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In Focus: Crisis club Ajax suffering chaos on and off the pitch
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Dan Fitch
Ajax resumed their match against Feyenoord behind closed doors on Wednesday
Ajax resumed their match against Feyenoord behind closed doors on Wednesday

Ajax have made their worst start to a season since 1964 and are truly a club in crisis. 

Their De Klassieker clash against Feyenoord at the Johan Cruyff Arena had to be abandoned on Sunday after 56 minutes, with the home side 3-0 down. 

Angry fans threw flares and fireworks on to the pitch forcing the game to be resumed behind closed doors on Wednesday, eventually losing 4-0 to the defending Eredivisie champions.

Here, we take a look at what has gone wrong at the Netherlands' most successful club. 

Talent drain

Just over four years ago, Ajax were seconds away from reaching a Champions League final. 

The team that came so close to glory was picked apart by vultures from Europe's biggest leagues. 

Stars of that team such as Andre Onana, Matthijs de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech were all sold. 

With Marc Overmars working as director of football and Erik ten Hag as manager, Ajax's famed youth policy and excellent recruitment saw them remain as the top force in Dutch football. 

They won the Eredivisie title as recently as the 2021-22 season, which is when things began to fall apart. 

Overmars left the club in February 2022, while Ten Hag moved to Manchester United in the summer. 

Ajax have failed to replace these key personnel adequately, their on-field recruitment has suffered and they have continued to lose their best players to richer clubs. 

Ajax's match against Feyenoord was abandoned on Sunday
Ajax's match against Feyenoord was abandoned on Sunday

Mislintat sacked

Ajax appointed Alfred Schreuder to replace Ten Hag. The new manager only lasted until January of this year, before John Heitinga was brought in until the end of the 2022-23 season. 

The Godenzonen could only finish third in the Dutch top flight, 13 points behind champions Feyenoord, which was their lowest league finish since 2008-09. 

Heitinga was replaced by Sparta Rotterdam boss Maurice Steijn, ahead of the new campaign. 

Without Champions League football, Ajax sold the likes of Jurien Timber, Calvin Bassey, Edson Alvarez and Mohammed Kudus for big fees. 

Back in April, Sven Mislintat was appointed as director of football and oversaw a transfer window that saw the club spend around £95million on largely unproven young talent. 

The new-look squad have only won one of their first five league games. 

Mislintat has been sacked following the poor start and an internal investigation into a conflict of interests concerning his transfer business. 

Maurice Steijn has suffered a baptism of fire at Ajax
Maurice Steijn has suffered a baptism of fire at Ajax

Van Basten rant

Ajax not only have major problems on the field and at boardroom level but also in the stands. 

Club legend Marco van Basten gave an emotional response after Sunday's chaotic scenes. 

He said: "This is the worst scenario possible. I honestly say we should just quit professional football in the Netherlands. 

"Shut it down. It's completely deliberate and I have no idea why. 

"Did they think this would change the outcome of the match?" 

If Ajax cannot tame their hooligans, then they will surely face major sanctions from Dutch governing bodies. 

These problems must be tackled directly but the mood among the fans can also be improved by an upturn in results. 

The question is, how quickly can Ajax arrest their decline and get back on track?


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