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.
Daley Blind vs Utrecht pic.twitter.com/XTltTftxgG
— AjaxDaily Video (@ajaxdailydottv) September 5, 2017
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.
Robin van Persie's stunning leaping header from the edge of the box against Spain was one of the highlights of the2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil pic.twitter.com/OwVvFiwlmd
— AZ_SPORTS (@_UGOALS) February 18, 2017
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.