Only ten days after the final of the World Cup at the end of July, Ajax played the Austrian side Sturm Graz and won 2-0. It was not a practice game for the season, but a second qualifier for the Champions League.
Some other winners in that phase were MOL Vidi, Shkendija and Astana. The point is that Ajax would not get that far.
But here they are, the most talked about team on the continent, a new generation just as exciting as the 1995 European champions, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert, Clarence Seedorf et al.
Ajax has delivered a remarkable performance to reach the semi-final of the Champions League
For much of the two decades since that party was dissolved, Amsterdam & # 39; s biggest impression came to Europe through its vast airport.
But just like the current airport of Schiphol – smooth movements and clinically efficient and at the same time stylish and entertaining – the football team of the city is now an equally impressive example of technology and application.
Schiphol is an important traffic junction, always a stopping point en route to elsewhere. Unfortunately, for Ajax, the same seems to be true for this exciting young side, but not before they are in front of the Spurs in the semifinals of the Champions League. The talent remains in the departure hall for the time being.
& # 39; If you have boys, 19, 20, who play at this high level, every match, it is normal for the big teams to make ends meet with their big bag of money & # 39 ;, says Lasse Schone, a relative veteran at 32 .
Lasse Schone believes that a triumph of the Champions League is the best way to invite young people
& # 39; But we are not talking about that. We still have three titles to go (Champions League, Premier League and Dutch Cup) and we will focus on that. & # 39;
If they have to be broken – midfielder Frenkie de Jong has already agreed to Barcelona – what better way to draw than with the club's first Champions League trophy in 24 years?
& # 39; That sounds like a good plan & # 39 ;, says Schone, the midfielder of Denmark.
Ajax is good at planning. Just like Schiphol, their success is no coincidence.
In the hours after Tuesday evening's 2-1 win over Juventus, the club tweeted photos of their scorers, midfielder Donny van de Beek and captain Matthijs de Ligt, 21 and 19 respectively.
But the images of the couple were like children, Ajax gear and all, already part of the club's legendary academy. & # 39; Our boys & # 39; read the caption.
Messrs. De Ligt, Van de Beek and De Jong – all internationals in the Netherlands – have each graduated from senior citizens with a degree in philosophy, the Ajax philosophy.
There was a second half offensive in Turin that laid down these principles, a series of 12 passes with seven players and a total of only 17 touches, right through Juventus like a plane through the clouds.
And that's what it's like to be against Ajax. They are fierce and play with high speed and precision. For them, a first touch is second nature.
& # 39; We have done it our way and true to the way we want to play football & # 39 ;, Schone says.
Former Southampton ahead Dusan Tadic, the star of Real Madrid's 4-1 victory in the previous round, explains: "It doesn't matter who we are against, we play high, try to dominate our opponents – this is our way. There is a feeling that we can injure any team. All our players understand football. & # 39;
Spurs has a lot to understand about Ajax in the coming two weeks. They were the only team to qualify for the knockout rounds and negotiated a group including Bayern Munich and Benfica.
Ajax legend and football director Marc Overmars celebrates with a slide on the field
And all this, not to mention, with a wage budget less than some champion clubs. So far Financial Financial Play that has cemented the top order.
Could they then emerge as European champions in Madrid on 1 June?
& # 39; We have just defeated two of the largest teams in the world. So yes, why not? & # 39; Schone says.
& # 39; This belief is something that you create. We started three laps before we even entered the group stage. It was a long journey, but an incredible one. & # 39;
And one that is not over yet. Fortunately, for all neutrals, their next stop is England. Fans of Spurs will not be so grateful if they become the newest club to base their Champions League dreams on.
For Ajax, at least this season, the sky is the limit.