The 20 most expensive outgoing Ajax transfers of all time

#10 Zlatan Ibrahimović (€16 million)

The football career of Zlatan Ibrahimović is one of great success, heated controversy, and (most importantly) a ton of goal scoring. Brought up in the Swedish city of Malmö, Zlatan was enrolled in the local team, Malmö FF, in his early teens. He was promoted to their largely unsuccessful first team in 1999 and helped them through a relegation with his fantastic physical play and scoring threat. Zlatan also gained a reputation for being hotheaded.

In 2001, at the age of 19, Zlatan Ibrahimović was sold to AFC Ajax for a club record fee of €7.8 million for De Godenzonen. The largely unproven, lanky forward struggled to get on the score sheet during his first season. Zlatan persevered through tough results and heavy competition to amass 48 goals in 110 appearances for Ajax over three seasons. His final goal in the red and white was possibly his greatest ever: a mazy, silky run that saw him glide past the whole NAC Breda defense with shot fakes before sliding the ball into the net.

On Transfer Deadline Day in August 2004, Zlatan Ibrahimović was sold to Juventus FC for €16 million – a two-fold return for Ajax. He never did make the Turin club his own, and two years later he was off to Inter Milan for roughly €25 million. Sixty-six goals in 118 appearances proved that Ibrahimović could do it on a big stage – a chance that he took by joining FC Barcelona.

The nearly €70 million transfer fee paid by the Catalan club was quite the expenditure, but the Swede didn’t quite gel into the team. One year later and he was back in Italy, this time attempting European success with AC Milan. Zlatan’s prolific form peaked in 2011/12, when the striker scored 35 goals in 44 appearances for Milan. Rising stars Paris St. Germain saw him as the player to take them to the next level; that summer Ibrahimović, now in his late 20’s, was off to France.

Four years of controlling Ligue 1 passed by and Zlatan had become the Parisians’ all-time leading goal scorer: 156 goals in only 180 matches. Sweden’s best player of all time had etched his name into football history, but there was yet another challenge he needed to take on. The summer of 2016 saw Zlatan Ibrahimović join Manchester United.

A bland Premier League campaign in his first season ended in European triumph as Zlatan’s United triumphed over Ajax. Over a decade had passed, but the passion felt between the two entities was apparent. Now, as Manchester United push for a Premier League title, 35-year-old Zlatan will do everything in his power to cap off an astonishing career with even more silverware.

A gigantic presence on the pitch, both physically and personality-wise, Zlatan Ibrahimović is already considered by many as one of the best number-nine’s to grace a football pitch. Complete with immaculate skill on the ball, a great awareness on the pitch, and a fiery, technical finishing touch, Zlatan is certainly one of the greats. His personality is what will make him a truly memorable person, though. As he once said, “I can’t help but laugh at how perfect I am.”

#9 Ryan Babel (€17 million)

Ah, the curious case of Ryan Babel. What could have been. Babel, a graduate of De Toekomst, started his career as a striker, and it’s easy to see why. Pacey, a good finisher, and rather difficult to topple 1v1, the Thierry Henry comparisons at the beginning of Babel’s career were apt. At Ajax though, Babel was more of a winger, forced out wide partly because of the form of Zlatan Ibrahimović more centrally. With the above attributes, it was a pretty sensible decision.

From a young age, Babel provided Ajax with a unique threat on the counter and a directness on the attack which had defences backpedalling as soon as the ball was played forward. His pace was frightening, and coupling that with his awareness and technical ability, Babel was a real threat.

No surprise then that Babel’s career started out with a bang. In his international debut in 2005 against Romania, Babel became the youngest Dutch goal scorer in 68 years upon netting, and the 4th youngest of all time. With 7 goals in 20 appearances in his first full season, Babel’s performances had a fair few fans very excited about what the future may hold for him.

In his 4 seasons in Amsterdam, Babel was a key component, and although he struggled to recreate his goalscoring form of 2004-05 in the ensuing seasons he spent in Amsterdam, he displayed enough ability and promise out wide to convince Liverpool to swoop in 2007. Nevertheless, despite starting 146 times for Liverpool over 4 seasons, consistency was the main issue for Babel during his time in the Premier League, and despite clearly having the ability on occasion to cause any defence a real hassle, Babel never quite hit the heights in England that it was led to believe he would.

A move to Hoffenheim followed in 2010 and after 2 seasons in Germany, Babel’s career became more nomadic, playing for 6 different clubs between 2012 and 2017 – notably Besiktas, Deportivo and a short stint back in Amsterdam where he was a bit-part player in Ajax’s 2013 title winning season.

It’s difficult to summise why Babel’s career never quite hit the predicted heights. Perhaps his biggest problem at Liverpool was that he didn’t fit the well-drilled ethic behind Rafa’s teams, or perhaps it was Rafa’s often quoted frostiness that alienated Babel. Settling in a different country is never easy and perhaps with more of an arm around his shoulder we would’ve seen Ryan Babel emerge into a better, more consistent player than he became.

Nevertheless, to call Ryan Babel’s career a flop is a little bit harsh. He had some fantastic moments in an Ajax shirt, where his trickiness, ability to beat defenders and accurate finish often combined to produce some quite sensational goals. With 2 Eredivisie titles to his name along with 2 KNVB Cup’s and 2 Johan Cruijff Shields as well as featuring as part of the Dutch squad that reached the World Cup final in 2010, he has played a part in some very successful sides.

