This time last season Dusan Tadic’s Southampton side were stuck in the Premier League’s dreaded drop zone. Fast forward to the present and the now rejuvenated Ajax ace is a few hours away from his first Champions League semi-final, against Tottenham, back in England.
Unlike the majority of Ajax’s young, immensely talented, treble-chasing squad, Tadic has of course faced Spurs before, the last clash of which was a 5-2 drubbing at Wembley 18 months ago.
Tadic may have scored on that occasion but it was a game to forget, and a season to forget, on a personal level, and in general from a Southampton perspective. In the end, Saints stayed up by the skin of their teeth, but Tadic then decided to call it quits on his four-year stay on the south coast, as he darted off to Ajax for £10m.
What a bargain that’s proved to be.
Tadic banged in four goals in his opening five Eredivisie games for his new side. Then, come October, he’d already topped his Saints tally for the whole of last season, with eight goals to his name in all competitions. Tadic has since propelled his league total to 24 league goals, the same amount he scored in all competitions for Southampton in 162 appearances during four seasons under four managers.
Tadic, along with his Southampton teammates, failed to fire following the departure of Ronald Koeman in 2016 but he’s been released from the shackles under Ajax's head coach Erik ten Hag, who has not only employed the 30-year-old in his more traditional left-wing role, but as an ultra-effective false nine.
What a masterstroke that’s proved to be, with Tadic thriving alongside the player he was supposed to replace, Hakim Ziyech.
“I move everywhere, with a little bit of a free role, and I am very happy. But most important is the team, to try to help, and this team can do everything,” said Tadic.
If we add domestic cup competitions and European football to the mix, Tadic’s sensational season has produced a remarkable 34 goals and 21 assists in 51 matches - to date Ajax have a gargantuan 160 goals, a Dutch record - and could even end the season by winning the treble.
Tadic has contributed six goals and three assists in the Champions League. He also scored three and assisted three during the qualification process which started way back in July - only Lionel Messi (13) has been directly involved in more goals in all competitions. In fact, Tadic is ranked third in Europe’s top-six leagues for goal involvements (45), behind Kylian Mbappe (46), and that man Messi (60).
The current cluster of Ajax players may be defined by an element of youth - skipper Matthijs de Ligt is only 19 - but this has been supplemented efficaciously by the experience of both Tadic and fellow summer signing Daley Blind, formerly of Manchester United.
The pair have played pivotal roles in inspiring Champions League victories over defending champions Real Madrid (see above video), and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus, and now they have their sights set on booting out Spurs, who will be making their first-ever appearance in the semi-finals in the Champions League era.
Tadic’s astonishing 2018/19 season is now just six matches away from ending with an electrifying treble. Regardless of whether this comes to fruition or not, he’s enjoyed a truly astounding, and very unexpected, transformation over in Holland.