The Dutchman was 19 years old when he arrived at Thorp Arch in 2018.
Initially joining up with Mark Jackson’s Under-23s, Struijk was quickly noticed by Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa, who named the 19-year-old in his Championship squad for a game against Aston Villa just two months after Struijk arrived in the UK.
The defender has since become a regular feature of Bielsa’s squad and shown versatility by fulfilling a range of roles for the Argentine. Now, aged 22, he boasts 31 Premier League starts.
But it has not always been plain sailing for Strujk who, before finding favour with Bielsa, had struggled to make his mark and achieve the breakthrough he craved at Ajax.
With a global reputation for quality development, the Ajax academy has produced world-class players like Johann Cruyff and Dennis Bergkamp but after two years in the Amsterdam side’s youth system, Struijk found himself unable to join the prestigious list of academy graduates who were featured in the senior team.
“At Ajax, everything was different. There were bigger players around. More ego, more personality. I was too impressed by other players,” said Struijk.
“I was certainly not the best youth player at Ajax in those days. But the hidden potential was not seen either. The only thing is: what do you do about it?
“It has to come from the player. He has to show how much he wants it.
“That urge has grown a lot in me in recent years. I needed some help with that.”
With his Ajax contract due to lapse and lacking opportunities, Struijk joined the Leeds Academy on a three-and-a-half year deal in January 2018.
But it wasn’t an easy move for the young player to make, Struijk has admitted.
“Quite a few people had their doubts,” he said. “Especially when I made the move to England so young, wasn’t that too quick?
“But everyone’s path is different. For me, this turned out to be the right one.
“I’m showing how things can also go if you’re not seen at Ajax.”
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