30th April, 2019
Most of the football fans who watched the young Ajax team brush aside two Champions League favourites – first Real Madrid and then Juventus – are surely still at a loss as to the level of confidence with which these youngsters dispatched their more experienced opponents.
As a matter of fact, many of these fans now believe that Ajax are favourites to win this year’s competition. Don’t let the Barcelona fans hear of that opinion, though. They are the only exception to this line of thought.
So, what can be responsible for this sudden imperious display by an Ajax side that was expected to have fallen by the way side at this stage of the Champions League?
One person who should know better than the rest of us is Tottenham’s defender Jan Vertonghen. This is a player that knows Ajax very well as a result of the fact that he came through at the Ajax Academy before joining Spurs in 2012. It is therefore not a surprise for him to see what these crop of players are doing right now.
Vertonghen actually believes former club Ajax have an advantage over every other club because their young players are trained to be fearless. He told reporters that part of the development in the Ajax academy sees players instilled with a winning attitude and a confident approach.
“That’s what they do,” Vertonghen said ahead of facing his former club. “Always, when you’re six or seven years old, you start and you’re in the best team in the league. Always.
“You have to dominate away from home. A draw is never enough. A win is never enough. You always have to win in a certain way. That’s what you’re seeing right now.
“Ajax are playing at an unbelievable level. You don’t expect teams apart from the big countries to do this. They have shown the way to do it.
“They are always a step ahead of everyone else. I’m happy it pays off.
“They just prepare everyone for the highest level. Then the kids that come on, because they almost are kids when they’re 18, 19, and making their debuts at 17 sometimes, they are ready.
“They are hungry. They are ready. They are fearless. They feel the support from the academy and they’ve got confidence in their qualities.”
Tottenham and Jan Vertonghen face Ajax in their Champions League semi-final first leg in London on Tuesday before next week’s return fixture.
His insider’s knowledge of Ajax should be a very useful tool for the Londoners in their bid to stop the visitors from doing damage to their ambition of at least making the final of this year’s Champions League Competition.