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At Ajax, the Future Is All the time Now


There may be, after all, a sadness, an awareness that — as Gnocchi put it — Ajax’s “success can be its downfall,” a knowledge that the higher it’s at producing players, the more certain it’s that those players will leave.

There may be a way of if only, too: if only Gravenberch could have played alongside de Jong, fairly than as a substitute of him; if only Antony had stayed another yr; if only the club was not engaged in what’s, inherently, a Sisyphean task. “It’s all the time painful when a player leaves,” said Marjan Olfers, a professor of sport and law on the Free University of Amsterdam and a former member of Ajax’s supervisory board. “You can’t construct a team for five years. You mostly have to begin again.”

Occasionally, perhaps increasingly, there are grumbles. “Anyone who remembers the 2000s and the 2010s is thankful for what we now have now,” said Gnocchi, referring to a period when Ajax spent fortunes on mediocrities. “We’re very appreciative of fine business, because we understand it is feasible to purchase rubbish in return. But there are fans who feel the club is beginning to feel more like a trading company than a soccer team.”

And, definitely, there’s loads of resignation. “We’re used to it,” Stephan said. At 58, he said, after a half-century of following the team, the constant change is nothing latest.

Menno Pot, writer of “The Recent Ajax,” a book that examined the club’s transformation lately, noted that — until relatively recently — any player leaving the club could be granted an emotional farewell. “We’d let off fireworks, fan groups would present players with presents,” he said. “We discovered some time ago there was no need. The players were going to depart. These are short-term relationships.”

That, greater than the rest, is what has been lost: the connection to Ajax’s role as a club that “educates young players, fairly than acquires them,” as Olfers put it. Ajax fans, typically, “find it harder to discover with individual players,” she said. “It’s more in regards to the club.”

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