Ajax's Young Stars Take European Farewell Tour To Next Stop
Zeeshan Mehtab 5 days ago Wed 17th April 2019 | 05:01 PM
Once every generation, Ajax rediscover the eternal formula of youth and cut a Champions League swathe through expensively assembled teams of mature stars
Turin, Italy, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - APP - 17th Apr, 2019 ) :Once every generation, Ajax rediscover the eternal formula of youth and cut a Champions League swathe through expensively assembled teams of mature stars.
On Tuesday in Turin, the Dutch side did not just upset Cristiano Ronaldo's Juventus. By the end they were completely outplaying the perennial Serie A champions, winning the match 2-1 and the tie 3-2 on aggregate.
"I think we should have scored five," said 21-year-old Donny van de Beek.
Teenage centre-back and the team's captain Matthijs de Ligt, just 19 himself, rose above two Juve defenders to smash in the winning header in the 67th minute.
"The ball was high and I thought, I am going for it. I headed it perfectly in the corner," De Ligt said.
Tuesday's victory means they have played 16 games in this season's competition, losing only once, at home to defending champions Real Madrid in the last round. They responded with a memorable 4-1 second-leg victory at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The Ajax team is underpinned by experience, but once again on Tuesday it was homegrown youngsters who caught the eye.
"We have so much potential in the team and we're still quite young and you see us grow in every game," De Ligt told the UEFA website.
Yet Ajax started the season knowing that even though their team was built round youth, they had to win now.
In an interview with AFP in February, van der Sar -- a former Ajax youth product who left, initially for Juventus, and has now returned to his first club -- said: "You want to build your own team for the highest level and that happens more with teams that stay together.
" But this Ajax team is already starting to break up.
De Jong has agreed to join Barcelona next season and the highly-coveted De Ligt is also likely to leave.
"We want to keep this team together but we know the market power of the big clubs," said van der Saar. "I was a player as well." - 'I wasn't even born then' - Van der Sar was the goalkeeper in the last Ajax team to win the Champions League in 1995 with another largely homegrown team that mixed experience with the precocious talents of Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert.
Ajax reached the final in 1996 and the semi-finals in 1997, losing both to Tuesday's conquerers Juventus.
"Weird, this is weird. I wasn't even born then," said de Ligt of the club's first semi-final appearance in 21 years.
"I don't care about that money," said Van der Sar. "Of course we have to pay players. But this is football, that's what it's all about. We play the way Ajax wants and has to play, the way people know us." "It's really cool that all the pieces of the puzzle fall together," said Van der Sar. "This is what you have been working for." In their moment of glory, some Ajax players thought of one of the stars of their generation who was absent. Attacking midfielder Abdelhak Nouri suffered permanent brain damage after a heart attack playing for Ajax in 2017 aged 20.
"After scoring in the 34th minute, I thought of him," said van de Beek. "I will never forget this." "It was meant to be this way." "Of course we can win the Champions League. It would be strange if I didn't believe in that. We form a close team and fight for each other. If one has a hard time, then the other gets up."Ajax's role as an incubator of young talent for richer clubs means that every European campaign brings encounters with old friends.