Ajax Amsterdam will field a side that cost just a fifth as much as Manchester United paid for Paul Pogba when the teams meet in the Europa League final on May 24. The Dutch club will contest a European club competition decider for the first time in 21 years with a team assembled for an estimated 22 million euros ($24 million) – a sum dwarfed by the world record 105 million euros United paid for the French international midfielder.
The exploits of Coach Peter Bosz’s young team, aged just under 23 on average, were hailed across the Netherlands on Thursday, the morning after they held out for a 5-4 aggregate victory in France over Olympique Lyonnais.
The ‘Bosz Babes’ led 4-1 from last week’s first leg but made heavy weather of the return game and had to play the last 10 minutes with 10 men after defender Nick Viergever saw red.
Bosz, who played at archrivals Feyenoord, has reshuffled the team since replacing Frank de Boer at the start of the season. He has introduced teenage talent and worked hard to perfect an approach dubbed ‘Totalfootball 2.0’, with players switching constantly between attack and defence.
“The resistance that he has had to overcome along the way was so well handled that in just nine months the Netherlands can again boast another top trainer,” newspaper Algemeen Dagblad wrote on Thursday.
Ajax’s youthful defence did face some hairy moments on Wednesday as Lyon pressed to force the match into extra time.
“We played really well at home in the first leg and we repeated that for the first 40 minutes here (in Lyon). After that, Lyon were better,” said captain Davy Klaassen on Dutch television after the match.
“But it doesn’t matter anymore, we’re playing in the final against Manchester United. Unbelievably brilliant.”
The match, in Stockholm, will be the first at that level for Ajax since they lost on penalties in Rome to Juventus in the 1996 Champions League decider.