Ajax -- What remains of the team that took Champions League by storm?
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Amsterdam (AFP) –
Ajax host Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday, 18 months after being denied the chance to play the Anfield club in the final by a stunning Tottenham Hotspur comeback in the semi-final in Amsterdam.
The Dutch side wowed Europe on that run to the last four, before many of their best players were unsurprisingly picked off by wealthier clubs elsewhere.
AFP Sport looks at what remains of that Ajax team:
- Moved on -
The two big names to leave in the summer of 2019 were the Dutch international duo of Matthijs de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong.
Centre-back De Ligt, who captained Ajax in that campaign aged 19, scored the winner against Juventus in the quarter-finals and also scored against Tottenham in the semi-final. He moved to Juve for 75 million euros ($84.2 million) plus 10.5 million euros of add-ons, a world-record fee for a defender.
Meanwhile midfielder De Jong, now 23, was sold to Barcelona in a deal worth a total of 86 million euros that was agreed midway through the 2018-19 season.
Kasper Dolberg was really only a bit-part player in that Champions League campaign, but Ajax still cashed in on the Danish striker, selling him to French club Nice for 20.5 million euros. Another Dane, veteran midfielder Lasse Schone, left for Genoa in Italy.
After failing to progress beyond the group stage of last season's competition, Ajax allowed another mainstay of their side to go, with supremely gifted Moroccan international attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech joining Chelsea for 40 million euros.
And Donny van de Beek was the most recent to move on, the 23-year-old midfielder who scored the only goal away to Spurs in the first leg of the semi-final being sold to Manchester United in September for 39 million euros.
In total the four-time European champions have raised nearly 300 million euros in transfer fees from selling members of that squad that won the domestic double in 2019 as well as going so far in Europe.
- Stayed put -
Most of the exciting young talents in that side have moved on, but others remain. Erik ten Hag is still the coach, while Serbian international Dusan Tadic is still one of Ajax's main goal-scoring threats.
The former Southampton man netted six times in that European run and scored 16 more last season in all competitions in a campaign that was eventually cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic, with no champion crowned. Tadic also scored twice in the 5-1 weekend defeat of Heerenveen.
Goalkeeper Andre Onana, centre-back Daley Blind, Argentine left-back Nicolas Tagliafico and the Moroccan right-back Noussair Mazraoui all remain key elements too.
Further forward, Brazil winger David Neres -- who was on target in the 2019 quarter-final against Juventus -- is also still part of Ten Hag's squad.
- The new faces -
Ajax have reinvested some of the money brought in from sales over the last 18 months, shelling out fees of more than 15 million euros to sign Dutch international forward Quincy Promes from Sevilla, Mexico midfielder Edson Alvarez and the young Brazilian attacker Antony.
The latter came off the bench to score at the weekend. Also on target in that game was Mohammed Kudus, a 20-year-old Ghana international recruited from Nordsjaelland in Denmark.
Ajax continue to put faith in youth, but they have brought in experience too. Midfielder Davy Klaassen was signed from Werder Bremen in a 14 million-euro deal and returns to the club he left in 2017 for a failed stint on the blue side of Merseyside at Everton.
© 2020 AFP