Ajax stunned the Bernabeu on Tuesday night as they thrashed Real Madrid 4-1 to knock the defending champions out of the Champions League and ensure their run of three straight titles is over.
The win puts Ajax through to the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time since 2003, and is being hailed as a breakthrough moment for their youthful squad.
Here Football Paradise looks at five key figures in the victory
Frenkie de Jong
Ajax’s win has ensured Frenkie de Jong is a hero in Barcelona before he has even joined the club. The 21-year-old midfielder will move to the Catalan giants in the summer in a big money deal which was confirmed in February. During his presentation, Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu had given his new signing an early instruction: knock Real Madrid out of the Champions League. De Jong and Ajax have now delivered, and Bartomeu was quickly on the phone to thank his new star straight after the match.
The former Southampton forward might seem an unlikely hero to those who remember his mostly underwhelming performances on the south coast. But after scoring one and setting up two more, the 31-year-old became only the ninth player in history to receive 10 out of 10 in L’Equipe’s player ratings. The French newspaper said Tadic played the “perfect match” in Madrid.
Matthijs de Ligt
De Ligt has been linked with a move to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, and on Tuesday night the 19-year-old defender showed exactly why with an accomplished performance in the centre of defence. Wearing the captain’s armband, De Ligt embodied the youthful potential of much of this Ajax team. “Today was our best level,” he told De Telegraaf. “It was a real team performance and the way we defended from the front was great.”
Erik ten Hag
Tuesday night was the biggest moment yet in Ten Hag’s coaching career, but the 49-year-old has been impressing ever since he arrived in Amsterdam to replace Marcel Keizer. The last of Ajax’s 33 Eredivisie titles came back in 2014, but Ten Hag has them locked in a tight battle at the top of the table with current leaders PSV Eindhoven, who are five points clear having played a game more. Tuesday’s win saw Ten Hag’s winning percentage with the club improve to 72.41%, having won 42 of his 58 games in charge.
With so many precocious youngsters, Ajax’s squad is the envy of many teams in Europe, so ex-Arsenal winger Marc Overmars deserves credit as the man who put it together. The 45-year-old, who spent five seasons with the Amsterdam club prior to joining Arsenal and played in their famous 2-0 win over Madrid in 1995, has been director of football for his former club since the summer of 2012. Like many of his young stars, Overmars now finds himself in demand having been linked with a similar role at the Emirates.