Ajax player Ocampos | How did it go with the first two Argentine players at Ajax?

Ocampos 1280 ARG
Ocampos 1280 ARG

Ajax new signing Lucas Ocampos is in good yet also colourful company when it comes to former Argentine players. Up to the current transfer window, the roll call of (former) Ajax players from the leading South American footballing nation ran to seven names. More than a quarter of a century ago (in the 1996/1997 season), Mariano Juan and Ivan Gabrich became the first 'Amsterdam Argentines' in the club's history. How did these distant forebears of our newest Argentinian fare?

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On 18 August, 1996, Juan became the first ever Argentinian to make an official appearance playing for Ajax 1. The debut was not a resounding success. Although Juan was in the opening line-up, he and his fellow Ajax players could not prevent PSV winning the very first match in the Johan Cruyff Shield 3-0 (previously, it had been known as the Supercup and PTT Telecom Cup). The then brand new ArenA had been officially opened just four days earlier. They lost the opening exhibition game against AC Milan. Sadly, the first proper match in the multifunctional stadium also saw a disappointing result.  

Juan 900

Three weeks after the match against the Eindhoven team, the Amsterdam crowd was introduced to a new Argentinian. Ivan César Gabrich was his name. The fact that the striker lives on in the collective memory as the asset 'who never fell down' (quote from then Ajax coach Louis van Gaal) says it all. Gabrich did actually hit the ground more often than his trainer, teammates and fans would have liked, and did not exactly bring home the bacon in the Amsterdam area, to say the least. Originally intended to stand in for Patrick Kluivert, he eventually played eleven matches, but only lasted one season at Ajax. The forward was ultimately a little short on technical and tactical skills to meet the demanding standards and ethos at Ajax. Gabrich did not score once while a striker at Ajax. Based partly on those poor statistics, he is fated to be forever known as a classic bad buy. 

Juan lasted a season longer and also played more times (21), but the Amsterdam adventure was no outright success for him, either. The youth international was recruited in 1996 as the - prospective - successor to Danny Blind. Also hampered by injury, Juan never managed to fill those big boots. The colourful and tough defender, who could also hold his own in midfield, played his last game in the 1997/98 season. The following season Ajax loaned him out to the Argentine Racing Club, after which he returned to the ArenA briefly in the summer of 1999. In Spain, Juan subsequently played for Getafe and Toledo. Eight years later, the man who became world champion with the Argentinian under 18s saw his career come to an end. The promising start of his career ultimately did not see the follow-on he might have wished for.  

 

Gabrich 900

Fortunately, the Argentinians who came after Juan and Gabrich fared somewhat better. Mauro Rosales was invaluable on the right wing between 2004 and 2007. His 91 appearances for Ajax fell just short of earning him a place in the 100 Club, the hall of fame for the most capped Ajax players. Darío Cvitanich effectively relieved his fellow countryman in 2008 and was particularly valuable as a replacement. The highlight of his 41-match career with Ajax was the 2011 championship. Ajax won the national trophy for the thirtieth time, earning the coveted third star. Cvitanich had to watch the legendary championship game with against FC Twente from the bench. He did parade with the newly-won championship shield soon after, however.

Ten years after Cvitanich's first appearance saw Nico Tagliafico make his debut. Everyone knows the story of this full-back, of course. Tagliafico immediately won the hearts of the Ajax fans and was a total favourite with the crowds throughout his 169 appearances. Last but not least, Ajax also recruited defenders Lisandro Magallán and Lisandro Martínez in 2019. With varying degrees of success. While the first is looking for new opportunities after time on loan to Alavés, Crotone and RSC Anderlecht, Martínez has recently moved on from Ajax. After 120 games playing for Ajax, the centre back is now at Manchester United. 

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