Ajax is a name that is synonymous with the European Cup and European football in general mainly courtesy of the great Johan Cruyff team in the 1970’s.
The Dutch side returned to glory in the mid-nineties, with a team of talented young players who would go on to star for Europe’s biggest clubs. There are many parallels between that 1990’s team and Erik ten Hag’s current crop.
The current team have shocked some of European football’s so-called giants this season. Firstly, the Dutch team knocked reigning European champions Real Madrid out of the competition in the last 16.
They were at it again in the quarter-finals on Tuesday night, as the highly talented young team won 2-1 in Turin against Italian champions Juventus. The win saw Ajax progress to the semi-finals of a competition they last won in 1995.
A breath of fresh air
Cruyff team played attractive, attacking football and this team would be right up the great mans street. They play with a fearlessness that is rare in teams these days. To attack Real Madrid and Juventus, two of the biggest teams in Europe, takes a lot of nerve.
However, it seems that nothing fazes the current talented group of young players. The boss Erik ten Tag deserves immense credit for the way he sets his team out and allows them to express themselves. The team are a breath of fresh air.
The 49-year-old has done a solid job wherever he has managed. However, it is doubtful that he will ever achieve a bigger feat than the one he is pulling off in Amsterdam. They could yet go to win the trophy, which would be an unbelievable achievement.
Ajax’s run to the semi-finals of the competition has not gone unnoticed by Europe’s big guns. The Dutch sides young stars have reportedly become summer transfer targets for teams with far bigger resources and higher profiles than the Dutch club.
Central midfielder Frenkie De Jong is already heading to Barcelona this summer in a big-money deal. However, highly-rated centre-back Matthijs de Ligt is also reportedly the subject of attention from the Catalan giants. Meanwhile, Manchester United have been mooted as a prospective summer destination for the youngster too.
Many observers regard the 19-year-old as the most promising young centre-back in the European game. Considering that Mino Raiola is his agent, it looks doubtful he will remain in the Dutch capital for long.
Then there is highly-talented young Brazilian David Neres. The 22-year-old has impressed in both the Eredivisie and the Champions League. The likes of Everton and Arsenal are believed to be ready to part with £30million for the former Sao Paulo ace.
Can they go all the way?
Ajax fans may need to make the most of watching their team this season if all the media talk is true. It seems that this exciting young team will not be together for long. Ajax simply cannot compete with the financial incentives on offer in the Premier League or La Liga.
It is a harsh reality that the Dutch club will always be liable to lose their top talents to clubs in bigger leagues. This has happened for a long time and will for a long time for come.
However, for now Ajax possess some of the top young players in the European game. Ten Hag’s side will face either Manchester City or Tottenham in the semi-finals of the competition.
As a neutral it would be fantastic to see this vibrant young team lift the trophy. Ajax are currently odds of 7/1 win the competition this season. If they do, then it will be one of the greatest stories in European Cup history.
If the Dutch side win the Champions League it will be a true testament that is not always the richest clubs that win the big trophies, which is a worthy message indeed in a football business now dominated by the rich.
Can Ajax win the Champions League this season?
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