of Jairo Riedewald from Ajax on the afternoon of Monday 24th July. Here is the story of how the youngster that Frank de Boer reared at the home of Total Football became an Eagle.
Before we go any further, for your sanity, this is how you pronounce Riedewald – Reader-vald.
When one-half of Holland’s most famous brothers became the Gaffer in SE25, it was obvious that the Ajax world and his wife was going to be linked to Crystal Palace Football Club. With defence being the obvious weak point in the Palace armour defenders Kenny Tete, Joel Veltman and Davinson Sanchez were all shortlisted as potential targets. Tete moved to Lyon, Ajax named Veltman as their new Captain and with Barcelona reportedly sniffing around Sanchez, the expression ‘pissing into the wind’ came to mind.
When, on July 12th, Riedewald was first linked with a move to Selhurst Park one could be forgiven for rolling their eyes before continuing to beg Steve Parish on Instagram and Twitter to stump up the cash for Mamadou Sakho.
Over the coming days, however, the link remained strong. The entire Palace universe claimed to know everything about him and that we must sign him at the bargain basement value of just £7.9m. Me, I’d never heard of him. I didn’t watch the Europa League Final as, well, it was Manchester United playing and any focus I have on Dutch Football is directed towards Utrecht after being welcomed so wonderfully by their fans when going to one of their games on my Stag Do (bachelor party for readers across the pond) earlier in the year. So, off I popped to YouTube and found that Riedewald is actually the next Frank de Boer and we SHOULD sign him – especially for the measly fee of just £7.9m. In old money that’s 2.9 Valerian Ismael’s.
Five days after the initial link, the ever-reliable Dom Fifield reported the following in the Guardian:
Palace fans rejoiced, congratulated Dom on being ahead of the curve and about twenty minutes later, “Sky Sources” were reporting the same thing.
However, Tuesday came and went, there was still no sign of Riedewald holding up the famous red ‘n’ blue stripes. The natives started to get restless. Firstly, they turned on Fifield like a pack of angry wolves. “You might want to part company with your source” snapped one Crystal Palace fan account on Twitter at the Guardian journo. “I stand by my source and sauce” the knowing Fifield joked back.
The reality of the situation, it turned out to be impossible to get the move done before the team headed to Hong Kong for the Premier League Asia Trophy. As a result, the move was put on hold until the team returned to England. In that time, rumour had it that Riedewald had managed to fail a medical (that he hadn’t had). The more astute among you would have noticed that Ajax released their squad numbers and had relegated Riedewald from number 4 to number 36, absolute proof that the move was happening.
Then came one of the funniest thirty minutes on Twitter that I have witnessed in a while. A Twitter account called @yayaajax, which has a profile picture of Yaya Sanogo, leaked the below picture before any announcement had come from Crystal Palace. It caused an uproar on Palace and Ajax Twitter alike:
Some Palace fans applauded the new signing as some Ajax fans mourned the loss of the defender. A majority, on both sides, shouted “FAKE” and pointed out a glorious list of reasons why the picture simply could not be real.
The focus was around Riedewald’s neck. “Look at his neck. Did he use to be a Siamese twin or something? FAKE!” yelled one Twitter user, who has since deleted the tweet. Many others drew attention to the “white line” on his neck, suggesting that this was a poor job of photoshopping Riedewald's head on to someone else’s body.
My photoshop skills are limited and I do not really know what to look for in a fake photo, so I investigated other clues. Firstly, I went to Instagram and searched #Riedewald and immediately discovered that Jairo does, in fact, throw up this “Compton Crip” looking gang sign regularly. However, I couldn’t find any sign of the Dutch international in this exact pose adopted in the above picture before (which would have meant that the Palace shirt was photoshopped over a different one) so I was now certainly leaning towards the photo being real.
I then turned my attention to what looks like a signature at the top of the picture. Again, Instagram proved helpful, and it became instantly clear that it certainly wasn’t Riedewald’s signature at the top (see actual signature below). Closer inspection of the signature brought me to the conclusion that it might just say “c**ts”!! Did this mean it was a prank from someone? Or, more likely, was it someone writing the worst of swear words to show their disgust that Ajax were losing one of their best players?
