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AFC Ajax’s Champions League adventure mirrors 1997

5 Mar 1997: The Ajax team group before the European Champions League Quarter Final against Atletico Madrid at the Ajax Arena, Amsterdam. The game was drawn 1-1. Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

Let’s go back in time to 1997 when AFC Ajax reached the Champions League semifinals for the last time before this breakthrough season.

After AFC Ajax’s victory against Juventus from last night in Turin, thinking about the 1997 Champions League becomes inevitable.

That Dutch squad that was managed by Louis van Gaal is one of the most memorable generations of Holland players in modern football.

Erik ten Hag is paving the way for a new breed of players who have proven that they have the potential to mirror what that Ajax squad did 22 years ago.

That squad from the latest Champions League glory from an Eredivisie squad had players such as Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, the De Boer brothers, Danny Blind (Daley’s father), Jari Litmanen, Edwin van der Sar, and Marc Overmars among others.

It’s safe to say that the Ajax squad from that generation was more explosive on the attack but this one is way more exquisite when they are on the ball.

That Ajax squad made history under manager Louis van Gaal when they picked up the 1994-95 Champions League after beating AC Milan in the final.

A similar squad managed by the same historic manager reached their second straight final one year later.

However, Louis van Gaal’s boys weren’t so lucky this time as they lost the final vs Juventus.

Seedorf and other legends leave Ajax

After the first incredible year at Ajax from that golden generation of players, Luis van Gaal had a difficult time keeping all his players.

Huge names such as Clarence Seedorf, Michael Reiziger, and Nwankwo Kanu left the club between 1995 and 1997.

But the Dutch manager could keep the squad competitive for two more seasons after he won the UEFA Champions League.

The 1996-97 Ajax squad eliminated Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals and got eliminated by Juventus in the semifinals that year.

After 22 years without reaching this stage in the competition, Ajax finally gets poetic justice against the Italian giants.

What this new Ajax generation did last night is nothing short of historic and this breed of players will remember this night for the rest of their lives.

None of us know how far this squad will even get in the competition but what they’ve already done is truly impressive.

Modern football has become way more competitive than 20 years ago and getting all the way to this stage has to be recognized as a massive feat.

AFC Ajax keeps producing some of the most competitive players in the world with their amazing youth academy.


Johan Cruyff smiles from heaven

What happened today in Turin and Barcelona can only mean that Johan Cruyff’s memory is being honored for the legacy he left in both clubs.

Ajax and the Catalan club are still within reach of a historic final that the Dutch legend would be watching from heaven with a wide smile on his face.

Both institutions have carried the legend’s name with pride and they both thrive in modern football through his teachings.

This is one of the proudest days that the Cruyff family will ever remember as they know how much Johan’s name means to both clubs.

We are still 180 minutes away from what could be a memorable night for his memory.

But we do have to say that this Ajax squad practices the Johan Cruyff school of football better than today’s FC Barcelona.

Even Louis van Gall will recognize that today’s generation of Dutch players is honoring Johan’s memory far better than he ever did with his roster of players over two decades ago.

We can’t help but smile when we see an underdog story like this one pass through our eyes and hope they can win the competition in the end.

We have always been suckers for a good ‘Cinderella Story’ and this Ajax squad fills all the blank spaces that make it such.

Which Ajax squad do you like better, this one or the team from the mid-’90s? Please leave your opinion in the comment section down below.