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"It all started with a photograph of the private parts of a former player."


Hardly Odysseus and Nausicaa, but when you call yourselves Ajax.....



How Ajax went from Champions League overachievers to chaos

Dutch club won neutrals’ hearts with 2019 European run but a series of events has led to poor results and fan rage boiling over

Bart Vlietstra

Wed 27 Sep 2023 08.00 BST




It all started with a photograph of the private parts of a former player. No, this is not a piece about dressing-room “humour”. This is the story of the demise of Ajax, who in 2019 were seconds from the Champions League final and now sit 14th in the Eredivisie after the game at home against Feyenoord on Sunday was abandoned amid crowd trouble with the team 3-0 down.

The goal scored by Tottenham’s Lucas Moura in the last minute of injury time on 8 May 2019 shattered Ajax’s Champions League final dream then but there could be no doubting the Dutch club had overachieved. For a team from a league snubbed by oil sheikhs and big investors, and where TV money is a relative pittance, it was still a memorable evening and an unforgettable season.


Ajax were referred to as the Champions League winners in people’s hearts. First Erik ten Hag’s squad had survived three qualifying rounds, then resisted Bayern Munich twice in spectacular fashion in the group phase, thrashed Real Madrid 4-1 at the Bernabéu and beaten Juventus in Turin. This was achieved via amazing combination football and the superb technical skills of the budding talents Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Hakim Ziyech and Donny van de Beek, while Dusan Tadic and Daley Blind were experiencing their second youth.

The ideal blend had been achieved under the football director, Marc Overmars, and although the end against Spurs was bitter and brutal, people in the Netherlands were convinced it marked the start of a new era.


Then came the day when Overmars – the former Ajax, Arsenal and Barcelona player – took down his pants in a toilet in an Ajax building, took a photo with his phone and sent it to a female Ajax employee. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it transpired it was not the only time Overmars had approached female colleagues in an inappropriate manner, and it led to his departure on 6 February 2022.

His conduct had been the best-kept secret at Ajax, where everything normally leaks out, which perhaps says something about the masculine inner world of the Netherlands’ largest club and the blinkers they had on.


Ajax thought they had become the Bayern Munich of the Netherlands, untouchable by the rest. In May 2022 they finished top for a fourth consecutive season. They had responded to the crushing Moura goal by producing more great Champions League nights against Valencia, Chelsea, Borussia Dortmund and Sporting.

Their traditional rivals PSV and especially Feyenoord appeared to be years behind. But Ajax missed the transfer acumen of Overmars, who not only discovered gems in Europe but had built an impressive network in South and Central America. Antony, Lisandro Martínez, Edson Álvarez, Ziyech, Mohammed Kudus and Kasper Dolberg were eventually sold for huge sums, as were the homegrown talents De Jong, De Ligt, Van de Beek and Sergiño Dest.

Overmars had been installed at Ajax in 2012 after a reshape of the club initiated by Johan Cruyff. For the first five years Overmars had to work closely with other former players such as Dennis Bergkamp and Wim Jonk and was prevented by the board from giving players a salary of more than €1m a year.


At the end of 2017 he took control of Ajax alongside Edwin van der Sar when Bergkamp was sacked together with the coach Marcel Keizer. One of his best moves was to appoint Ten Hag, the coach he had previously hired at Go Ahead Eagles. Overmars broke open the salary ceiling to bring Tadic and Blind back to the Netherlands from the Premier League, and with that the re-emergence of Ajax as a big name in Europe started.

Then came the scandal of the inappropriate behaviour.

Ten Hag still guided Ajax to their 36th national title but he left in the summer of 2022 for Manchester United. Ajax replaced Overmars with a few inexperienced employees and asked Van der Sar, the general director, to help out with transfer decisions. The club sold players that summer for about €200m and spent about €100m, both records, but a disastrous season followed. It featured a record 6-1 defeat in the Champions League by Napoli, the dismissal of the coach Alfred Schreuder and a third-place finish under the inexperienced interim coach John Heitinga, which meant no Champions League this season.


