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 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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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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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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How Steve McClaren went from wally to Dutch master

Teetering perilously close to the swaying trapdoor that is relegation to the Netherlands’ second tier, FC Twente can do little but hope their legs hold out long enough to preserve their top-flight status for another year. As they peer upwards, longingly wishing they were once again sat beside Dutch giants Ajax and PSV, whose seemingly permanent…

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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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