Dhe last exit came as a finale furioso. The transfer window was about to close in the Netherlands when Antony Matheus dos Santos suddenly found himself in the outgoing goods department. The dribbling, 22-year-old winger from Brazil, whom they only call Antony, would appear in a Manchester United jersey from September, the releasing club said Ajax Amsterdam short and sweet.
For this he would receive at least 95 million euros in transfer fee from the Premier League club – not including any bonus payments of several million euros. Now the supporters of the Dutch record champions (36 titles) can consider whether this is good news or rather depressing news.
From an economic point of view, the football company AFC Ajax has done everything right again in recent months. Once again, well-coveted professionals were sold to top European leagues for maximum revenue. Apparently those responsible surprised themselves that they would add up to 216 million euros in the end.
Ajax loses seven key players
The Technical Director Gerry Hamstra admitted to the "Telegraaf" that "a completely different summer" was originally expected: Nobody could have foreseen what amounts would be called in the heated market. The internal club record set just two years ago (218 million euros) was missed by a hair's breadth.
From a sporting point of view, however, the lively trade appeared questionable. With Antony, after Noussair Mazraoui and Ryan Gravenberch (both Bayern Munich), Sébastien Haller (Borussia Dortmund), Nicolas Tagliafico (Olympique Lyon) and Lisandro Martínez (also Manchester United) and goalkeeper André Onana (Inter Milan) are the seventh important player to leave the prestigious club.
Add to that the loss of head coach Erik ten Hag, who after four and a half successful years (including three league titles) moved to England's north-west in June to get the ailing flagship club Manchester United back on track - a bold undertaking for which he and Antony and Martínez recruited two Ajaciedes.
In the meantime, the initial skepticism has been contained for the time being, because the new Ajax team apparently delivers no less than the old one. The six victories in six competitive games in the Eredivisie with an impressive goal tally (21:3) hardly allow any other conclusion - even if the key games against the competitors from Eindhoven, Rotterdam or Alkmaar are still to be played.
“Inappropriate Messages” via SMS
Even more important for the club's international self-image are games like the ones the team played in the first group game of the Champions League a week ago. She swept the unfortunate selection of Glasgow Rangers, who were still finalists in the Europa League in May, with a fast-paced combination game from the Johan Cruyff Arena – similar to what she did against last October Borussia Dortmund (also 4:0) succeeded. "Ajax acted as if there were no opponents at all," marveled De Volkskrant. “As if Rangers were just another team from the Eredivisie. A kind of FC Groningen, but dressed in blue…”
Reforesting the squad with such foresight that it produces the same, very high quality every season – that became the program for the five-time European Cup winner early on. To this end, the widely acclaimed young talent academy and global scouting were operated more consistently in the canal city than anywhere else.
And preferred to invest in youngsters from near and far, who years later may have yielded a good return on their transfers. In this way, Ajax was able to compensate for obvious disadvantages compared to the top clubs from financially stronger leagues to a certain extent - and remain halfway within sight of the European top.
The sustainable strategy has been neglected for a while, but it has been practiced to perfection, especially under Marc Overmars. The dribbling winger, who was called "Roadrunner", brought in the club's first millions when he moved from Ajax to Arsenal FC in London in 1997.
As sports director, he knew how to generate around 350 million euros in transfer surpluses in ten years from 2012 onwards. However, this February he was fired without notice after texting "inappropriate messages" to Ajax staff - a high performerswho stumbled over his penchant for the obscene at 49, sparking a sexism debate in the league.
However, the Ajax system is bigger and more important than each individual person, as “King Johan” Cruyff emphasized like a mantra. So instead of Overmars, Gerry Hamstra is now in charge of squad planning; he is supported by former Schalke Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
And instead of ten Hag, Alfred Schreuder, under contract in Hoffenheim in 2019/20, is now leading the team with the same game idea. This Tuesday (9:00 p.m. in FAZ live ticker for the Champions League and at DAZN). Then she speaks on the second day of the game Champions League at Anfield Road in Liverpool.