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Seven years in Ajax’s life

May 10, 2011

Next Sunday Ajax will be playing the last competition game at home versus FC Twente. The match will decide who will win the Dutch Eredivisie, as currently Twente is sitting on top with only one point advantage over Ajax. The Champions League qualifying spot is also at stake because PSV is currently third, three points behind Twente. Assuming that PSV will win against FC Groningen, whoever loses in the match between Ajax and FC Twente will effectively end up third.

Last Sunday FC Twente won the cup after beating Ajax 3-2 after extra time. The Ajax players and coach however did not put much importance to the cup as their real final is the upcoming match. Ajax was last champion in 2004 and have been waiting seven years to add a third star to their shirt, denoting their 30th championship.

In Italy, AC Milan won the scudetto again after last winning it in 2004. They too waited seven years and hopefully Ajax will follow AC Milan’s example.

Seven years is quite a long time in football. For some teams it is just that, seven years. For others, it is a lifetime or two. Out of the current Ajax squad (as listed on their website), only one player was in the championship winning squad of 2004, namely goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg. Back then he wasn’t even number 1, that was Bogdan Lobont. Steek was fighting it out with Sander Boschker (currently of FC Twente, incidentally) for second goalie. In comparison, eight players of AC Milan were there when they won it last in 2004: Abbiati, Nesta, Abate, Ambrosini, Gatusso, Pirlo, Seedorf and Inzaghi. Out of that list only Abate is a “fringe” player, the others have been the spine of AC Milan.

Looking back in time, I found that in the current Ajax team only 8 players made their debut before or in 2004. And not all of them at the highest level. Demy de Zeeuw was still playing in the second division with Go Ahead Eagles, while Mounir El-Hamdaoui and Jeroen Verhoeven were with small time Excelsior and FC Volendam. Only Andre Ooijer was a fully fledged international (compared to the current number of 15).

In the list below you can see where the current Ajax players were back in 2004. Eight of them were in the Ajax youth teams and some were still playing in local teams. Daley Blind and Aras Ozbiliz were kicking it together in Ajax C2 (essentially the U-14).

It is interesting to see how much seven years have changed a team. It is not the case at AC Milan where they managed to kept a part of the team stable, but at Ajax seven years really feels like a lifetime. If Ajax does not win the championship this year, it will be very likely that in next year’s squad there will not be anybody left who knows what it feels like to win a championship with Ajax.

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