AMSTERDAM: Ajax Amsterdam have spent heavily in the close season, overturning a decade-long transfer policy and making a bold statement of intent ahead of the Champions League’s early stages.
Ajax have spent €41 million (RM195 million) so far, including €16 million (RM76.1 million) on Daley Blind, 28, from Manchester United and €11.4 million (RM54.2 million) on Serbia international Dušan Tadić, 29, from Southampton.
Their total outlay is €10 million (RM48 million) more than their previous record spend in 2008 and signals a new course for a club better known for producing their own talent and then selling them on.
The club, who won three straight European Cups in the early 1970s and the Champions League in 1995, are talking of restoring old glory. “We need to become the Bayern Munich of our league,” said Marc Overmars, the club’s powerful technical director.
The German giants have dominated the Bundesliga both from a sporting and financial perspective and like Ajax, have a legacy in European club competition.
Ajax, however, are no longer in the same bracket as Bayern.
The Netherlands’ most successful club host Sturm Graz of Austria on Wednesday in the first leg of a Champions League second preliminary round tie.
Being forced to play in the early stages of the competition is a far cry from their halcyon days.
Last year they were eliminated at the first hurdle by French club Nice.
Yet Ajax, who last won the Dutch league title in 2014, are determined to change their fortunes, with the purchases of Blind and Tadić designed to provide leadership.
“I have made the analysis that this young squad needs driving forces on the field. With players who have Premier League experience, that process gets an enormous impulse,” said coach Erik ten Hag.
The policy of promoting young players from their own academy remains central to the club, the coach added, but “Tadić and Blind can provide more stimulus and they can lift these young players to a higher level.”
“Our own youth remains the most important and self-produced players must be given a chance,” said Overmars, who played in the side that won the Champions League 23 years ago.
Ajax have been selling their best talent for years, effectively foregoing the chance to be competitive in Europe.
Yet now they are looking to hold on to young players like Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt, and Donny van de Beek, who are much sought-after.
Ajax did sell the 19-year-old Justin Kluivert to AS Roma for €17.5 million (RM83.3 million), but he is the only significant departure in the off-season.