It’s true that eyebrows were raised when Ajax livewire Dusan Tadic was handed a new seven-year deal in the summer by Sons of the Gods coach Erik ten Hag. The length of contract seemed excessive to many but to be taken into consideration is the fact that this includes a period in which the attacker, who can also operate on the left wing, will fulfil a coaching role.
But those doubters were tight-lipped when Tadic, recruited from Premier League outfit Southampton in the summer of 2018 for £13.5million, saved the day for the Amsterdam giants. He popped up with a leveller in reigning champions Ajax’s opening Eredivisie game in a 2-2 draw at Vitesse Arnhem in the first round of the Dutch season on Saturday.
A draw, of course, wasn’t an ideal result but a point is a point and away from home not a disaster and it could have all been so different. The visitors were heading for a defeat when Tadic made things square.
Ajax, who let’s not forget were missing star defender Frenkie de Jong after his wallet-busting £75million switch to Barcelona, went into the first league outing having already lifted silverware last week when they won the Dutch Super Cup by seeing off PSV Eindhoven.
And Ten Hag had the benefit of being able to select new signings Lisandro Martinez and Razvan Marin — but the story didn’t follow the script as far as Ajax were concerned. Matus Bero was on hand to give Vitesse Arnhem a 1-0 advantage after 14 minutes when his effort took a deflection off Perr Schuurs.
But then Donny van de Beek brought the visitors level after good work from Hakim Ziyech on the half hour mark. It could well turn out to be Van de Beek’s final game for the club — he has emerged as a £60million target for Real Madrid after they are said to have given top on recruiting Paul Pogba from Premier League giants Manchester United.
The home side, bossed by former Hull City coach Leonid Slutsky, refused to buckle though and once again took the lead when ex-Ajax ace Riechedly Bazoer scored on 55 minutes (he was later red-carded). However, with 15 minutes remaining Tadic struck and earned the Sons of the Gods a point.
Returning to the future of Van de Beek, coach Ten Hag said he was keen to keep the talented toiler, and added:
“We will do everything in our power to keep him at Ajax. We don’t want to lose him, but when clubs of that calibre enter the situation, things get very difficult. Donny was very important for us last season and has started this campaign with enthusiasm, freshness and lots of energy. Yes, his departure would be a loss, but of course we know that it can happen.”
Ajax are back in action on Tuesday when they go to Greece to face PAOK Thessaloniki in a Champions League third qualifying round first leg tie before resuming their league campaign next Saturday when they host FC Emmen.