The renaissance of Ajax, a superclub back on the map

Pareidolia – the perceiving of familiarity where none exists – is a more common psychological phenomenon than you might think. Frequently reported examples include; finding images in cloud formations, visualising a man on the moon, and hearing recognisable voices in random noise. In Amsterdam last Wednesday, several thousand Ajax fans were dealt a severe case.…

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The curious case of Portuguese sensation Dani

Portuguese, devilishly handsome, full of himself and self-centred. A product of the Sporting Clube de Portugal academy, fond of a step-over or two and a footballer who made his name in the Premier League. There the comparisons end, for we are not talking about Cristiano Ronaldo. In 1996, some seven years before the multiple Ballon d’Or…

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Frank Rijkaard: the reluctant one

Delving into the treasure troves of Dutch football’s history is an often emotive and enriching experience. Juxtaposed to the relative mediocrity of the present, the Netherlands’ footballing past showcases a talent pool that ought to be impossible for such a small nation. From the foreign forefathers of Jack Reynolds and Vic Buckingham came the drive…

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The making of Luis Suárez: a year in Groningen

As featured on Guardian Sport Despite its very obvious and pragmatic function, the humble umbrella has proven itself more foe than friend to football managers. The modern game’s umbrella-related history is short and sour. Wembley’s Steve McClaren, isolated and forlorn under the chasm of an official Football Association golf umbrella, and the likeable Dutchman Ron…

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Amsterdam’s last night of European glory

It was 14 September 1994 and Ajax were up against AC Milan. Never before or since had a single football match transversed generations with such poignancy and awe. Under a pregnant Dutch sky, an archaic, city-centre stadium hosted 21st-century football in a 20th-century setting. Naturally, the poignancy is a recent burden, heightened by a stuttering transition…

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Can a Dutch club win the Champions League again?

The goal was scrappy. Patrick Kluivert, on as a late substitute, slipped and stumbled through the penalty area before somehow stabbing the ball home. With five minutes remaining, Ajax were ahead in the 1995 Champions League final. AC Milan, their stunned opponents, could hardly muster a response. The seconds seeped away. The whistle was blown. Louis…

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Patrick Kluivert and a lesson in scoring goals

Wheeling away in celebration, Patrick Kluivert attempts to take his top off only to think better of it halfway through. It’s the 85th minute in the 1995 Champions League final and he’s just scored the goal that will make his hometown team, Ajax, European champions once again. He’s only 18, yet he finds himself the centre…

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