Ajax head coach Erik ten Hag has known most of this season that the vultures would be circling come the end of the campaign. These vultures, so to speak, are rival managers with big clubs boasting bulging budgets. The raid has already begun, of course, on the resources of the Sons of the Gods.
Already flogged is outstanding playmaker Frenkie de Jong, who is aged 22. He has joined Spanish powerhouse Barcelona in a deal worth around £80million (depending on what you believe). And, following him out of the club it seems is Matthijs de Ligt, aged 19. No end of top clubs are chasing his services and, let’s face it, if the money is right, one of them will get their wish. Choose from Manchester United, Liverpool and Manchester City as potential destinations for this gifted young player.
Others players, such as Hakim Ziyech (wanted by Arsenal), David Neres, Donny van de Beek (agains, sought after, it is said, by Barca) and keeper Andre Onana are also on the radar of Europe’s leading clubs. But the Ajax head honcho says he isn’t too fazed about losing some of his top talent. After winning the Dutch league last time of asking, you’ll find the odds favour them doing it once more.
It is little wonder Ajax players have so many suitors given the fact that they blazed such a wonderful and largely unexpected trail in the Champions League until they were knocked out at the semi-final stage against Spurs. But, as mentioned, Ten Hag knew the bigger clubs would come calling. And thus, it was most certainly the case.
He was in reflective mood when speaking to a clutch of reporters on the season just gone and his vision for the one had. He said:
“To say I fear the transfer window is not the right word but our players are hot right now. We left a very positive impression and that is a compliment for Ajax. It will be a heated summer, that we have to expect. But the club’s leadership and I are of the same opinion that we must have the potential to try and achieve again what we did this season. It was an incredible season and we must continue in the same way. We know that the enemy never sleeps.
“Next season it is going to be a lot more difficult than this season. To reach the Champions League semi-final and win the double — that was never a target. This season belongs among the best in the history of the club. To become league champions again will be our ambition. But in Europe? I can’t say right now. We can only determine that on September 1 when we know what our squad looks like.”