LONDON: In the wake of Ajax’s stunning victory against holders Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, the headlines across Europe were mainly about the new golden generation emerging in Amsterdam.
The club of Johan Cruyff, and of Louis van Gaal’s side that lifted the trophy in 1995, are into their first Champions League quarter-final since 2003 with a team packed with products of their famed youth system.
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, aged 21 and headed for Barcelona at the end of the season, and 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt are the brightest young stars in a side that triumphed 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.
However, the most decisive player in this Champions League campaign for Ajax — which continues into Wednesday’s quarter-final first leg against Juventus — is a grizzled veteran by comparison.
Dusan Tadic, at 30, was the oldest member of coach Erik ten Hag’s line-up in Madrid, with the sole exception of 32-year-old Dane Lasse Schoene.
The Serbian international attacker scored one of their goals in Spain, and now has nine altogether in a continental campaign that started with a second qualifying-round win over Sturm Graz.
The goal apart, Tadic’s display in Madrid will be best remembered for that moment in the first half when he escaped Casemiro with a sensational turn.
“As time goes by we will realise what we did, but now we just want to enjoy our football and these things will come. It’s really special,” said Tadic after that match.
Formerly of Groningen and FC Twente, Tadic came back to the Netherlands in an 11.4 million-euro (£10 million) move from Premier League strugglers Southampton last year.