There’s a feeling among Ajax fans that this is their best chance of winning the Champions League for a generation.
Their journey to the last four of Europe’s elite club competition has excited their own followers and enthused others. Famous wins over Juventus and Real Madrid have endeared their youthful team to fans across the globe and one player who has attracted more headlines that most is Matthijs de Ligt.
The 19-year-old Ajax captain has been linked with a summer move to a host of Europe’s heavyweights but many expect him to follow his Ajax team-mate Frenkie de Jong to Barcelona.
De Ligt is one of several players who are expected to leave Amsterdam in the summer. The very thought of losing so many top players would faze a lot of fans but this is viewed as an inevitability at Ajax where so many players have moved on for substantial fees to help fund the next batch of young talent.
With De Jong already sold for €75million and de Ligt tipped to command a similar fee, this squad represents the club’s best chance of Champions League success for some time. They have already shown that they are no respecters of reputation and the prospect of facing Tottenham Hotspur over two legs with the prospect of meeting Barcelona or Liverpool in the final is tremendously exciting.
Defender De Ligt has already made 75 appearances for his club and 15 for the Netherlands having represented them at Under 15, Under 16, Under 17 and Under 19 Level. The famed Ajax Academy picked him up age nine despite initial worries about his speed.
He made the leap to the first team in 2016 and at the age of 17 he famously became the youngest ever player to play in a European final in the Europa League Final defeat to Manchester United in 2017.
Following the sale of Davinson Sanchez to Tottenham Hotspur, de Ligt was afforded more first team opportunities and became the club’s youngest ever captain when he deputised for Joel Veltman.
His performances earned him the much vaunted Golden Boy in December and the following month, De Ligt clocked up another milestone as the youngest ever captain in a Champions League match.
His performances against both Real Madrid and Juventus saw his star rise even higher. With clubs across Europe planning their summer transfer spending, de Ligt has appeared on several clubs’ wishlists.
While Juventus, Manchester United and PSG would love to secure the player’s services, Barca remain favourites and the recruitment of de Jong has improved their chances of continuing the long line of Ajax players - including Johan Cruyff and Marc Overmars - to head for Catalonia.