In an unprecedented turn of events, Dutch football powerhouse Ajax finds itself in the midst of a tumultuous crisis, staring down the barrel of potential relegation.
As they prepare for a crucial Europa League clash against Brighton, the Amsterdam club is navigating one of the darkest periods in its storied history.
The saga unfolded with the sacking of manager Maurice Steijn, leaving Ajax without a helm in the midst of an alarming slump. Currently languishing in the relegation zone of the Eredivisie, they are on their longest winless streak since Dutch professional football’s inception in 1954.
While the idea of Ajax actually being relegated remains remote, their recent struggles paint a disheartening picture. A month ago, Ajax’s drop was projected at 2,500-1, but those odds have dropped to 150-1.
The club’s legendary figure, Rafael van der Vaart, frankly stated that, “They have to assume that they are not better than their opponent because they simply do not have the qualities for that.”
The turmoil reached a climax when Ajax was defeated 4-0 by Feyenoord in a league match played behind closed doors.
The game had been suspended earlier due to ultras throwing fireworks onto the pitch and a riot outside the stadium. This marked a historic low for the club.
Sven Mislintat, the sporting director, was dismissed during this period, and the enigmatic Louis van Gaal was brought in as a ‘consultant’ to steady the ship.
Regrettably, Ajax has faced defeat in every league game since his arrival, further deepening their woes.
The Europa League, however, provides a glimmer of hope for Ajax. Despite a shaky start, including draws against AEK Athens and Marseille, they sit third in Group B, level with Thursday’s opponents, Brighton.
On paper, Ajax boasts a talented squad, with significant reinforcements made in recent months. Nonetheless, the departure of key players, internal turmoil, and injuries have disrupted their performance.
World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gerónimo Rulli has seen limited action due to injury, and talisman Steven Bergwijn has struggled to replicate his early-season form.
As the search for Steijn’s successor intensifies, the club’s leadership hierarchy remains in disarray. The role of Louis van Gaal remains a mystery, and rumors suggest a potential return for Marc Overmars, despite a controversial exit in 2022.
Mitchell van der Gaag, currently Manchester United’s assistant manager, emerges as a leading candidate to rescue Ajax from its predicament, having previously worked with the club under Erik ten Hag. His potential return could provide the much-needed stability.
In summary, Ajax’s current plight is a stark contrast to their illustrious history. As they face Brighton in the Europa League, the club is desperately seeking a way out of this crisis, with the hope that European success might provide a respite from their domestic struggles.