While Erik ten Hag’s astute tactics have spurred Ajax’s fairytale run, the players’ ability to imbibe them deserve appreciation too. The fact that most of the players are really young and hence inexperienced makes the feat all the more impressive.
Apart from treating the world to some aesthetically pleasing football, Ajax have also produced some gems which they most certainly won’t be able to safe-guard for a long time. Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and David Neres have now announced themselves to the world.
19-year-old De Ligt recently became the youngest player to captain a side featuring in the knockout stage of the Champions League. At 17, he started in a Europa League final against Manchester United. The defender has shown great maturity for his age and displayed attributes that sets him apart from other players of his age. His ability to read the game and prevent danger is commendable.
Eyebrows were raised when Barcelona signed 21-year-old Frenkie de Jong for €75 million. But they were seemingly vindicated when the youngster bossed the midfield against Real Madrid, at the Santiago Bernabeu.
De Jong’s versatility is just one of the many traits that makes him a world class prospect. Barcelona surely saw something in him that made them rush for a transfer and for such a big fee and now the world has seen it too.
21-year-old forward David Neres is yet another name you should get accustomed to reading on the newspapers. While Vinicius Junior limped off with an injury while his team were battered 4-1 by Ajax, an impressive show by Neres at the other end won him a place in the Brazil squad that was vacated by the former’s injury. The winger then appeared as a substitute in Brazil’s friendly against Chile.
Ajax’s youngsters are the talk of the town now. De Jong is on his way to Barcelona in the summer and De Ligt is set to follow him. It won’t be long until Neres finds a way out too. But before that, they have unfinished business in the UEFA Champions League, starting with a first leg semifinal against Tottenham Hotspur.