Jesper Grønkjær (€11.5 million) (4/20)

The mass exodus at Ajax following an extremely successful mid-nineties tenure left no man untouched. Besides a large portion of the squad leaving for greener pastures, Barcelona snatched head coach Louis van Gaal as well.

More-or-less starting from scratch, Morten Olsen was appointed as Van Gaal’s successor and responsible for leading the club into a new era. Possessing deep knowledge of Danish football, Olsen recommended the signings of iconic midfielder Michael Laudrup as well as relatively unknown 20-year-old Aalborg BK winger Jesper Grønkjær. Both players arrived in Amsterdam, the latter costing Ajax a transfer fee of €5 million.

Grønkjær turned out to be a perfect fit: a pacey and technically gifted winger with great dribbling skills, tailor made for the Amsterdammers’ characteristic 4-3-3 playing style. Spectacular to watch and a constant threat to opposition defenses when fit and in form. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. Grønkjær would never reach his full potential due to inconsistency and susceptibility to injuries.

But that didn’t stop him from pleasing the Amsterdam crowd. The Dane was named Ajax player of the year by the fans at the end of the 1999/00 season, attracting the attention of numerous European top clubs in the process. Jesper would eventually sign with Premier League side Chelsea at the end of 2000 in a deal worth €11.5 million, making him the then most expensive Danish football player of all time. In 70 official appearances for Ajax, Grønkjær found the back of the net 16 times and assisted 7 goals.

Grønkjær would remain at Stamford Bridge for four years. Relatively unsuccessful one-season spells at Birmingham City, Atlético Madrid and VfB Stuttgart followed before returning to Denmark to play for FC Copenhagen. After five seasons with the Danish giants, Grønkjær officially announced his retirement from football in 2011. Having dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career, he stated: “I’d like to be able to go jogging when I have played my last football game. I want a life without aches.”

He would play his last game against his first club, Aalborg, and scored the final goal in a 2-0 win. A storybook ending to a career with plenty of ups-and-downs.

Written by Kevin Suave

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