Van der Sar retired in the summer, saying he was worn out. He had appointed a new football director, Sven Mislintat, formerly of Stuttgart, Dortmund and Arsenal, who was instructed to sell heavily (€150m) and reduce the salary structure. Without Champions League income, Ajax had to make cuts for the first time in years. Mislintat succeeded, but the criticism was he acted largely alone.

He signed 12 fairly unknown talents, some of whom had never played at the highest level. He relieved Heitinga, who was popular with the fans, of his position and appointed Maurice Steijn, who was inexperienced at the top, and asked for a few months of patience.


But in Amsterdam they do not do patience. Ajax have made their worst start to a season since 1964 and to add to the sense of trouble it turned out that Misintlat had brought in a player, Borna Sosa, who was represented by the German agency AKA Global, which allegedly has a stake in the data company Matchmetrics in which Mislintat owns shares. The club has launched an investigation into the transfer.

Ajax said Mislintat had declared his interest in Matchmetrics when appointed but that they had not known about AKA Global’s alleged holding in the company at the time of the transfer. Mislintat, the club said, had said “he will offer his full cooperation and share all relevant documents” with the inquiry.


Everything culminated last Sunday in the match against Feyenoord, the arch-rivals who had been looked down upon with malicious pleasure in Amsterdam for years but who had overtaken Ajax by a massive margin last season, nationally and in Europe.

Feyenoord took a 3-0 lead. Ajax fans from the F-side ultras shouted for the board and Mislintat to go and twice threw fireworks on to the field, forcing the game to be halted. There were riots afterwards around the stadium, with hooligans forcing their way into the main entrance and confronting the police and mobile units in a manner not seen in Amsterdam for a long time. That evening, Mislintat was fired.

On Wednesday the club that would never allow itself to be overtaken by a Dutch rival must try to overcome a 3-0 deficit against the champions Feyenoord in 35 minutes in an empty stadium.


The future? Some fanatical fans are hoping that Overmars, who is now very successful at the Belgian double winners Antwerp, will return. Many others think that is a bridge too far. The club is hopelessly divided, which can almost entirely be traced to that moment Overmars dropped his pants and took out his phone.

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  • 4 weeks later...



"Sad plight of Ajax shows brutality of life outside football elite"


"......Ajax...... has made some terrible decisions along the way, such as bad coaching, executive hires, and misfires in the transfer market. Ajax failed to obtain a transfer fee for players such as André Onana and Noussair Mazraoui....."


I've heard this song before. Nearer home. 


Sad plight of Ajax shows brutality of life outside football elite

Dutch giants became great by keeping everything under their own roof, but expansionism and money of today’s game means that option is fraught with danger

James Gheerbrant

Saturday October 28 2023, 12.00am, The Times


Ajax, one of the most celebrated clubs in Europe, have won only one of their opening seven league games and are in the relegation zone




Some football matches wear their symbolism lightly. Brighton & Hove Albion’s Europa League victory against Ajax on Thursday was not one of these.


Ajax, the four-times continental champions, archdukes of European football, founding fathers of the modern game, against Brighton, the upstart gulls soaring aloft on the thermals of Premier League richesse. The fact of Brighton’s win would have been enough; the manner of it was doubly striking. Brighton had 65 per cent possession and made 788 passes. Everything that Ajax once pioneered — young talent, passing triangles, using the ball to dictate and dominate — was turned against them. For a long time, Ajax were the school. On Thursday night, they were schooled.

Brighton came not to humiliate or emulate or give Ajax a taste of their own medicine, just to impose their own game. In fact, they played with a studied disregard for their opponents, which of course is how Ajax used to play in their glory years. If that was a similarity, though, in other respects this felt like a collision of two opposite philosophies.


At their best, whether in Johan Cruyff’s long career or afterwards in his long shadow, Ajax embodied a lean, inward-looking asceticism. A tight ship. The idea that with a set of principles honed on the training pitch and a sacrosanct link between academy and first team, you could — as far as possible — reduce the vulgarities of chance and luck inherent to the sport and keep your destiny under your own roof.

Brighton, on the other hand, have bloomed under their gambler owner by embracing calculated risk, by being better than anyone else at playing the game outside the game, by casting their net ever further and wider.

In a way, although Brighton are wealthier than Ajax, the landscape of modern football puts them in the same bind: losing their best players and coaches to bigger teams and forever having to replace them. Brighton are just much better at this than practically anyone else. Once, Ajax conquered all by systematising the play; these days, you have to play the system.


