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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How Amsterdam changed the world of football forever

On the outskirts of the city, where Stadionweg meets Amstelveenseweg, and new apartment complexes are thrown up to the backdrop of the Oud Zuid neighbourhood, there sits an unassuming sports complex. Obstructing the view of the stadium is a decidedly ugly and square building. It previously housed a Citroën garage and showrooms, but is now home to one of those annoyingly…

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Sjaak Swart: the forgotten genius of an Ajax legend

IT IS THE ESSENCE OF A FOOTBALL FAN to question and compare players. Whilst debating the merits of the heroic wingers past and present, the same few names frequently populate discussions. Cristiano Ronaldo, Piet Keizer, George Best and Garrincha make themselves known as football fans strive to prove that one or another is the undisputed “king…

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Louis van Gaal: a divisive success story

To some he’s one of the pre-eminent managers of the last two decades, willing to sacrifice style for substance and flair for formality. To others, he’s an unnerving disciplinarian, an expert at alienating his players and fans. Whatever side of the fence you fall, few will doubt that Louis van Gaal is one of the most…

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