What could have been a dream scenario for Ajax ended in a tragedy.
Peter Bosz’s men had a brilliant campaign in the UEFA Europa League. They advanced past Schalke 04 and Olympique Lyon, and reached the final against Manchester United. However, Ajax lacked experience in their biggest game of the season and ultimately lost 0-2.
We must mention not everything is negative for them, though. Ajax ended second in the Eredivisie, which means they secured a berth in the UEFA Champions League’s third qualifying round. It would be shocking if they do not reach the group stage, but in any case they would maintain a good chance to make it to the Europe League once again. That is a great prize for the team, especially when we analyse the squad. Because if we take a look at their first team, the first thing that comes into mind is that Ajax have an extremely bright future ahead of themselves.
Let’s a look at the team that lost against Manchester United this past Wednesday. Out of the starting XI, only Joël Veltman and Lasse Schöne surpassed the 25-year-old mark. And Schöne was the only player that went over the 30-year-old barrier. The rest? Andre Onana (21), Davinson Sanchez (20), Matthijs De Ligt (17), Jairo Riedewald (20), Davy Klaassen (24), Hakim Ziyech (24), Bertrand Traore (21), Kasper Dolberg (19), and Amin Younes (23). And we are not considering other talented youngsters that were on the bench, such as Justin Kluivert (18), David Neres (20), and Donny Van de Beek (20).
The average side of the starting XI this Wednesday was 22.3 years old. That is impressive, no doubt. But no one can assure the team will remain together for a few more years, let alone next season. Some of the top teams in Europe have already enquired about some of Ajax’s top players.
The exile could be massive during the summer. Onana, Van de Beek, Sanchez, and Traore have attracted the attention of several top clubs. It would not be strange to see them move elsewhere, considering their ceiling at Ajax is relatively low. They can make Ajax a top team in Europe once again, but the Eredivisie giants simply can’t compete with the salaries in countries such as Spain and England, just to name a few.
The case of Sanchez is interesting, and all signs indicate he won’t play for Ajax next season. The central defender was one of Ajax’s best players against Manchester United, and certainly boosted his value with his performance. FC Barcelona and Chelsea have expressed interest, and he is also part of the Colombia National Team. He would likely play with Los Cafeteros in the 2018 World Cup. And a good performance in the top tournament in the world would make it impossible for him to remain at Ajax.
We have not considered potential signings, either. It is clear that Ajax needs a few experienced players, but it is not a big need. This season was one where the core of the squad learned several things. There is no question they will be an even more dangerous side with one full season under their belts.
Make no mistake. Ajax would have liked to end the season winning both the Eredivisie and the Europa League. But finishing second on both tournaments should not be considered a disappointment. If anything, it showed that Ajax have an extremely bright future ahead of themselves. This could be the generation that puts back both Ajax and the Netherlands NT back to the place where they belong.
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