EDIT: The reality? It says "Cuatro", which means Four. The sign that he makes with his hands is making a C (for Cuatro) and represents his closest group of four friends. Here is the full picture which was sent to me privately on Twitter after this article was written:
Then came some brilliance from Palace fan, John Crossland. John tweeted “proof” that it was fake by superimposing Jordon Mutch’s head over Riedewald’s. For Palace fans, this gave us a giggle. After all, it couldn’t possibly be a picture of Jordon Mutch in this season’s kit, for the startlingly obvious hair reasons in the pictures below:
However, this joke went waaaaay over Ajax Twitter’s collective heads, and they lauded the picture over YayaAjax as proof that his picture of Riedewald was indeed a fake, only for Palace to officially announce the transfer just minutes later. YayaAjax is a better man than me because he didn’t once say ‘I told you so’ after.
As always, the signing was accompanied with a host of pictures (which laughably showed that Riedewald does have a weird white line on his neck) and videos of the new man. In the video, Riedewald mentions the atmosphere at Selhurst Park and how he is excited to experience it. Just as Frank de Boer did. Just as Ruben Loftus-Cheek did. Just as James Tomkins did. Just as Christian Benteke did and so on. It’s almost as if they are told to mention it:
There was a shameless nod to the new sleeve sponsor:
However, Riedewald’s ‘pimp nail’ appears to go hand in hand with him throwing up Compton Crip gang signs. If he uses the nail to injure Craig Dawson during the season, I’ll let it slide:
Let’s get serious now and discuss what we have actually achieved by signing Riedewald.
A Left-Footed Defender
With Damien Delaney seemingly ageing faster than the bloke that drinks from the wrong cup at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it has been clear for all to see that we need a left foot in the centre of our defence. Mamadou Sakho brilliantly filled the void at the back end of last season, and we immediately saw the benefits that the balance of a capable left foot added to the team.
Hopefully, we will find a way to add Sakho to the ranks as well, but Riedewald looks like a worthy replacement.
A Defender That Is Comfortable on the Ball and Can Pass
It has become abundantly clear during this pre-season that Frank de Boer will be implementing a back three at Palace. While Scott Dann appeared fairly comfortable in Hong Kong in the new ball playing role that the back three must adopt, the rest (Ward, Kelly, Delaney) looked very nervous. James Tomkins possesses the ability to play out from the back, but he and Dann will have to drastically improve on last year’s outputs, especially when comparing them to Riedewald’s outputs. Just look at the difference between Riedewald and the rest:
Riedewald completes 70 passes per 90 minutes. Forget about comparing him to the defenders - that is 30 more than Yohan Cabaye managed last season! 92% accuracy was the best in the Dutch league last season and is, regardless of opposition, quite frankly ludicrous. Then, to cap it all off, he intercepts more than double that of any of the other centre backs at Palace. Riedewald’s interception numbers are Mile Jedinak esque and he is a defender, it’s astonishing!
I posted these graphs on Twitter back when Riedewald was first linked with Palace and I have heard all of the protestations. “Dutch football is more possession based”, “Ajax are dominant on the ball”, “the quality of the Dutch league is far from that of the Premier League.” To an extent, the protestations are right. But, I looked at his numbers against just the top 6 in the Eredivisie, and the numbers barely suffer.
Instead of talking about numbers so much, let’s just watch these attributes in action (please excuse the shocking music). Look out for the passes in between the line that will greatly benefit the likes of Cabaye, who will be receiving the ball in space and where he can hurt teams:
Having a player that is accomplished in several positions seems a sought-after trait these days. Riedewald can play centre back, left back and defensive midfield. This will undoubtedly come in very handy as the season goes on.
Here is Riedewald playing defensive midfield:
Knows Where the Goal Is
Ok, three professional goals to date isn’t eye catching, but any excuse to show the below video – Riedewald scoring twice in the last five minutes after coming on in the 80th minute for his League debut for Ajax. The defender converted zero points into three – Ajax won the league by just four points that year. Look out for scenes in the away end:
I know he is young, will have to adjust to the Premier League and will probably give me a heart attack in his early days by passing out of situations that I accustomed to seeing Palace defenders hoof down the field – but I am excited at the prospect of this one.
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