Tadic still Ajacied next year? ‘We really need a plan, it has to be right’
Dusan Tadic grabbed the championship trophy every season since his arrival at Ajax. But this year everything is different. Two consolation prizes remain for the Amsterdammers this season: second place in the premier league and the KNVB Cup. “That hurts,” says the captain ahead of the clash with PSV.
Ajax will visit Eindhoven first in the premier league tomorrow and play PSV in the cup final a week later. For Tadic, it took some shifting now that Feyenoord is running away with the title – “If I don’t get the bowl, I won’t be happy” – but he has since been able to turn the knob. After all, the stakes are high.
“It’s a big game against PSV, which are always interesting matches. Of course both teams are used to fighting for first place. But this year it is difficult. Nevertheless, it’s very important for both teams, we want to play Champions League.”
Tadic knows no doubts: ‘I want Ajax to win and I will do everything for that’
The marriage between Dusan Tadic and Ajax is one of the happiest in the history of the Amsterdammers. Since the Serbian’s arrival, Ajax became champions every year, and European successes were also celebrated at the highest level. He personally lifted the club from the capital with his winner’s mentality to a higher level.
That this season has been disappointing, to say the least, is a combination of factors, according to Tadic. “Nine basic players have left this summer, 15 players in total. That’s too many. We also changed coaches (Alfred Schreuder instead of Erik ten Hag, ed.). And then again (John Heitinga for Schreuder, ed.). It just needs time to fix some things,” said Tadic, who also touched on the great loss of former director of soccer affairs Marc Overmars.
Doubt strikes every marriage when things take a turn for the worse. Tadic, too, will put everything together at the end of this season. He missed a clear vision last year. He no longer recognized his dream club, the club where he has always felt so at home.
“I came here to win cups. We really need a good plan and a strong Ajax. The project has to be right. Physically, I feel very good. That’s the most important thing. I will always play to help my team. And after that, we’ll see what will happen. Soccer is unpredictable, you never know.”
Tadic will start working for Ajax after his career as a youth coach or assistant at the first team, that is already established. But the now 34-year-old Serb says he is not finished as a soccer player. “I want to play soccer as long as my body listens to me. And the body is listening to me very well at the moment,” the Serb smiled. “Besides that, I have to stay hungry. That’s also one of the most important things. If you don’t have that anymore…”
The hunger is all right with Tadic. This was illustrated recently by Mika Godts, who made his debut against FC Emmen last Sunday. The Belgian talent met Tadic in the gym on his first visit to De Toekomst in January. “If you want to be successful, you have to come and sit here with me at night,” he was told.
Still, Tadic could not prevent Ajax from playing a supporting role this year. It has also been a season of peaks and valleys for himself. It all doesn’t look as fresh as before. As captain, he was too concerned with the performance of the team and that did not benefit his own play.
“Not only had there been a lot of changes at the club, but I often changed positions myself. We had no automatism in our play. In the last few months that’s been much better. I now play most of the time in a fixed position (in the striker ed.). And of course my stats are always good.”
Indeed, there is no measure of Tadic’s statistics this season either. The Premier League is not the strongest competition, but in the ten biggest European leagues he is unmatched when it comes to chances created. When it comes to the number of assists, he only has to leave Mike Trésor, former player of NEC and Willem II, ahead of him, according to data from statistics agency Opta.
“I owe it to myself to deliver good statistics. I have to be consistent and score goals, give assists and create chances. I’ve done that in all my years. Of course, sometimes I play a lesser game. But that also depends on how the team plays. The stronger the team, the easier it becomes.”
Also against PSV he hopes to be important for Ajax again. In top games he often shows his other side. In the heat of the battle everything is allowed, is his opinion. Against Feyenoord recently he clashed with captain Orkun Kökçü. It was suggested on social media that Tadic had provoked the Muslim Kökçü with his faith. Something Kökçü himself denied, by the way.
“Social media play a bad role in that. I may be old school, I don’t like it. I never look on it either. If people want to twist things, fine. I know who I am and I know what I do for my team.”
Partly because of his attitude and behavior on the field, he is sometimes insufferable to opposing supporters, but that leaves Tadic cold. “Of course I understand that other teams’ supporters don’t like me. Because we usually win. And as captain, I am often involved in all kinds of things during a match. Of course they don’t like me then. No problem.”