Ajax heads into the 2023-24 season with a hint of disappointment, but also a glimmer of hope to rectify their previous campaign’s shortcomings.
The Amsterdam giants, who had Erik ten Hag as their manager since 2017, encountered a disastrous season that concluded with a third-place finish in the league, trailing behind Feyenoord and PSV. Their failure to secure Champions League qualification and defeat in the cup final added to their woes.
For the first time since 2017, Ajax will not participate in Europe’s top club competition, which is a concern given the financial implications tied to Champions League involvement and player sales.
Over the past year, Ajax has seen the departure of many key players, including Lisandro Martinez, Antony, and Sebastien Haller. They also experienced a failed experiment with Alfred Schreuder as head coach and briefly appointed former Everton defender John Heitinga as an interim manager.
While Heitinga initially achieved positive results, it wasn’t sufficient to earn him a permanent position, and he departed at the end of the season.
However, the departures are unlikely to end there.
Timber, Kudus & Alvarez Set to Depart?
This summer, numerous top European clubs will make moves for Ajax’s talented players. The allure of Champions League football and greater financial incentives often proves too enticing to resist, even for the most loyal Ajax players.
One notable departure on the horizon is that of defender Jurrien Timber, who is on the verge of joining Arsenal.
Timber’s consistent development has caught the attention of clubs across Europe, and he has even become a regular fixture in the Dutch senior national team under the management of Louis van Gaal and Ronald Koeman.
Last year, Ten Hag attempted to convince Timber to move to Manchester United, but the young defender turned down the opportunity, prompting his former boss to pursue Martinez instead.
Timber’s composed style of play, versatility, and maturity have garnered admiration, and Mikel Arteta acknowledges his potential, aiming to bring him to the Emirates Stadium ahead of Arsenal’s return to the Champions League.
It is expected that Arsenal’s next bid will be in the range of €40-45m (£34.5-39m). However, it remains uncertain whether Ajax will accept, as they hope to receive around €55m (£47.5m), including bonuses, for the defender.
Historically, Ajax has been firm negotiators, as evidenced by their prolonged negotiations for the transfers of Martinez and Antony to Manchester United last season, which eventually yielded €67m (£58m) and €100m (£86.5m), respectively.
Timber is regarded as one of Ajax’s top talents, and despite his partial responsibility for the team’s underwhelming campaign, there is a firm belief that his potential justifies a substantial investment, making him an excellent signing for the Gunners.
Mohammed Kudus emerged as a key player for Ajax last season, scoring 18 goals across all competitions.
Another Ajax star linked with a move to the Premier League is Mohamed Kudus. Alongside Steven Berghuis and Dusan Tadic, he provided a bright spark in Ajax’s attack last season.
After struggling to break into the first team for a few years, Kudus finally received more playing time and made the most of the opportunity. He also impressed at the World Cup, representing Ghana and scoring twice during their brief tenure in Qatar.
Ever since Ten Hag’s arrival at Manchester United, he has closely monitored the progress of several Ajax talents, with Kudus being one of them. It is believed that Kudus could be an alternative target for Chelsea’s Mason Mount.
Additionally, Brighton has shown interest in the 22-year-old as they prepare for their inaugural European campaign next season.
Kudus has faced criticism for his tactical acumen and free-spiritedness on the field at Ajax. However, there is a belief that Roberto De Zerbi could address these concerns, making the Ghanaian a worthwhile investment.
Ajax is determined to secure a substantial fee for Kudus, seeking around €45m (£39m).
According to De Telegraaf writer Mike Verweij, “Brighton is the most serious contender. However, if Manchester United becomes interested in Kudus, Erik ten Hag could once again do great things for his former club, just as he did when he brought in Antony for €100m (£86.5m). Kudus may not go for the same price, but his value will surely increase.”
Apart from Kudus, there is also interest from Everton, who bid for him last summer, as well as Arsenal. German club Borussia Dortmund has been monitoring Kudus’s progress for some time, but no concrete developments have occurred thus far.
Finally, another high-profile departure could be that of Mexican midfielder Edson Alvarez, who had a strong start to last season but gradually faded as the campaign progressed.
Chelsea expressed interest in Alvarez last summer, and he even attempted to force a move on the final day of the Dutch transfer window. However, Ajax prevented any such transfer.
Although Chelsea pursued other options in January, signing Enzo Fernandez, interest in Alvarez persists. Bundesliga runners-up Borussia Dortmund have long been tracking Alvarez’s development, and it is believed that Alvarez sees Dortmund as his preferred destination, ruling out a potential move to West Ham, who might consider him as a replacement for Declan Rice.
The trio of Timber, Kudus, and Alvarez could generate over €130m (£112m) for Ajax this summer. The funds will prove valuable in balancing the books and rebuilding the squad, with the aim of reclaiming their status as the top team in the Netherlands.
While other players like Brian Brobbey, Calvin Bassey, and Jorge Sanchez have attracted interest from foreign clubs, a move for them seems unlikely this summer.
Mislintat Drives for Improvements
Leading the transfer negotiations will be former Arsenal director Sven Mislintat, who joined the club earlier this year, taking over from Marc Overmars, who departed in February 2022 following allegations of inappropriate messages to female colleagues.
Mislintat appointed manager Maurice Steijn, an unexpected choice, after Steijn’s successful season at Sparta Rotterdam, where they surprisingly finished sixth in the Eredivisie. Steijn now faces his greatest footballing challenge.
Despite the links to notable names such as Marcelo Gallardo, Bodo/Glimt manager Kjetil Knutsen, and Peter Bosz, Mislintat supported Steijn’s appointment, entrusting him with overseeing the beginning of a new era at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
Mislintat has already made an immediate impact by securing the services of promising Roma talent Benjamin Tahirovic and Toulouse midfielder Branco van den Boomen.
Upon joining the club, Mislintat made it clear to the staff that only a few players in the squad possess the ability to perform at a high level, thereby recommending significant changes.
This could indicate an influx of new players, with improvements expected in full-back positions, defensive midfield, and on the wings.
With the potential for significant departures, a new manager and sporting director, and a desire to move forward from the past, Ajax embarks on a fresh start as they aim to regain their position as the Netherlands’ premier side.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Dutch giants Ajax face a fresh start with key departures and rebuilding efforts.
What challenges did Ajax face in the previous season?
Ajax faced a challenging season in the previous campaign. They finished third in the league, missed out on Champions League qualification, and lost the cup final. Additionally, they experienced the departure of key players and underwent managerial changes.
Which players are likely to depart from Ajax?
Defender Jurrien Timber is on the verge of a move to Arsenal. There is also speculation surrounding the potential departures of Mohamed Kudus and Edson Alvarez. Several top European clubs are interested in these Ajax talents.
How much is Ajax expecting to earn from player sales?
Ajax is aiming to earn around €130m (£112m) from the potential sales of Jurrien Timber, Mohamed Kudus, and Edson Alvarez. This money will be crucial for balancing the books and rebuilding the squad.
Who is leading the transfer negotiations at Ajax?
Former Arsenal director Sven Mislintat is leading the transfer negotiations at Ajax. He joined the club earlier this year and has already made an impact by signing promising talents. He is focused on improving the squad and overseeing the club’s fresh start.
Will Ajax be participating in the upcoming Champions League?
No, Ajax will not be participating in the upcoming Champions League. It will be the first time since 2017 that they are absent from Europe’s premier club competition. This absence poses financial concerns for the club, as their revenue is heavily reliant on Champions League participation.