“Playing football is very simple, but playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.”
- Johan Cruyff
Finding the Right Combination to Steer the Ship
Ajax had 3 managers in 2017, Peter Bosz, Marcel Keizer, Michael Reiziger, and they have settled with Erik ten Hag from the starting of 2018. They had a vision of turning back the clock to their golden era since 2017, but did not hesitate to quickly ruffle through managers when they thought they were not quite working out. They rose from the obscurity of not being qualified to play Champions League football in 2017 to playing the semifinals of the 2018-19 season.
Jordi Cruyff, former Ajax academy player and Joahn’s son had told the BBC that Ajax have ‘found a balance of youth and experience’. They have found a group of quality young players in the form of de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Neres, Ziyech. This is an extraordinary generation that comes out and graduates to the first team together once in a lifetime.They are helped by the group of players they found with a vast experience. Players like Dusan Tadic, Huntelaar and Blind have been instrumental in guiding the relatively younger talents towards the right direction.
Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong - The Next Super-stars
The newest sensation to come out of Ajax is Matthijs de Ligt. At the age of 19, he has captained the Ajax team this season and his unbelievably mature on-field presence have been a cause for European scouts to go into a hyper-active mode. Being really strong physically and tactically, he has a blend of ‘no-nonsense-defending’ and an amazing ability to pass and initiate a play from the back. He had an amazing pass-completion rate of more than 90% in the whole of last season, which was more than any defenders of the Dutch league Eredivisie. According to “AjaxAnalysis”, De Ligt has averaged 5.7 aerial duels per game and has won 60% of them, and 57.2 passes per 90 minutes, with 4 long-passes that has a potential to open up the opposition defence. His speed in tracking back when a teammate is out of position has been noticeable and admirable. De Ligt has been someone who is interested by a lot of giants of European clubs and it will be hard for them to retain. But it can be said with certainty that wherever he goes, he will be able to take the league by surprise.
Frenkie de Jong, another youngster, who can play almost any position has also been a matter of huge interest throughout the football world. His ability to change the dynamic of a game has been beautiful to watch from a football-lover’s perspective. His ability and display of dribbling has been a showcase of not only his ability but also his high-running confidence. His through-balls have been proven to be lethal as he has been able to spot runs and found his teammates with goal-scoring opportunities.
Ajax have historically been a selling club. A great place for youngsters to learn football, only to use the place as a stepping stone only to find giant clubs with huge financial backing. But according to Jordi Cruyff, Ajax are currently in a very stable financial situation, which means they don’t have to accept every bid for their players. Despite that fact, we can expect a raid on the club’s squad by European giants with massive financial backing like Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Man City.
They currently are in the semi-finals, facing Tottenham Hotspurs. If they go to the final and actually win the Champions League, it will be nothing short of a fairy-tale.
They are leading the Eredivisie, and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League - they have already over-achieved. But football fans will be watching Ajax and putting them on contrast with the likes of PSG and Man City and say, maybe money really can’t buy everything.