It’s hard to overstate how terrible this season has been for Ajax. Their defeat by Brighton was the fifth in their past seven matches. They have not won a game, in any competition, since August 24. Unbelievably, they are second from bottom of the Dutch Eredivisie, albeit having played two games fewer than most teams. It is not yet November and they are 22 points off the lead. Since the Second World War, Ajax’s lowest finish in Dutch football has been 13th in 1965 (Cruyff’s first campaign); since then, they have never dipped below the relative ignominy of sixth and fifth in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.


For Ajax to be this bad is no less improbable than when Chelsea were 16th in December 2015, or when Borussia Dortmund were bottom of the Bundesliga in February of that year, or when Real Madrid finished beneath Tenerife in 1996, and somehow more unthinkable. For the name Ajax is evocative of more than mere might; it is also synonymous with beautiful football, with an ideal form of the game.

More confounding still is that Ajax were very good very recently. You will remember the team that in 2019 came within a whisker of reaching the Champions League final and also stormed the Eredivisie, but in Erik ten Hag’s final two seasons, 2020-21 and 2021-22, they also played at a high level. Dutch champions in both seasons, they accrued 88 and then 83 points, with a goal difference both years of +79; to put that in context, the 1995 Champions League-winning team of Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Marc Overmars and Patrick Kluivert won the Dutch league with 88 points (adjusted to three points for a win) and a goal difference of +78.

Clearly, Ten Hag has proved hard to replace. But no less relevant to Ajax’s predicament has been the loss of Overmars, who had worked brilliantly alongside Ten Hag as the club’s director of football, responsible for some of their excellent recruitment in those years. He rightly and inevitably left the club in February last year after sending a photo of his genitals to a female club employee.


Ajax are not the only European power to be facing relegation. In France, Lyon, the seven-times Ligue 1 champions between 2002 and 2008 and Champions League semi-finalists in 2010 and 2020, are bottom of the table and winless after nine matches. Both clubs have been plagued by lawless ultras: Ajax supporters forced the abandonment of a home match against Feyenoord last month when they threw flares on to the pitch and then vandalised the stadium, while Lyon’s hardcore have in recent times struck Dimitri Payet with a bottle, got their club thrown out of the French Cup and lit fires in the stands after last season’s Europa League loss to West Ham United.


That kind of toxic rage is obviously beyond the pale. But even the moderate majority of both fan bases could be forgiven a sense of alienation and estrangement. When Lyon won those seven titles in a row in the 2000s, three players stayed from start to finish (Grégory Coupet, Juninho and Sidney Govou) and four more spanned at least five seasons. Now, only two players remain of the 15 who took the field against Manchester City in the Champions League quarter-final three years ago.


It’s the same story with Ajax. Not one player remains from the match-day 18 that faced Tottenham Hotspur in the 2019 semi-final; and of the 15 players involved in a 4-0 win over Dortmund two years ago, just three. The team has been remade twice in four years.

It is not easy, in those circumstances, to command unconditional devotion. A cathedral that is remodelled gradually, which has a bit chipped away here, a bit added there, is still a cathedral. But a cathedral that is knocked down every few years and rebuilt entirely no longer is. It can only be a facsimile, an imitation.

No doubt Ajax and Lyon have made some terrible decisions along the way, such as bad coaching, executive hires and misfires in the transfer market. Ajax failed to obtain a transfer fee for players such as André Onana and Noussair Mazraoui, while Lyon made the same error with Houssem Aouar and Moussa Dembélé. But their slump also speaks to how hard it is to keep winning at the game that most clubs outside the super-wealthy elite have been forced into: sell, scout, develop, start over. For now, all they have to fight for is survival.

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56 minutes ago, Franc Ergs said:

Ajax beaten 5-2 today, now bottom, :shock:  quite incredible.

Did I read that right that  Lyon are bottom in France too?! WTF

Edited by Whosthedado
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Just now, Sutton_blows_goats said:

It seems Ajax have adopted the ‘Rangers model’ and have wasted millions on rubbish , injury prone wasters.

Oi leave Lammers and Dessers out of this :D 

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