The 20 most expensive outgoing Ajax transfers of all time

#5 Wesley Sneijder (€27 million)

There are a long list of candidates for Ajax’s greatest number 10 of all time. Dennis Bergkamp and Jari Litmanen are two deserved mentions, but another player worthy of such praise is Wesley Sneijder. Sneijder is one of those players that I feel has absolutely everything, especially technically to excel in that position. Incredible vision, often followed by immaculate pass execution, for one. If anyone remembers his “banana” pass against San Marino for the Netherlands then you will know exactly what I’m talking about.

When Sneijder isn’t passing, he’s roaming the pitch in search of the ball, looking to dictate creativity and lose his markers. I haven’t even mentioned his goalscoring prowess yet. And free kicks, his incredible ambidexterity…I can go on. Wherever Sneijder has gone, he’s scored goals, many of which feature on highlight reels due to their spectacularity.

It was at Ajax, though, where Sneijder emerged as a world-class talent. Rising through the ranks of the famed De Toekomst like so many, Sneijder established himself in the Ajax first team in 2003 in an injury-ravaged squad that left Ronald Koeman little choice but to select him. The next year he won the Johan Cruijff Prijs for his performances as Ajax won the Eredivisie, with Sneijder scoring 9 goals and racking up 11 assists. Not bad for a teenager, eh?

From then on, Sneijder went on to have 3 very successful seasons in Amsterdam, going from strength to strength as a playmaker. It was in his final season that he really hit stride though, netting a remarkable 18 times in the Eredivisie and accumulating 9 assists as well, excellent stats for a centre forward let alone a number 10. This convinced Real Madrid to swoop in the summer of 2007, securing Sneijder’s signature for a fee of €27m that made him the second most expensive Dutch footballer of all time behind Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Sneijder started his time in Spain on fire, scoring the winner against Atlético on his debut and then scoring 2 in the following week’s game against Villarreal, one of which was a trademark free-kick. In 30 games for Los Blancos, he scored 9 and assisted 7, and was a main fixture in the side that won the La Liga title that year. His second season was less remarkable, and was significantly disrupted by an ACL tear in the summer of 2008, and Real saw it fit in 2009 to sell him on to Inter Milan for a cut price of around €15m.

At Inter, Sneijder had arguably his most successful time as a pro, winning everything from the Champions League to Serie A and the FIFA Club World Cup. On the field he was pretty great, earning the nickname “The Sniper” for his accurate passing and impressive goal-scoring ability that would underline his performances in a Milan shirt. Sneijder’s ability to perform in big games was perhaps noted most at Inter Milan, especially in the Champions League where Sneijder scored in the semi final of the Champions League in 2010 and then went on to assist in the final. You don’t get shortlisted for the Ballon D’Or by not turning up in big games, right?

A contract dispute saw Sneijder move on to Galatasaray in 2013, where he continued to excel, notably scoring 17 goals from midfield in his second season. The next season saw him lead Galatasaray’s charge for a league title, notably scoring 3 goals against Fenerbahce in 2 games. In the home fixture he scored in the 88th and 90th minutes to secure victory for Galatasaray in one of his greatest performances of all. The stuff of legend, really. Galatasaray did indeed win the league that year, and by the time he left for OGC Nice this summer, he had won 2 Süper Lig titles, 3 Turkish Cups and 3 Turkish Super Cubs with the Istanbul-based side.

Sneijder is, without question, one of the greatest players to ever play for Ajax, and one of the greatest playmakers to ever grace the game, in my opinion. Although he lacks defensive qualities and work rate at times, his attacking abilities are immense. At his best, there are few on the planet that can match him.

#4 Davy Klaassen (€27 million)

Born in Hilversum, a stone’s throw south-east of Amsterdam, Davy Klaassen is an Amsterdammer and Ajacied through and through. His footballing career began aged six at local amateur team HVV de Zebra’s before moving on to HSV Wasmeer after four years at the club. After a year of service at Wasmeer Klaassen was drafted in to the fabled ranks of the Ajax youth academy and never looked back.

Klaassen isn’t your typical Ajax attacking midfielder, he doesn’t have the impeccable technique of Christian Eriksen or the hawk-like eye for a pass possessed by Wesley Sneijder, but what he does have is an abundance of passion, desire and love for the club. During his time at Ajax the fiery midfielder was constantly up and down the pitch pressing players, setting up teammates with his clever one touch passing style, scoring crucial goals with his intelligent, late runs in to the box and, overall, was the heartbeat and leadership of the team, especially after becoming club captain in 2015.

