How Ajax are playing a key role in the rejuvenation of Dutch football

How Ajax are playing a key role in the rejuvenation of Dutch football

The 21-year-old de Jong will leave for Barcelona at the end of the season, the €80 million (£75m) transfer agreed last month, while the 19-year-old de Ligt is a target for almost every major club with a bigger transfer budget than Ajax.

De Jong had been an injury doubt but has been declared fit. “He is fit and ready and really motivated,” said ten Hag. “He is really looking forward to it, as we all are. There is extra motivation for Frenkie because he is playing against Barcelona’s biggest rivals.

“Frenkie has not lost any concentration. He only wants one thing and that is to finish on this stage in Amsterdam well, he will be 100 per cent motivated. He wants to show his best against Real.”

This is the stark reality for Ajax. They have never been able to hold on to their best players. Produce, nurture, sell, repeat has been the business model since the 1970s, when the great Johan Cruyff left for Barcelona.

It is sad, in many ways, but this is modern football and clubs like Ajax, whose domestic competition simply does not generate the same income as the other major leagues, are always likely to be plundered.

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