While the Eredivisie, the top Dutch professional soccer league, will likely never yield another Champions League winner and most certainly won’t be the home of a Ballon d’Or recipient again, the historic league and its most historic participant are once again on the precipice of a major trophy.
On Wednesday, May 24th the former European superpower will take on the mighty Mourinho lead Manchester United in the Europa League final in Stockholm, Sweden.
Ajax was once the the epitome of European football. The club from Amsterdam ushered in the 70’s with one of the game’s greatest players, Johan Cruyff, Total Football at its apex, and 3 consecutive triumphs in what we know today as the Champions League.
But, since the Dutch team dominated on the biggest stage and were marshaled by the 3-time Ballon d’Or winner in Cruyff, the trophy case in terms of major European success has remained relatively bare.
As the landscape surrounding transfers and the amount of money being pumped into the game vastly changed, Ajax went from being a European powerhouse to being one of the greatest feeder clubs in the world.
The team is notorious for excellent scouting and the grooming of players who are destined for superstardom. Both Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez honed their craft in Amsterdam before moving on the current crop of elite teams, where they have terrorized opposing defenses ever since.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pace and success they’ve had in producing massive talents. Since 2010/11 when Suarez was sold, the team has been involved in big money deals with Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal, Napoli, Tottenham, and the list goes on and on.
And despite the constant turnover and supplying Europe’s biggest clubs with talent that has shaped league title challenges all around the continent, the team has retooled again and is as exciting and as young as ever.
The team isn’t just littered with players your age (if you’re like me and sadly heading towards mid-20’s), it’s not even littered with kids who you could’ve graduated with, it’s littered with kids your younger siblings would be finishing high school and beginning college with, as shown earlier this month when the 2nd place finishers in the Eredivisie fielded the youngest team the league has ever seen.
And that isn’t even all the young talent this roster possesses, as I did with my previous piece on Monaco’s (which reportedly added Belgian wonderkid Youri Tielemans to its already rich roster) young star studded team earlier this month, here is a peak at their best players according to FIFA 17:
This iteration of Holland’s most decorated club and the #11 most successful club in history is captained by Davy Klaasen, who at 24-years old (and 4 months younger than me ..::sigh::..) is considered the team’s veteran leader.
The young side, as expected, can lose its discipline defensively, which makes it susceptible to goals, but on the other hand it promotes their offensive attack lead by striker Kasper Dolberg and wingers Bertrand Traore (who thankfully is a Chelsea loanee) and Amin Younes.
The 19-year Dane, Dolberg, is one of the hottest commodities in Europe, despite pledging his allegiance to the Amsterdam outfit for at least another season. His style of play is nothing short of intoxicating, he has control and composure that is paired with a flair not often possessed by a player so young.
He can be the lynchpin in the build-up of an attack while having the athleticism and nose for goal that make them him a prime target for both Manchester clubs, Everton, Liverpool and likely a ton more as the summer transfer window opens.
Despite the shakiness that can come with such a young team on the defensive end they have two standout members of their backline, which includes 20-year old Davinson Sanchez and 17 (yes, 17) year old, Matthijs de Ligt.
de Ligt has already had a senior call-up to the Dutch National team and lacks fear of the Goliath in a Manchester United side desperate for a Champions League birth next season. This became evident when he wasn’t afraid to take a minor shot at the world-record transfer fee of Paul Pogba:
One of his partners at the back is the aforementioned Sanchez, whom Barcelona has expressed doubts about not signing this past summer. He lacks an unteachable ability to read the game and operates like in the same vein as Nick Saban’s Alabama defense, controlled chaos.
The uber athletic center-back has only 2 yellow cards this season while constantly breaking up play and igniting de Godenzonen’s (the Sons of Gods) electric attack. Oh, and he has a knack for the back of the net as well:
While Manchester United has the brand name and the world-renowned players to go along with it, the young Amsterdam team has an embarrassment of riches in terms of talent and a lack of fear shown in their semi-final victory over Lyon:
While the size of the stage doesn’t appear to big for this group, the talent disparity may be. Despite the fact they won’t be able to control possession and have their way with Man U as they often do with their opposition in Holland, they’ve made it clear all they need is one set piece to prove deadly:
One player who I haven’t touched on is 18-year old Justin Kluivert, a versatile winger who is the son Patrick Kluivert, another legend in footballing circles, who coincidentally came on in the 1995 Champions League final as a 19-year old to score the winner in Ajax’s last major victory. So, I’m just saying, keep your eyes peeled if he makes a substitute appearance because he may just emulate his old man and become an instant legend.
Even with the fact Manchester United has spent more in the past 3 seasons on players than Ajax has since World War II it will be anything, but a cake walk come Wednesday evening.
If you can get to a television by 2:45 Eastern you may just see a side dripping with future superstars with a brilliant coach in Pete Bosz pulling the strings act as the conclusion to a nightmare season for the Red Devils.
With Two Buttons Deep, I’m Connor.
Two Buttons Deep is a news & entertainment website based in upstate New York.
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