His first team debut came in 2011 as a substitute in a goalless draw away at Olympique Lyonnais during the Champions League group stage. Less than a week later he made his Eredivisie debut against N.E.C once again from the substitute’s bench with his first goal for the club coming in under a minute of gracing the pitch. The goal was a well-timed run into the box with a smart finish, a sign of things to come.

During his six years in the Ajax first team Klaassen won three Eredivisie titles, a Johan Cruijff shield, reached a Europa League final and won both the Dutch Footballer of the Year and Dutch Football Talent of the Year awards before receiving a €27 million offer to join up with fellow Dutchman Ronald Koeman at Everton this summer.

Klaassen once stated he didn’t want to leave Ajax until he was the best player in the Eredivisie. Given all the titles and accolades he achieved along with the countless memories made, especially on the road to the Europa League final, I think it’s fair to say, at least in the eyes of Ajax supporters, he was exactly that.

#3 Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (€27 million)

For a forward hailing from the Netherlands – where teams play fluid, total voetbal – Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is quite limited in his abilities. Not a particularly good passer or an intelligent reader of the game, Dirk Jan Klaas Huntelaar is a specialist in one thing: scoring. Over a career spanning nearly 15 seasons, Huntelaar has in fact seen the net bulge thanks to his shot no less than 312 times, including 106 times for Ajax. He may never have been considered an absolutely world class striker, but The Hunter is surely a member of the long list of historically great Dutch strikers.

Huntelaar’s career began in the youth ranks of De Graafschap –a quaint yet defiant club situated in the province of Gelderland, near the German border. After impressing the scouts of PSV, he signed for the Eindhoven giants at the turn of the century. Loan spells back at De Graafschap and at AGOVV proved pivotal to Huntelaar’s development, but upon return to PSV he was deemed surplus to requirements; he was sold to SC Heerenveen. In his season-and-a-half in the Friesland, he scored 39 goals in 60 appearances. The big clubs were, understandably, after his signature. In January 2006, Klaas-Jan was sold to Ajax Amsterdam for €9 million.

Huntelaar picked up right where he left off at his new Amsterdam home with sixteen goals in as many league appearances for Ajax to finish the 2005/06 season. The most spectacular of his achievements wasn’t in the league, though. With Ajax down 1-0 to Roda JC in the KNVB Cup Semi-final, Huntelaar performed an acrobatic bicycle kick strike that saw the ball carry over the goalkeeper and into the net – in added time. It was a moment that not only announced him as a top striker on the European stage, but one that proved he had the confidence to become elite.

The next season, Huntelaar tore apart the Eredivisie with 33 goals in 34 appearances – the first time anyone scored over 30 in the league since Marco van Basten 21 years prior. He finally got his big move in January 2009, when Real Madrid signed the superstar for €27m. However, The Hunter’s stint in the Spanish capital didn’t last long – he was forced out to Milan only six months later.

Huntelaar wasn’t quite given as many chances as you’d expect in Milan and was subsequently sold the next summer to Schakle 04. The West German club became his true home. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar spent the next seven years in Gelsenkirchen, tallying a superb 126 goals in 240 appearances for Schakle in all competitions spanning nearly three-quarters of a decade. However, at 33-years-old – having spent his prime years dominating the Bundesliga and delivering in the Champions League – Huntelaar returned home to Ajax.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar may not be the best striker to ever line up for AFC Ajax, nor the most successful for the Dutch national team, but he has left a lasting impression among fans across Europe. A true professional and a symbol of perseverance in the face of defeat, he will be remembered as one of the most prolific strikers of the century’s début decade. As they say – form is temporary, but Klaas is permanent.

#2 Arkadiusz Milik (€32 million)

Born in Tychy in the south of Poland, the rapid rise of Arkadiusz Milik hasn’t gone unnoticed. Tychy is derived from the Polish word “cichy”, meaning “quiet”, but Milik currently finds himself in Naples playing for Napoli, a bustling metropolis that is far from quiet. So, how did he get there?

