There may be an exodus of young talent from Dutch side Ajax this coming summer as the club continues its stunning run through the Champions League, but they are doing their best to convince as many players as possible to stick around.
The club announced Friday that Argentinian international Nicolas Tagliafico would not be leaving this summer, and while there was no contract extension to go along with the announcement, it was a short and sweet statement from the defender to help ease fans before the impending sales to come.
The 26-year-old left-back, who was a consistent starter for Argentina at the 2018 World Cup and has since worn the captain’s armband for a few post-World Cup friendlies in Lionel Messi’s absence, joined Ajax last summer from Argentinian club Independente and signed a four-year deal through the summer of 2022.
The announcement marks a slight change in heart for the Argentinian, who just a month ago admitted he could leave the Dutch side soon. “I think in the summer it could be a natural time to take the step,” Tagliafico said in early April. “But I try not to think about taking that step just yet because we have many important games to focus on. Yes, it [the transfer speculation] is flattering because I think it’s the most competitive league. When you are a child, the target is to come to Europe and play in a top league like the Premier League. I came to Ajax because of the philosophy, the style of football and the club.”
Tagliafico’s announcement comes just a month after goalkeeper Andre Onana committed his long-term future to the club with a contract extension signed in late March. “I like to play and here I have the opportunity to play and that’s why I extend my contract,” the 23-year-old goalkeeper said to the club’s official website after signing his extension through 2022. “Ajax did so many things for me and that’s why I extend my contract. For me it’s important to give something back. It was a difficult decision but when you’re a young player, it’s important to choose game time, not only going to a big club when you’re not going to play.”
Onana joined Ajax from Barcelona’s youth academy in 2015, having made his way to Spain through Samuel Eto'o‘s academy in Cameroon. His previous deal was set to expire in 2021, meaning this summer would have been the two-year mark, a popular selling time for a club that wishes to cash in on a player before his value diminishes. He had been linked with a number of top sides including Manchester United and a return to Barcelona, but the extension will give Ajax firm control over anyone who wishes to come make an offer.
Midfielder Frenkie de Jong has already been officially sold to Barcelona, while fellow young Dutch stars such as Donny van de Beek and Matthijs de Ligt have been highly touted and are widely speculated to be leaving the club this summer, along with Moroccan international Hakim Ziyech. Ajax will no doubt profit greatly from their departure, but will want to learn from the mistakes Monaco made after allowing a wealth of young talent like Kylian Mbappe, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, and Tiemoue Bakayoko all leave the club in one summer, leaving the club in a dire position this season battling relegation.
Former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, who now serves as the club’s CEO, addressed the potential departures, admitting that is the way the club stays afloat and continues the pipeline, but cautioned against selling too much.
“We know that’s a fact. That’s the history of Ajax all along. It has been in the 70s, 80s and 90s, so we know that,” he said to BT Sport before the Champions League first-leg match against Tottenham earlier in the week. “That also gives space for the younger players, guys who are 19 or 20. In two years time, they will be playing at this kind of level. We’re not going to sell seven players. We need to make sure we can stay competitive. We like this stage of the competition and we like the recognition, so we’re not going to break up the complete team. Of course that’s Ajax development, giving young players a chance.”
The presence of Tagliafico alongside veterans Daley Blind, Lasse Schone, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, plus Onana’s stay will give the club a solid base to flow more young talent through the ranks.