#8 Daley Blind (€17.5 million)

Blind’s development at Ajax is of the most curious of any Ajax academy player in the last 20 years. He had big shoes to fill thanks to his father Danny, and his role as captain for Jong Ajax, but did not live up to the hype straight away. During his first couple season, Blind was jeered when he was on the pitch as a result of his uninspiring displays, which led to an understandable lack of confidence.

After a spending a year on loan with Groningen, Blind established himself in the Ajax first-team following the arrival of Frank de Boer, and never looked back. He went from a player who could do no right in the eyes of the supporters to a fan favourite and captain of the club, winning four successive Eredivisie titles in Amsterdam before his 17.5-million-Euros move to Manchester United in summer 2014.

It's the transformation of his positioning on the pitch that’s also very curious. He came through the ranks as a holding midfielder, before predominantly playing right-back for Groningen. Upon his return to Ajax he eventually established himself as a left-back before moving to centre-half, and then again a holding midfielder in his final season with the club – winning Dutch Footballer of the Year.

He only ever scored three goals for Ajax, but it was his impressive work rate, sharp passing and resolute defending that made him so beloved in Amsterdam. One of his biggest career highlights was the role he played in Robin van Persie’s famous goal against Spain at the 2014 World Cup, lofting a long pass 40 yards up the pitch which Van Persie dove to meet and head past Iker Casillas. Blind would also score against Brazil in the third-place match later that same tournament, helping the Netherlands to bronze.

Soon after he departed for Manchester United, and scored a pair of big goals for the club in his first season, both late equalisers in Premier League matches against West Brom and West Ham. But again, his career has again become split. Every Red Devils supporter seems to have formed a concrete opinion on the Dutchman, and they are polar opposites. Blind’s influence in the side has been strong, without a doubt, and while some insist on seeing his name on the team sheet every match, others believe he’s expendable, and sometimes even a liability.

Nonetheless, he has still made 127 appearances for the club across all competitions in three seasons, scoring five goals and assisting eight, while never picking up a red card. He also started and won the Europa League final with them last season.

Regardless of your opinion of Blind, he’s been a valuable defender throughout the course of his career, and his name is forever stamped in the hearts of Ajax supporters. He won us all over with his smile, and kept us on his side with his performance on the pitch.

#7 Cristian Chivu (€18 million)

A Dutch documentary regarding Ajax, called “Daar hoorden zij engelen zingen” (There they heard angels sing), captures Chivu’s first days at Ajax magnificently. The Romanian stalwart is seen as the new rookie in the squad, faltering frequently and picking up 4 red cards in his debut season. Thankfully, that wasn’t a good indication of the remainder of his career.

Signed up from Romanian side Craiova in 1999 by Danny Blind and Jan Wouters, Chivu began his Ajax career in an unstable side. It resulted in a very up and down season for both him and the club. By the end of the season, manager Wouters was fired and Co Adriaanse arrived for a revival.

In the following years, Chivu would grow out to be a dynamic, fearless defender for the club, being renowned for his magnificent free kicks and leadership. The fulcrum of his Ajax career was the 2002/2003 season, where he was part of the noughties dream team that reached the Champions League quarter finals, amongst players like Ibrahimovic, Maxwell, Sneijder, Van der Meyde, Van der Vaart and veteran Litmanen.

In 2003, he left the club for an adventure in the Serie A, joining AS Roma. He would go on to defend the colors of Inter, where he went on to win many league titles and a Champions League. Sadly, his further career was marred by injuries, limiting him to become a bit-part player and even wearing a rugby helmet in the latter season.

In 2014, Chivu called it quits after being tired from injury rehab. But whenever his name is mentioned in Amsterdam, eyes shine and stories are told of that one fearless captain that would drive a free kick in the top corner like no other.

#6 Luis Suárez (€26.5 million)

“No, I don’t need your card. I’ve already got plenty.” Just one quote muttered by Luis Suárez in a hilarious TV ad by a Dutch hearing aid shop, whom were quick to take advantage of Suárez’ antics on the field in his debut season. Initially, the Uruguayan was much criticized for diving and subsequently received a lot of cards from Dutch referees. But the aggressive and passionate striker eventually turned that page and proved to be one of best strikers to ever grace the white and red.

Suárez finally joined Ajax in 2007 for €7.5 million from FC Groningen, following an earlier rejected offer of €3.5 million and a court case by Suárez against Groningen. He was quite a different player and person from the goal-driven, hyperactive striker he is these days at Barcelona. Back then, a shy and reserved youngster arrived, a kid whom was quiet in the dressing room and was mainly used as a false winger to support Huntelaar.

During his time at Ajax, Suárez grew from being a quiet and shy kid to an outspoken and determined young man. His attitude on and off the pitch followed suit, as he took up the captaincy and quickly became one of the club’s best players ever. In his first season, he scored 17 goals. His second season featured him hitting the net 22 times. Under Martin Jol, he went on to have his best season prior to joining the English Premier League, scoring a ridiculous 35 goals.

Sadly, Suárez’ career at the club is also marred by his aggressive and competitive personality. The drive that got him to where he was also did other things to him, mentally. On the 20th of November 2010, he snapped (quite literally) his jaws at PSV’s Otman Bakkal and was suspended for seven league games. He left the club a few months later for Liverpool in a deal worth €26.5 million, without ever really winning a league title at Ajax.

The rest of Luisito’s career is history, as they say. But who knows, the Uruguayan may very well return to the Johan Cruyff ArenA one day, ready to take the Dutch fields by storm once more.

Written by Kevin Suave

Founder and owner of AjaxDaily. Stuck in the nineties. Adores Jari Litmanen.

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