A collection of new faces have pushed Ajax to the upcoming Europa League Final next week against Manchester United. In anticipation of the rise of the newest generation of Ajax, lets look at possibly Ajax’s best ever team.
A 5-2-3 formation will be used. The qualifications are a combination of being great both FOR Ajax and throughout their career. So Jaap Stam and Zlatan did not make the cut even though they did play for Ajax in their careers.
Manager: Rinus Michels
Michels is the original teacher of “total football”, the tactics of extreme fluidity that helped mold the game of modern football that we have today. He is one of the greatest football minds of all time and the cornerstone of Dutch football’s famous influence.
Goalkeeper: Edwin van der Sar
This is a pretty straight forward choice. Van der Sar enjoyed 9 fruitful years of trophy winning at Ajax in the 90’s before he continued his success at the likes of Juventus and none other than Manchester United.
Right-Back: Wim Suurbier
Wim Suurbier was a charismatic full-back who could run teams into the ground with his pace and stamina. Part of the golden days of Ajax in the 1970’s, he is a true student of total football and one of the best to ever play in his position.
Centre-Back: Frank Rijkaard
This selection is cheating just a bit considering Rijkaard was primarily a midfielder but he also spent significant time at centre-back. As part of a glorious era for Milan after his start at Ajax, he made his name as one of the most gifted defensive players of all time, although he was also no joke going forward.
Centre-Back: Ronald Koeman
Koeman had once again become a household name in modern football after his success in England as a manager. But as a player he was a dominant and well rounded defender for Ajax, PSV, and Barcelona. Koeman was a rock at the back and a threat when he got forward, and is no doubt an all time great.
Centre-Back: Frank de Boer
Similarly to Koeman, Frank de Boer went on to be a huge success at Barcelona after a very successful Ajax career. De Boer was very comfortable being in possession and passing the ball, and his style of play has transmitted onto many modern centre-backs.
Left-Back: Ruud Krol
It would be foolish to leave him out of Ajax’s best ever team. How many full-backs do you know that have made it on Ballon D’or final ballots? The best player you might have never heard of just might be Ruud Krol.
Krol was also part of the 70’s golden generation and his style of play reflected it. He would slip in and out of the midfield, centre of defence, and both wings with ease, destroying the opposition with tactical superiority and dazzling them with natural talents. He may not be as show stopping as the likes of Roberto Carlos, but Krol has a serious case to be the best left back of all time.
Central midfielder: Johan Neeskens
Possibly the OG box to box midfield, Neeskens is yet another player from the 70’s on this list. Neeskens always seemed to be smarter than his opposition, and a well rounded set of skills helped him to become one of the best players in the world of his generation.
Central midfielder: Edgar Davids
“The pitbull” played with the personality of Balotelli, the work rate of Kante, the style of Nigel de Jong, and the skill of Iniesta. He was an enigma for every team he played on and is a classic player for good reason.
Forward: Marco van Basten
Possibly the 2nd best Dutch player of all time, the 3 time world player of the year was a great for both Ajax and Milan. The definition of a complete forward, he scored some genuinely stunning goals in his career and led the Netherlands to their only major tournament win at Euro ’88.
Forward: Piet Keizer
Keizer is another one of the most underrated players of all time. A magician on the wing, he is a very rare breed in that every single game of his club career was played for Ajax. Ajax has produced so many amazing forwards to count but Keizer is a cornerstone of total football and had more skill than he knew what to do with which is why he simply must be in the greatest 11 of Ajax.
Forward: Johan Cruyff
Cruyff was a genuine demigod of the sport of football. The way he played the game was jaw droppingly beautiful. Not only was he more skilled than any player in the world but he was simply too genius. Johan Cruyff built Ajax, Barcelona, and football as we know it.
His teachings and legacy will live on forever and continue to define the very sport of football. And it all started on the streets of Amsterdam in the shadow of Ajax. Entire books can and have been written on the Church of Cruyff so I will avoid getting too deep into it. Needless to say, he makes the cut for Ajax’s best ever team.
Van der Sar
GK Jan Jongbloed
CB Danny Blind
CM Wesley Sneijder
LM Marc Overmars
FW Dennis Bergkamp
FW Ruud Guillit
CM Jari Litmanen
Great players that were left out of Ajax’s best ever team:
FW Luis Suarez
LM Rob Rensenbrink
CM Ronald de Boer
So here is my choice for Ajax’s best ever team, feel free to share your opinions and your own team.