The remarkable resurrection of Ajax exile Ocampos: ‘Was well-paid vacation’
Of all the Sevilla fans in Estadio Rámon Sánchez Pizjuán last week at the 3-0 win over PSV, Majo Barbeito is by far the most exuberant. The wife of Lucas Ocampos bounced through the skybox, hitting the windows with both hands.
It is much more than joy for a nice goal. With his masterpiece against PSV (attack high in the air, shot from the turn via inside post into the goal), Ocampos leaves an unsuccessful six months in Amsterdam definitively behind him.
It is the Argentine’s first goal since April 2022. In his half year in Amsterdam, Ocampos has been in action only sporadically.
“This match I really needed. I was eager to score,” Ocampos told any journalist who would hear it after last week’s 3-0 win over PSV. “I really enjoyed this night.”
114 playing minutes
Just before the close of the summer transfer market, Ocampos traded Sevilla for Ajax on a rental basis. He should succeed the departed Antony. But the right winger, whose work ethic and running ability (and the occasional brilliant goal as against PSV) are his main assets, does not really fit into the Ajax system.
After 114 playing minutes, zero goals and zero assists, they are coming to that conclusion at Ajax as well. Ocampos is no longer coming off the reserve bench and after the World Cup he is even sitting in the stands. “I trained by myself in the last few weeks,” Ocampos told Sevilla’s club channel two weeks ago.
But in fact, after just one month in Amsterdam, Ocampos realized that his Ajax period would end in failure. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted. No one from the club said anything to me. Why I wasn’t playing, what needed to be done differently. There was no more talking to me.”
Ocampos falls by the wayside and is more or less ignored in Amsterdam. He is not really surprised about that. “The soccer industry has good and bad sides. I’ve seen it happen to other players and now it was me that it happened to.”
The 28-year-old Argentinian stayed in a hotel during his first Amsterdam weeks. After that, he would start looking for housing so that his wife and their two daughters could also come over. But soon he changes those plans.
Looking for a house makes no sense. Because as soon as the transfer market opens, he wants to leave again. “My family stayed in Spain and I lived in that hotel for months. I became friends with a boy from the reception, whom I saw every day there. Together we went to do fun things.”
So he bides his time in Amsterdam. Until he can return to Seville. “I could have stayed at Ajax and eaten dinner sitting on my hotel bed every night. It was a well-paid vacation in Amsterdam. But in soccer I never chose money. I love the feeling that the matches bring out in me.”
His wife Majo and daughters Luisana and Logan visit Amsterdam from time to time. The Ocampos family strolls around the city like tourists. Along the canals and in the parks. “Then one of my daughters asked, ‘Daddy, when are we going to the stadium to watch your game?’ That broke my heart. I didn’t really know what to say,” the striker says.
When the transfer market reopens last January, the Amsterdam nightmare ends for Ocampos. The lease is broken and he returns to Sevilla. “I didn’t feel like a soccer player for four months. I didn’t have to focus on the matches. At the end, I was no longer part of the selection. It was a strange experience.”
Back in Sevilla, Ocampos finds himself with a team that must fear relegation from La Liga. In a dramatic first half of the season, coach Julen Lopetegui has been fired. Under his successor Jorge Sampaoli, Sevilla quickly climbs out of the doldrums.
Ocampos still lacks match rhythm after his “well-paid vacation in Amsterdam” and has to make do with substitutions at first. First a quarter of an hour, then half an hour and against PSV he was allowed to play the entire second half.
Within ten minutes he finally shows the Netherlands what he is capable of: a fine goal and shortly afterwards an assist with the heel for Nemanja Gudelj’s 3-0.
The ample victory ensures that Sevilla have flown to Eindhoven with peace of mind for the return of the duel in the Europa League intermediate round. Ocampos hopes to show his best side for the first time in Holland tonight.