Lost season looms for Ajax, where glory is close for Feyenoord

Lost season looms for Ajax, where glory is close for Feyenoord
Jurrien Timber and Steven Berghuis at Ajax training session

NOS Football

The last cup game between Feyenoord and Ajax was the semifinal on Feb. 27, 2019. The conclusion afterwards: Ajax extinguished Feyenoord’s season after 3-0 cup victory. Tonight it could be the other way around at De Kuip in yet another KNVB Cup semifinal. Will Feyenoord now extinguish Ajax’s season?

It threatens to be a lost season for Ajax. A season without a prize and it has been a while. From the 2014 championship, it was years of waiting for a prize for the Amsterdammers. The drought lasted long, longer than ever.

When nothing had been won after several years, the club management, led by technical director Marc Overmars, decided on a change of course. The salary cap was abolished, million-dollar purchases were no longer taboo and so experienced forces such as Daley Blind and Dusan Tadic could be captured in 2018.

Beginning of new glory

That worked out well. With Erik ten Hag as coach, the 2018/2019 season brought an end to that year-long period without a prize. With the 3-0 victory over Feyenoord in De Klassieker, the first honorary metal was close at hand. Matthijs de Ligt, Nicolás Tagliafico and Donny van de Beek scored the goals in the semifinals.

It was the Ajax that then also caused a European furor with Ten Hag’s regular European formation at De Kuip: Andre Onana, Noussair Mazraoui, De Ligt, Daley Blind, Tagliafico, Lasse Schöne, Van de Beek, Frenkie de Jong, Hakim Ziyech, Dusan Tadic and David Neres.

Matthijs de Ligt celebrates the 1-0 against Feyenoord in February 2019

More than two months later, the team picked up its first club prize in five years by beating Willem II 4-0 in the cup final. Ajax narrowly made it to the final of the Champions League and became champions of the Netherlands. This was followed by the Johan Cruijff Schaal (2019), another KNVB Cup (2021) and two national titles (2021, 2022).

The transfer policy in Amsterdam continued. Millions flowed over the counter last summer as well, but without the Overmars, who left because of cross-border behavior, the money was less well spent. And Alfred Schreuder turned out to be no Erik ten Hag.

Reverse world

Of Ajax’s squad in the previous Cup Classic, no one is left. The last to leave was Daley Blind last winter. John Heitinga mentioned him as recently as Tuesday morning in his press talk. The coach noted that his team struggled in building from the back and could have used a player like Blind well.

John Heitinga on the bench at Ajax

“Daley is a player who can make a difference on the ball,” Heitinga said. “But he is no longer there now. I have to make do with the players I have now.”

The only Ajacied who was also on the field at the time is Steven Berghuis, only in the Feyenoord shirt. Hardly anyone from Feyenoord is left in the current selection either, by the way. Besides coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst, only current Feyenoord captain Orkun Kökcü was on the bench.

Tonny Vilhena and Steven Berghuis mourn after 2019 3-0 defeat

Feyenoord have not won any prizes since then. The Rotterdammers’ last trophies were the 2018 KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruijff Schaal.

It’s the upside-down world. For Feyenoord, the season was over after the defeat against Ajax in February 2019. Now Feyenoord under coach Arne Slot is in an unprecedented luxury position. The national title beckons, the Europa League is even still possible and April 30 is the first to be circled in the calendar: the day of the cup final.

Kayleigh Williams