Ajax coach Erik ten Hag saw his side all but wrap up the league title and bring some joy to the club after the devastation of losing out on a place in the Champions League final in the dying minutes at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Sons of Gods bounced back in some style with a 4-1 win over Utrecht which makes it almost impossible for rivals PSV to pip them for the Eredivisie silverware.
It means that the Amsterdam giants are now three points clear of the Eindhoven outfit — with superior goal difference — with just one match remaining. Surely, Ajax will claim what will be their 26th Eredivisie title!
There was a scare for the table-toppers, though. They unexpectedly fell behind to Utrecht when Othman Boussaid handed the visitors a 1-0 advantage on 36 seconds. Then strikes from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Donny van de Beek eased the fears before Dusan Tadic scored for 3-1 and then made it a brace with a spot kick to give the score line an air of authority.
While Ajax lifting the title will help them lick their wounds following the defeat to Tottenham, they now face a summer of uncertainty as far as their talented squad members are concerned; a clutch of top European clubs are circling with big budgets and with an eye on recruitment.
First, Ajax should enhance the terms of Ten Hag’s deal with a new, improved contract so they safeguard the head coach’s services. Once they have done that they can get around to dealing with players who may well be on their way out of the exit door at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Wonderfully talented Frenkie de Jong has already sealed a deal to join Barcelona and Matthijs de Ligt could well follow him to the Nou Camp. Following the win over Utrecht, the Holland defender and skipper of Ajax said: “My last game at Joahn Cruyff Arena? I don’t know yet. There are negotiations, but there is still no agreement.”
But there is a school of thought that it will be Liverpool and not Barca who eventually land De Ligt. Jurgen Klopp’s side missed out on the Premier League title yesterday with Manchester City claiming the prize. And the Anfield giants are said to be keen to redouble their efforts to win the league next time of asking. And as a result, will target the top talent in Europe.
And clearly De Ligt is among that crop of players. Ronald de Boer, assistant coach for the Ajax U19 side, says that the English top flight may suit.
He said: “He can easily come to the Premier League and play for any team in the world. Frenkie De Jong went for £75m and that can go up to £85m with Barcelona but in my opinion De Ligt is further in his qualities and readier to make that step than De Jong. For De Ligt it is up to him. He has to look at a team for him and find out what he wants. Does he want a team that has fun and most of the time on the ball, that’s nice, or he goes to a team that gives it away?”
Time, as ever will tell…