What if Ajax had retained their best players in the last decade?
Luis Suarez scored over 100 goals for AjaxWhen Dutch clubs are a topic for discussion, the first club that pops into the minds of football fans is the Amsterdam-based team AFC Ajax. Among the big three clubs in the Dutch Eredivisie, they are the most successful with 33 league titles and 18 KNVB Cups apart from four European Cups.It is not just their success that defines them. The philosophy of Total Football has its roots at Ajax and it has since been imbibed by many clubs and even the Netherlands national team. But along the way, they have gone from a European powerhouse to just another team that makes an appearance in the Champions League group stages before making a swift exit. A lot of that has been down to selling their promising players over the years.So we decided to form a XI of active players who were sold by Ajax in the past 10 years or so. How far would they have gone in the Champions League?Formation: 4-3-3
A youth product of Ajax, Maarten Stekelenburg spent nine seasons at the club before making a switch to AS Roma and later Fulham. Although he broke into the senior team in 2002 at the age of 20, he did not become the first choice goalkeeper until the 2005/06 season. However, he had played enough games to help them win the 2003/04 Eredivisie season.
Since then, he has won the Ajax Player of the Year award twice apart from winning the Dutch league title twice and the KNVB Cup three times. His performances also saw him become Netherlands’ first-choice goalkeeper after the retirement of Edwin van der Sar.
His most memorable tournament was probably the 2010 World Cup as his saves, especially against Uruguay and Brazil, were crucial to the Oranje reaching the final. He has made more than 50 appearances for the Netherlands under various managers before Louis van Gaal decided not to pick him in the 2014 World Cup due to his lack of appearances at Fulham.