I recently wrote an article about FC Twente boss Steve McLaren. The team who are challenging McLaren’s side for the Dutch title this season are Dutch giants Ajax.
If Twente slip up and Ajax beat NEC away from home then Ajax will claim their first Eredivisie title in six years.
Ajax have struggled in the Eredivisie in recent years after previously being a dominant force in the Dutch game. The Dutch league has changed immensely in recent years with the likes of FC Twente and AZ Alkmaar emerging as major players in the title race.
Twente and AZ’s emergence’s were a breath of fresh air for the league but it was also a big shock for the big three in Holland of Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord. They got complacent and have been punished for it.
Ajax will always be remembered as European giants. The history of the club is up there with the likes of Real Madrid, AC Milan and Liverpool in European football. The club have won the European Cup four times in their history and won the competition in three consecutive seasons in the seventies.
Those glory years in the seventies were inspired by brilliant Dutch international Johan Cruyff. He was the player who inspired Total Football and is widely regarded as one of the best footballers ever. Ajax will probably never see a better player appear in their shirt but the club now need the same sort of inspiration he gave the team.
This season has seen an improvement under former-Tottenham boss Martin Jol. The club finished 2nd in the Eredivisie last season but trailed champions AZ Alkmaar by far more points than they currently trail leaders FC Twente.
Jol is a good coach and seems to have found an ideal club. He was criticised by while at Tottenham for not helping them for fourth, yet until this season Tottenham have not looked like a club capable of challenging for such a lofty position.
Jol is now showing what a good manager he is and will probably head back to one of Europe’s top leagues if he is successful with Ajax, after previously managing Bundesliga side Hamburg. It didn’t quite work out for him at Hamburg but he should be encouraged by his stint at the Amsterdam Arena.
Ajax has a famous youth system and Jol’s team features many players from that setup, the likes of Gregory van der Wiel, Toby Alderweireld and Siem De Jong all coming through the ranks at the club. The successful side of the mid nineties was also built on youngsters from the academy and these players could form the foundation for future success.
However Ajax are a victim of their own success regarding young talent. The club produce top youngsters but the minute they show any talent they are whisked away. The club cannot afford to keep their top players because of a perennial lack of resources.
The Eredivisie doesn’t attract the same television revenue as the Premier League or La Liga. This means they can’t keep hold of their top talent. Their current top talent is striker Luis Suarez.
The Uruguayan striker has already hit 40 goals in all competitions and is considered one of the hottest properties in Europe. Chelsea are said to be considering a bid for the striker and Jol could lose his top player.
The Ajax manager will always have the problem of trying to build a team with his top players moving to bigger clubs in Europe. Ajax simply can’t compete with the Spanish, English and Italian sides. Even in their glory days Ajax were struggling financially and they are still struggling today.
Suarez has given the Ajax fans hope by saying that he is happy to stay in Amsterdam for the foreseeable future. The question is can the club turn down a big offer this summer? It would be a major plus for Martin Jol as he looks to restore Ajax back to their rightful place at the top of the Eredivisie if Suarez was to stay at the club.
If he can keep the core of his squad together this summer and maybe add a few players to it then maybe they could make a bigger impact on European football next season. First thing is first for Ajax though as on Sunday they could win the Eredivisie title for the 30th time. If they can then the resurgence could be in full swing.