Ajax’s win over Real Madrid this week provided a monumental moment for this season’s Champions League. It also provided a lesson for football as a whole. The Premier League should have been watching with interest.
For a long time now, England’s top flight has been the money league. Increased TV deals, sponsorship and everything in between have allowed clubs to spend highly and freely. It has not, though, brought much success. Ajax proved there is a better way to go about things.
The Dutch side do not have the resources of the Premier League. Compared to some of the other teams in the Champions League, their spending can be considered as minimal at best.
Indeed, their record transfer fees are pocket change for even the mid-level sides in the competition. For the likes of Real Madrid, it is comparable to finding money down the back of the sofa. As a result of their limited ability to spend, Ajax have to do things differently.
Rather than spending exorbitant fees on players, they focus on the identification of young talent and excellent coaching that gets the best out of it.
Players such as Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, Hakim Ziyech and David Neres have all been identified from a young age and secured for nominal fees in today’s market. They have then been coached to the level they find themselves at today.
De Jong dominated the Madrid midfield and embarrassed Ballon d’Or winner Luka Modric on more than one occasion. He’s already secured a move to Barcelona and appears to be the heir to Sergio Busquets. De Ligt looks likely to join him at the Nou Camp for another considerable fee.
Ziyech’s star performances have not gone unnoticed across Europe, and he is likely to secure a big move himself this summer. Neres, meanwhile, shone against Madrid and will have earned himself plenty of recognition.
Those four players and plenty others in this Ajax squad are proof that good scouting and coaching will always trump spending. Big transfer fees can only get you so far. Top coaching will still get you further, and Ajax are proof of that. The win in Madrid proved it.
Premier League sides should have been taking notes, particularly those outside of the top six. It’s gotten harder to break into that bracket and establish yourself as a top team. You cannot spend your way into it, so Ajax’s method is one they should be following.
The likes of Everton, Leicester City and Wolves should be focusing on securing top talent and coaching them into top players. It’s their route into the top six. Everton have already proven that you can’t spend to get there.
And they learned that lesson. The appointment of Marcel Brands showed they want to do things differently. , Leicester have focused on signing young players and Wolves have focused on coaching. Combining all three is the way to success, Ajax proved that this week.