This Champions League campaign fas been full of surprises. One of this year’s semi-finals is made up of two teams no one would have expected to be there; Tottenham and Ajax. The Amsterdam side secured a vital 0-1 away win in the first leg and look to be in pole position to reach their first Champions League final in over 20 years.
Ajax have shocked football fans all around the world with their European display. From going unbeaten in a group which contained German giants Bayern Munich, to eliminating both Real Madrid and Juventus in the following stages, Ajax have really put on a show. Their results are one thing, but Ajax have earned the majority of their admiration for the style of football they play. The likes of de Ligt, de Jong and van de Beek look likely to become some of the best players of their generation.
Despite already defeating some of Europe’s most elite sides, the job is far from complete for Erik ten Hag’s side. If they are able to see out victory against Tottenham, Barcelona would likely await them in Madrid. The Catalan side thrashed Liverpool 3-0 at the Camp Nou last night. Magical Messi put on another glorious display in scoring twice, one of which was a curling free-kick into the top corner. Klopp’s side have a mountain to climb irrespective of the impressive goalscoring form they continue to produce, particularly at Anfield.
Ajax Vs Barcelona would be an amazing final, a blast from the past, but you should only want one winner. Anyone who is not a supporter of any of the sides still remaining in the competition should want to witness Ajax rise to glory. Whether you’re a patriot who would prefer to see an English team claim the trophy over any foreign team, or simply a PSV Eindhoven fan, you should put this aside.
Whether you want to believe it or not, almost every top European side has bought into this idea of the modern game. It’s become widely accepted that money and financial backing are an essential part of footballing success. Ajax flatly reject this idea. Their squad costs a grand total of £93 million. That’s not a small figure by any stretch of the imagination. However, when you compare it to other top sides, it certainly is. Spurs have the next cheapest squad of the four semi-finalists at £313 million, Barcelona £573 million and Liverpool slightly more at £594 million. Teams that Ajax have already eliminated also cost significantly more; Juventus at £424 million and Real Madrid at £475 million.
The Eredivisie leaders have opted to keep costs low through a few different methods. Their recruitment has been excellent. The likes of goalkeeper Onana and Kasper Dolberg both arrived for just a few hundred thousand, whilst de Jong, a vital part of this Ajax masterpieces, cost just £1 million. A number of their other top players, including de Ligt and van de Beek, cost the club nothing at all in terms of a transfer fee. Development of their academy system has meant that they have been able to find the best talents who are ready to play at the top level despite still being very young. Van de Beek is just 22 and de Ligt is only 19.
Developing players from a young age, working with them and putting effort into them, is an idea largely thought to be dead in the modern game. Ajax have disproved that. It’s refreshing to see an elite European side relying on homegrown talent rather just buying the best players for hundreds of millions, and still achieving a lot of success.
See, whilst Liverpool or Tottenham winning the trophy would be a victory for England, Barcelona winning it a victory for Spain, Ajax becoming kings of Europe would be a victory for football entirely.