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Ajax 2018/19 Champions League Semi-Final XI: Where are they now?

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Ajax 2018/19 Champions League Semi-Final XI: Where are they now?

Ajax have a rich history in European football. Their tally of 4 European Cup/Champions League trophies is bettered by only 5 clubs across the continent.

However, since the turn of the millennium, the Dutch giants have struggled to replicate this success, rarely making it past the group stages and failing to qualify at all on multiple occasions.

 

A famous run

The 2018/19 campaign marked Ajax’s return to Europe’s top table in style. With a young, exciting roster of players and a high-pressing style of play, this side guaranteed entertaining football.

Following an impressive group-stage performance in a group containing Bayern Munich, Erik ten Hag’s side stunned the football world, dumping Real Madrid and Juventus out of the competition by aggregate scores of 5-3 and 3-2 respectively.

This set up a mouth-watering tie with Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs.

Following a surprisingly comfortable 1-0 away win, Ajax netted twice within 35 minutes of the second leg to take a commanding 3-0 aggregate lead.

However, a second half Lucas Moura hattrick stunned the Dutch giants, shattering their dreams of a first final in over 20 years.

Since then, Ajax’s star-studded class of 2018/19 has been picked apart by Europe’s wealthiest clubs.

With quotes from Ajax expert Sam Plummer, we look at the Ajax XI from that second leg against Spurs and where they are now.

 

GK: André Onana     

Despite breaking into the first team two years earlier, 2018/19 was the year Onana truly announced himself.

“His unorthodox acrobatic saves and relaxed demeanour caught the eye and were pivotal in Ajax’s success.”

These performances saw his value rocket to £40 million.

The Barcelona academy graduate remains an Ajax player, however, he is currently serving a suspension for doping, ruling him out of action until February 2022.

Aged just 25, there is plenty of time for the Cameroonian shot-stopper to get his career back on track.

 

RB: Noussair Mazraoui      

A product of the famed Ajax academy, Mazraoui shared right-back responsibilities with Joel Veltman during this season.

Group-stage goals against Benfica and Bayern Munich earnt his side 4 crucial points and were enough to secure the Moroccan a starting spot for the semi-final.

Mazraoui has stuck by his boyhood club where he remains a valuable squad member, despite playing under 50% of available minutes over the last two years.

 

LB: Nicolás Tagliafico     

“Tagliafico has been one of the most consistent performers at the Johan Cruyff Arena over recent seasons.”

The Argentine was a reassuring presence at left-back during the 2018/19 campaign and even netted 3 group-stage goals.

He is another player who has stayed with the Amsterdam club to date, despite constant rumours linking him with a move away.

“This loyalty has made him one of the most beloved Ajax players in recent times.”

 

CB: Matthijs de Ligt

Despite being just 19 at the time, academy product De Ligt was the undisputed talisman and captain of the team.

His thumping header against Juventus in the last 16 won the tie and he popped up with another one 5 minutes into the second leg against Spurs.

Having witnessed the colossal centre back’s leadership and ability first hand, Juventus forked out £77 million to bring De Ligt to Turin in the summer of 2019.

After a slow start to life in Italy, the Dutchman has now settled and looks to be developing into the world-class defender that he promised to become back in 2019.

 

CB: Daley Blind

Following a turbulent spell at Manchester United, Blind returned to his boyhood club ahead of the 2018/19 season, adding experience to a youthful squad.

“Renowned for his versatility and ball-playing abilities”, the Dutchman immediately became a regular at the heart of defence, playing every minute of the Champions League run.

Blind was diagnosed with a career-threatening heart condition in December 2019. However, he has recovered well and remains a vital cog in the Ajax machine.

 

CM: Lasse Schöne    

Comfortably the oldest member of the XI, Schöne brought valuable experience to the side.

“Although often overshadowed by younger teammates, his stunning free-kick at the Bernabéu secured his place in Ajax folk-lore.”

Following the Champions League run, the Dane called time on his 7 year stay in Amsterdam, moving to Genoa for £1.35 million where he spent a year and a half.

Now 34, Schöne is winding down his career back in the Eredivisie with his ex-club Heerenveen.

 

CM: Frenkie de Jong

“Along with De Ligt, De Jong was the golden boy of this team. His excellent passing, dribbling and pressing abilities saw him run the midfield.”

The Dutchman’s dominant display against Real Madrid’s renowned midfield trio typified his mercurial talent.

De Jong’s future was decided midway through the Champions League run, with a £77.4 million transfer to Barcelona agreed for the following season.

A shaky start to life in Spain attracted much criticism. However, he has since rediscovered his form under the stewardship of compatriot Ronald Koeman and will undoubtedly be at the heart of the ongoing rebuild at the Camp Nou.

 

CM: Donny van de Beek    

The scorer of the only goal in the semi-final first leg, “Van de Beek was a bundle of energy, with his passion endearing him to fans.”

Following the 2018/19 campaign, Van de Beek stayed for one more season at the Johan Cruyff Arena, before departing for Manchester United for £35 million.

To date, the Ajax academy product has seen his game time limited in Manchester, starting less than 10% of games.

Now 24, he will be keen to ensure his prime years aren’t wasted warming the bench at Old Trafford.

 

RW: Hakim Ziyech

“The wizard of the team with a wand of a left foot, Ziyech was almost unplayable at times during 2018/19.”

A semi-final goal against Spurs added to the Moroccans key strikes in both legs against Real Madrid.

Like Van de Beek, Ziyech stayed with Ajax for the 2019/20 season before departing for the Premier League, joining Chelsea for £36 million.

Injuries have side-lined Ziyech for spells of his debut campaign in England. However, when on the pitch, he has shown glimpses of his 2018/19 form and will hope to become a favourite at Stamford Bridge in coming seasons.

 

LW: Dušan Tadić   

“Tadić’s arrival from Southampton in 2018 was seen as a somewhat uninspiring signing by fans, giving the Serbian a job to win them over.”

He quickly set about making himself indispensable to Ten Hag, with his classy, intelligent play yielding 11 goal contributions in 12 Champions League games.

The fifth and final member of this XI still at the club, Tadić now captains the side and is “adored by the Ajax faithful. His loyalty cannot be underestimated.”

 

CF: Kasper Dolberg

Labelled the ‘wonderkid’ of the team, Dolberg showed glimpses of his potential in an Ajax shirt, but was largely limited to substitute appearances.

The Dane replaced David Neres for the semi-final second leg but struggled to impose himself and was hauled off after 67 minutes.

Limited game-time saw Dolberg swap Amsterdam for Nice in 2019 in an attempt to revitalise his career. He looks to have found a comfortable home in France, even if he is some way off fulfilling his potential.

 

We hope you enjoyed this article ‘Ajax 2018/19 Champions League Semi-Final XI: Where are they now?’. Do you think Ajax will challenge for a Champions League in the near future? Let us know!

 

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Sports writer/freelance journalist. Graduate from the University of East Anglia with a 2:1 in BSc Geography, using my skillset to write what I hope are interesting, informative articles on the sports I love. Feel free to drop me a line at: solliecook@gmail.com.

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