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The Ajax Factor

Saturday 25th February 2012
Many observers predicted that Ajax "would be taken to the cleaners" by Manchester United over the course of the two legged Europa League tie. Instead, the team from Amsterdam acquitted themselves well and the graduates of the world famous academy showed signs of the pedigree of players Ajax have produced over a considerable amount of time.

According to the statistics collated by www.transfermarkt.co.uk Ajax have made a profit of £92,552,800 through their transfer activity since the 2000/2001 season. If Ajax did not have such a sustainable business model there is no doubt in my mind that the club would be reaching the closing stages of the Champions League season after season. Ajax simply cannot pay the wages that teams of similar stature and tradition in England, France, Germany, Spain and Italy can afford.

Should Ajax have been able to retain the most renowned of their academy graduates, the team last night would have looked very different. Players such as Maarten Stekelenburg, Nigel De Jong, John Heitinga, Urby Emanuelson, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez would have given the game a very different complexion and Ajax would have more likely than not progressed to the next round.

There is little doubt in my mind that there are certain players in the Ajax squad who will follow the paths of the notable academy alumni  and move to a bigger stage sooner rather than later. Jan Vertonghen impressed me greatly over the two legs with his solid defensive play and accurate distribution to the midfield. Harry Redknapp was in attendance in order to assess Vertonghen and he will surely have been impressed with the defenders performance.

Gregory Van der Wiel and Chrisitian Eriksen join Vertonghen in being the most coveted property at the club. Eriksen had the choice of joining Chelsea and utilising their state of the art academy facilities at Cobham aged 14 and 15 but he tellingly chose Ajax because of their tradition of handing opportunities to young players in the first team. Such opportunities are rarely forthcoming in England. Arsenal have flirted with this model in the Premier League but over the course of 5 seasons it has proved largely fruitless. Of course the Premier League is less forgiving and of a higher standard than the Dutch Eredivisie but the transfer fees that Ajax receive for their star graduates certainly do not indicate that the Eredivisie is of a low standard whatsoever.

The concept of "Total Football" means that the players are capable of playing in multiple positions, are comfortable with both the feet, can pass incisively and move intelligently off the ball making runs. When all of these individual actions are combined they can cause defences a plethora of problems. The introduction of the UEFA financial fair play regulations should benefit Ajax and I would not be surprised if they re-establish themselves in the knock out stages of the Champions League within the next decade.

The structure and principles of the Ajax player factory should ensure that the next generation of stars also emerge and live up to this fine clubs fine traditions.
Andy Rumens

Total articles: 8

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