A talented youngster, Milik was rejected by both Tottenham and Reading at a young age, ultimately deciding to focus on his footballing development in his country of birth. Milik began his career in nearby Katowice for lowly Rozwój Katowice in the third division of Polish football. Making his debut as a 16-year old, he scored 2 goals in a 4-0 victory. Just a year later, in 2011, Milik moved to Gornik Zabrze, the most successful Polish side in terms of titles won in history. Regular football in the highest tier of Polish football did Milik no harm, and he moved to Leverkusen the following year for a fee of around €3m, earning Gornik a tidy profit and Leverkusen a gifted forward.

Milik’s time at Leverkusen included a loan to Augsburg, where Milik racked up 18 appearances in the Bundesliga. However, he only started 5 of those, and it wasn’t until Ajax swooped in the summer of 2015 that we really began to see the emergence of Milik as an excellent centre forward. After signing for the Amsterdammers on loan, Milik evolved into a mainstay in the Ajax side, scoring 23 goals in 34 appearances, including 8 in just 3 games in the KNVB Beker.

Ajax swooped to sign him up for the following season on a permanent deal, for a snip that saw Leverkusen sell him for roughly the same price they bought him for. Milik didn’t disappoint, scoring 24 in 42 appearances, proving a very effective target man with excellent heading abilities, and a particularly accurate and rasping left foot. Such lethal form was enough to convince Napoli to come in with a bid of roughly €32m in July 2016 that Ajax simply couldn’t refuse.

To say that there was little risk involved in Milik’s transfer from Napoli’s perspective, however, would be untrue. Milik had yet to prove he could perform consistently in one of Europe’s toughest leagues and for one of Europe’s premier sides. It’s true to say his time in Leverkusen was troubled (from a goal-scoring perspective, anyway), and he wasn’t without periods of bad form whilst at Ajax despite his impressive tally. However, under Sarri, Milik began to emerge into a great target man and poacher for Napoli’s nifty wingers, namely Lorenzo Insigne, José Callejón and Dries Mertens.

Unfortunately, Milik’s progress has been stunted by an ACL tear which he suffered in 2016, which has seen him gain precious little game time since. With the emergence of Dries Mertens as a lethal finisher who can run the channels in the number 9 role, Milik’s future as Napoli’s go-to forward is questionable. Nevertheless, at 23 years of age, he still has years of playing time and development ahead, and the promise he has shown up until this point, especially at Ajax, bodes well for him.

#1 Davinson Sánchez (€40 million)

Davinson Sánchez arrived in Amsterdam for five-million Euros in summer 2016, shortly before winning the Copa Libertadores with Colombian outfit Atlético Nacional – just the second in club history. Upon his arrival, Sánchez slid seamlessly into the side, taking little time to announce himself as their most important player.

A physical specimen, he is virtually unbeatable in the air, as evidenced by the six goals he scored in his first – and only – Eredivisie season, tied for the league lead amongst defenders with PSV’s Hector Moreno, bought by Roma earlier this summer. Sánchez started 32 of 34 Eredivisie matches with Ajax, missing only their first game due to the timing of his arrival, and their penultimate league clash as he was rested for a midweek European tie. In the Europa League, he played a crucial role in guiding Ajax to their first European final since 1996, playing every minute of the knockout stage (minus one match missed due to suspension), helping them to three clean sheets.

While his time in Amsterdam was short-lived, Sánchez has etched his name into Ajax – and Eredivisie – history. His sale to Tottenham of 40-million Euros (which could rise with add-ons) is an Ajax and Eredivisie record, surpassing the 34 million Manchester United spent to buy Memphis Depay. It’s a higher fee than was paid for the likes of Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-jan Huntelaar, Luis Suarez, Arjen Robben, Dirk Kuyt, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Christian Eriksen and so many others.

Sánchez completed just under 90 per cent of his passes in his only season in Amsterdam (88.9), the third-best mark in the Eredivisie. In the Europa League, many of Sánchez’s numbers saw drastic increases, proving his ability to step up his game against improved competition. His total tackles per match almost doubled, and his average completed dribbles, interceptions and key passes were higher.

The Colombian centre-half is a stalwart in defence. Built like a mountain, Sánchez has every tool to become a world class defender. Those who have watched him over the course of the last year might argue he’s already flirting with the label. At the ripe age of 21, he plays well beyond his years. Aggressive in his approach, Sánchez mimics a concrete wall in the centre of defence and has become famous for the impeccable timing of his last-ditch challenges.

At Tottenham, he joins the likes of Jan Vertonghen, Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld – all members of this list.

Written by Kevin Suave

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

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