logo
logo

Where are they now? Ten Hag’s Ajax side that reached the CL semi-finals

Erik ten Hag stunned the footballing world in 2018-19 by leading his exciting Ajax side to the Champions League semi-finals.

Ten Hag, who will be the next permanent manager of Manchester United, famously oversaw wins over Real Madrid and Juventus before a heartbreaking defeat to Tottenham in the last four.

We’ve taken a look at the Ajax side from the Champions League semi-final second leg against Tottenham to see how they’ve all fared since.

GK: Andre Onana

Onana established himself as one of the best young goalkeepers in Europe and was often linked with the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham.

But he was given a 12-month ban for doping in February 2021 after mistaking one of his wife’s pills for a headache tablet, although the ban was later reduced to nine months.

Since returning from the ban, the 26-year-old has lost his place in the side after making a few high profile errors and was even booed by his own fans.

“I’m not affected by their boos, I don’t care at all,” he told ESPN in April 2022. “They can sing, cry, and do whatever they want. I don’t give a fuck.”

“I’m not in my best shape right now, that’s the truth. I haven’t played for long! If they get angry, it’s their problem, if they’re sad, it’s their problem. That’s how I became who I am. It’s my life, let me write my story.”

The Cameroon international is set to leave Ajax at the end of the season and will join Serie A side Inter Milan on a free transfer.

RB: Noussair Mazraoui

Mazraoui scored group stage goals against Benfica and Bayern Munich and enjoyed a brilliant breakthrough season in 2018-19, winning the Marco van Basten Award presented to Ajax’s ‘Talent of the Year’.

The right-back then struggled with a few injury problems and faced increased competition from Sergino Dest but has managed to rediscover his best form in 2021-22.

His Ajax contract expires at the end of the current season, and he looks set to join either Bayern Munich or Barcelona on a free transfer.

CB: Matthijs de Ligt

Despite being just 19 years old at the time, De Ligt was the talisman and leader of Ten Hag’s Ajax side in 2018-19 and later became the first defender to win the Golden Boy award.

The centre-back was linked with Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich before completing a £67.8million move to Juventus in the summer of 2019.

He took a few months to adjust to life in Turin and made some high-profile mistakes but still finished his debut season with a Serie A title.

The Netherlands international is now living up to his potential but is reportedly keen on a new challenge and has been linked with Chelsea and Tottenham.

CB: Daley Blind

After four years at Manchester United, Blind returned to Ajax in 2018 and played an integral role in the run to the Champions League semi-finals.

But he was later diagnosed with heart muscle inflammation after suffering from dizziness during a Champions League game against Valencia in December 2019.

The versatile defender underwent a serious operation but recovered well and has now made over 300 appearances for his boyhood club.

Daley Blind

READ: An ode to Daley Blind, the slender defender who defies modern logic

LB: Nicolas Tagliafico

Signed from Independiente for just £4million in 2018, Tagliafico immediately established himself as Ajax’s first-choice left-back and has been one of Ten Hag’s best purchases.

The Argentina international has fallen out of favour this season and was heavily linked with a move to Barcelona in January 2022, but the Eredivisie champions refused to sanction his exit.

“There was an interest, the clubs spoke, but they did not agree,” Tagliafico told TNT Sports in March. “It was something complicated for the club at that moment, but I think surely now in June it will be easier.”

CM: Lasse Schone (Joel Veltman, 60)

Schone went under the radar in comparison to some of his more hyped team-mates but his goal at the Bernabeu in March 2019 was later voted Ajax’s Goal of the Decade.

The midfielder brought an end to his seven-year stay at Ajax in 2019 and joined Serie A side Genoa but was later frozen out of the squad by manager Rolando Maran.

He threatened legal action and was released from his contract in January 2021. The 35-year-old then had a brief spell at Heerenveen before rejoining former club NEC on a two-year deal.

Veltman swapped Ajax for Brighton in the summer of 2020, and the defender has been a brilliant signing for Graham Potter’s side.

CM: Frenkie de Jong

De Jong’s performances in the Champions League in 2018-19 attracted attention from the biggest clubs in Europe and the midfielder eventually swapped the Dutch capital for Barcelona.

The Netherlands international was tipped to replace Sergio Busquets at the base of Barcelona’s midfield but has mainly been used in a box-to-box midfield role.

“He is not a scorer,” Ten Hag told Dutch media outlet Ziggo Sport in 2020. “He is the player who is in charge of supplying, of supplying the team-mates who give the assists or who score goals from their position.”

The 24-year-old is yet to recapture the form he showed at Ajax and has recently been linked with a move to Manchester United, who will be managed by Ten Hag next season.

CM: Donny van de Beek (Lisandro Magallan, 90)

After scoring for Ajax in the Champions League quarter-final and semi-final, Van de Beek looked set to join Spanish giants Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.

But a deal failed to materialise as Madrid couldn’t offload their unwanted players and Manchester United then brought the midfielder to Old Trafford a year later.

The 25-year-old has endured a disastrous start to his United career due to a lack of first-team opportunities and is currently on loan at struggling Everton.

“Take Donny. I find that hard, a mortal sin,” Ten Hag told De Volkskrant in 2021. “If you haven’t had a chance yet, then development will also stall.”

Ten Hag’s impending arrival at United could now give the Netherlands international a chance to finally establish himself in the starting XI.

Magallan has spent the last three seasons out on loan, spending time at Alaves, Crotone and Anderlecht.

RW: Hakim Ziyech

The Moroccan winger was one of Ajax’s most impressive performers under Ten Hag such that Chelsea came calling with a £35million bid in 2020.

The 29-year-old hasn’t quite hit the form he managed in Amsterdam but he has had his moments, occasionally scoring a wonder goal with his trademark left-footed strike from the right-wing.

Ziyech did manage to win the Champions League at Chelsea, healing the scars from Ajax’s brutal exit before.

 

ST: Kasper Dolberg (Daley Sinkgraven, 67)

The Danish striker was once the next big thing at Ajax, becoming the youngest non-Dutch player to score a hat-trick for the club in 2017 but fell off the grid since then.

Dolberg joined Nice for around £20million in the exodus that followed the Champions League exit and has performed decently well with 24 goals in 83 games, but the 24-year-old doesn’t look any closer to fulfilling his massive potential.

His substitute Sinkgraven also departed in 2019 and joined Bayer Leverkusen. The left-back departed on a free, as years of injury problems meant he missed more games than he played, and has only managed two appearances this season in Germany.

LW: Dusan Tadic

One of the greatest redemption stories in recent football history, Tadic went from Southampton outcast under Mark Hughes to superstar at Ajax.

Tadic was simply sublime in the Champions League run, delivering an absolute masterclass at the Santiago Bernabeu to destroy Real Madrid, and still remains at the club as their talisman.

The 33-year-old has 180 goal contributions in 190 games for Ajax. It’s no surprise that he was nominated for the Ballon D’or in 2019, and even had a strong case for a podium finish.


More from Planet Football

An amazing XI of players Ten Hag got the best out of: Tadic, Van de Beek…

Fallen Giants: Remembering Louis van Gaal’s amazing Ajax team of the 90s

Can you name the Ajax XI that won the 1995 Champions League final?

‘One of the best coaches’ – What Ten Hag’s players have said about him