In the UEFA Champions League draw, Ajax was paired with FC Barcelona, AC Milan and Celtic. But it’s especially the pool H pairing with the Catalan powerhouse that has generated excitement in and around the Amsterdam ArenA. The Ajax team flies to Barcelona on Tuesday morning – a football city which is closely related to Amsterdam.
Ajax and FC Barcelona may have never played an official match against each other; the clubs share close ties nonetheless. When it comes to football, Ajax and Barça are brothers by blood.
Ajax and Johan Cruijff are inextricably linked. The Amsterdam club experienced its most successful seasons ever in the seventies, with Cruijff as the star player. And in Barcelona, whenever the maestro’s name is mentioned, it is with recognition and reverence. As a player, but mostly as a coach, Johan Cruijff carried FC Barcelona to the top of the football hill. The Betondorp native earned eternal fame in 1992 when his Barcelona team won its first Europa Cup for national champions. In London’s old-school Wembley Stadium (before the classic stadium was renovated years later), it was fellow Dutchman Ronald Koeman who brought the Dream Team to a 1-0 victory against Sampdoria.
That turned out to be the start of something very special. Two decades after Koeman’s wonder shot, the team counts no fewer than 4 Europa Cup/Champions Leagues championships. In 2006, 2009 and 2011, Barcelona could call itself the best in Europe. The team partly owes its most recent titles to Lionel Messi, the world – class star who is following in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor, Cruijff. Moreover, Ajax and FC Barcelona are equal in terms of the number of European titles they’ve won.
In addition to Cruijff, several other Ajax players have worn FC Barcelona’s famous colours. From John Neeskens to Patrick Kluivert, via Michael Reiziger and Marc Overmars, and from Richard Witschge to Frank de Boer; many Dutch former Ajax players have defended the club honour of both Ajax and Barcelona. Since Isaac Cuenca (last season) and Bojan Krkic this year, loaned out players have come the other way. More grassroots players from the Barca school have been coming to Amsterdam and to the ArenA recently. Rinus Michels was, in the seventies, the first Dutch coach working for the Catalan club. After great, successful coaching years in the Meer, the Amsterdam native swapped his hometown for the coastal city of Barcelona.
A strong historic connection has thus existed between the two clubs since the seventies. Ajax and FC Barcelona both strive to play attacking and polished football. That identity has partly been reinforced by Dutch contributions to Barcelona through the years. Until last season, the club with the motto Més que un club (More than a club) has proven to be almost unbeatable in Europe, and in the rest of the world. With unbeatable, and stunning, football. King Messi has been leading the club, where he did the academy, to unprecedented success. The addition of new, home grown top talent is yet another strong similarity between Ajax and Barcelona. Both clubs build their world-class reputation on this.
Surprisingly enough, the virtual twins Barcelona and Ajax have never met in an official duel. Barça’s history starts in 1899, when the club was founded, just before AFC Ajax was founded in 1900. Both clubs have a rich history. Thanks to the shared approach to football – to play attacking and polished football – and the productive youth academies, there will much to be enjoyed in the future.
On Wednesday, history will be made when FC Barcelona and Ajax meet for the first time officially. The prestigious Camp Nou (capacity of 99.354) will be the first place that the blood brothers meet. On November 26, the pool H return awaits in the ArenA. These are eagerly anticipated matches, which should be enjoyed to the fullest!