The international heyday of Ajax Amsterdam goes back a few years. When the club won the Champions League in 1995, Patrick Kluivert, Frank Rijkaard and Edgar Davids still shone for the Dutch. On their way to the final, Ajax eliminated FC Bayern in the semi-finals. At the Munich 2-5 failure in Amsterdam (first leg: 0-0), the German record champion hardly had a chance.
Now, 23 years later, such an Ajax stroke of genius would be a sensation. And yet the chances for the second place of the Eredivisie in today’s Champions League duel with the Bavarians are not bad at all. While in Munich the alarm signals become a little louder after only one point from the last two Bundesliga matches, in Amsterdam there is euphoria. Thanks to some promising talents.
The fans are mighty proud of their rattle gang, which on the first matchday of this year’s premier class season attracted attention with a convincing 3-0 victory against AEK Athens. Led by the youngest captain in Ajax history, Matthijs de Ligt (19, contract until 2021), the team will play a thrilling offensive football in the typical Dutch 4-3-3 system. De Ligt acts as defence chief and has long been hunted down by numerous top European clubs.
FC Barcelona are probably the most stubbornly interested in signing de Ligt next summer as the medium-term successor to Gerard Pique (31). But the Bavarians have also been watching the central defender closely for a long time. The Munich scouts have had him in their sights for a long time; he was seen as a possible replacement for Jerome Boateng when he flirted with a change of club. So is the FCB also playing a bit against its own future?
Frenkie de Jong (21, contract until 2022) is at least as much in demand. Real Madrid should be prepared to pay a redemption of 80 million euros. At the weekend, de Jong was out of the league game with Fortuna Sittard (2:0) because of a calf injury, on Monday the midfielder reported himself fit for the Bayern game. He is one of the fixed points in Ajax’s game. He can also be used variably as a central defender, is ball-safe and is now beginning to gain international experience. In September he celebrated his debut for the Dutch national team.
While de Ligt and de Jong, despite their young age, are already among the team’s top performers, the next talents are already moving up. Two weeks ago, 16-year-old Ryan Gravenberch made his professional debut for Ajax. He is also in the squad tonight and could be playing in the Allianz Arena for the first time in the premier league.
Other players also have a great future ahead of them, such as Keeper André Onona (22), who rejected an offer from Bavaria a year ago and is said to have been on the BVB wish list recently. Or offensive player David Neres (21), for whom Dortmund was rebuffed this summer with an offer of over 33 million euros, according to the “Telegraaf”. Neres recently said: “Of course I read about Dortmund’s interest, but I never had to think about it. Of course, it strengthens one’s ego a lot when a big club wants to spend a lot of money on you. It shows that I’m on the right track.”
As a perfect complement to the up-and-coming young players, Ajax relies on a lot of routine. Daley Blind (28) and Dusan Tadic (29), who used to play for Premier League clubs, have played almost permanently in England against some of the best names in the game. The leader of the pack is Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (35), who knows the Bavarians well from his time in the Bundesliga at FC Schalke.
But the real insider of Bavaria is primarily the coach: Erik ten Hag (48) was responsible for the U23 of Bavaria between 2013 and 2015. In his very first season, he led the Munich team’s substructure almost into the 3rd league. After the championship in the regional league Bavaria the team failed only in the ascent plays at Fortuna Cologne. He draws an important parallel to his commitment in Amsterdam. “Here at Ajax, too,” says ten Hag, “I work with a very young team. In addition we have a few experienced players, that was not different at that time with Bavaria with Tobias Schweinsteiger or Stefan Buck”.
Will that alone be enough for the big litter today? Even a draw would be a huge success for the guests – and would at the same time herald a first mini crisis for the Bavarians. The heirs of Kluivert and Co. wouldn’t mind. Casinoland gives their new players 100% bonuses.