Ajax are one of the grand old clubs of European football. The Dutch giants won three consecutive European Cups in the early 70’s, and added a fourth in 1995. They have a history for producing some of the most talented footballers at nearly every position, fuelling their success and keeping the Netherlands national team well stocked in talent.
In recent decades their products have spread around Europe winning trophies and being the driving force behind some of the most exciting play ever seen. The likes of Johan Cruyff, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, and Wesley Sneijder have come out on Ajax, and in Football Manager 19 there is a new generation of exciting young players, making them a very interesting team to take over.
As you kick Erik ten Hag out of his job and take over the reins in Amsterdam, you will have your hands full trying to keep the big clubs at bay and making Ajax a power once again. RealSport gives you all you need to know to take Ajax to the next level.
There are no philosophies to follow as Ajax manager. This frees you up to pursue whatever path forward you like. If you want to play ultra-defensive football and try to win everything 1-0 you can, or you can push forward and try to take every game 4-3. All the board really care about is success.
Domestically expectations are high at Ajax. There is no negotiation over the boards need for you to win the league, and you are expected to make the final of the Dutch Cup too so you can't take it easy there.
In Europe the bar is somewhat lower though. You have to make it to the group stage of the European Champions Cup. That means getting past SK Sturm Graz in the second qualifying phase and then progressing through the third qualifying phase and the playoff. This is vital not just to how the board perceive your managing ability in the early period of your employment, but also in your ability to keep your best players and attract quality signings to the club.
Replicating Ajax's amazing victory against Real Madrid this year may be impossible, but if you do make the group stage then finishing at least 3rd should be more than manageable, getting you into the latter stages of the EURO Cup. Telling the board you can make it through the group stage will increase your transfer budget, but only by £1 million or so.
Football Manager 19 has seen a revolution in the tactical nuance you can now implement. Selecting your style of play will offer you some choices of formation. Whatever style you want to run, it would be wise to have an attacking tactic for domestic games where you will be the best side far more often than not and a defensive one for later European ties where the opposition are likely to be better than you.
With the players Ajax have you do have a lot of options for your style of attacking play. Tiki-taka would suit the quality Ajax have in the midfield, with vertical tiki-taka offering a nice change of pace to surprise opponents. When up against it in Europe a fluid counter-attack would suit.
Within all these styles you can adjust the mentality of the team to suit the individual game situation. Most domestic games should be played with at least "positive" mentality, if not "attacking", while the "balanced" one is good for seeing a game out in the last 20 minutes. Against bigger European sides, or even the tricky away fixture in the league, the "cautious" approach is most sensible.
All the above tactical styles suit the "4-1-4-1 DM Wide" formation, an effective 4-3-3 that drops a midfielder deep as a defensive screen and asks the wide men to roam inward to support the striker. This formation is very well-balanced and can be adjusted into a more attacking force by asking the fullbacks to overlap and setting the forward players to an attacking duty.
Andre Onana is in goal, with a back four made up of Joel Veltman, Matthijs de Ligt, Lisandro Magallan, and Nicolas Tagliafico. De Ligt takes the captain's armband too, despite his young age.
Frenkie de Jong operates at the base of the midfield with Donny van de Beek and Hakim Ziyech ahead as the engine room players and playmakers of the team. The front three sees David Neres on the right and Dusan Tadic on the left, supporting Kasper Dolberg.
On the bench Bruno Varela is your goalkeeper, with Rasmus Nissen Kristensen and Daley Blind offering defensive abilities while Lasse Schone, Zakaria Labyad, and Vaclav Cerny provide midfield options and fresh legs out wide. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is your final sub and backup striker.
Ajax's first XI is strong and full of players that can create goals, win the ball, and dominate a game. Who are the ones that really stand out?
Hakim Ziyech - CA 4 star (150), PA 4 star (155)
Ziyech began his career at Heerenveen before moving to FC Twente and eventually arriving at Ajax in August 2016 for around £10 million. He has quickly become a key part of Ajax's first team and grown as a goal scorer. His first two years with the team he totalled 19 goals in all competitions but this season he is on 18 with plenty of football left ahead of him.
On FM19 the Moroccan international is a creative force, with 17 flair, 16 passing, and 16 technique. His CA of 150 is very close to his PA cap of 155 but at 25 years old he can still improve a little. His ability to play pretty much anywhere across the midfield makes him a brilliant chess piece as you try to break down the opposition.
Dusan Tadic - CA 4 star (147), PA 4 star (149)
Dusan Tadic is a new arrival at Ajax after spending 4 years with Southampton. A maximum fee of around £12 million belies his quality and impact on the team. At the time of writing Tadic has amassed 29 goals in all competitions, including 9 in Europe. He was instrumental in Ajax's upset win at the Bernabeu this year as he scored one goal and assisted on two two more.
In FM19 Tadic is playing right at his peak. His CA of 147 is just two points off his PA, and at 29 he isn't likely to get much better. His creativity is excellent thanks to his 18 vision, 17 passing, and 16 flair. Valued at £10.25 million with a £45,000 a week wage he is a key part of Ajax's first team.
Matthijs de Ligt - CA 4 star (144), PA 5 star (160-190)
The 18-year-old captain of Ajax joined the team at the age of 9 and has flown through their academy to become one of the very best footballing prospects at any position in the world. He already has 13 caps for the Netherlands and has been attracting attention from the worlds biggest clubs.
In FM19 de Ligt is already excellent. His CA of 144 makes him one of the best players on the team and his PA range of 160-190 means he could end up being one of the best players in the game. With 16 tackling, 15 heading, and 14 marking he is a good defender that can also win balls in the opposition box at set pieces. He is valued at £15 million with a £13,500 a week wage, you will have a hard time hanging onto him for long if Liverpool, Barcelona, or Bayern Munich come calling.
Ajax's history of developing young players into world class footballers goes back a long way, and will be continued in FM19 if you play your cards right. Many youngsters like de Ligt and Frenkie de Jong have already graduated to the first team, but who are the next generation that could make an impact soon?
Ryan Gravenberch - CA 2 star (103), PA 4 star (150-180)
Ryan Gravenberch has been with Ajax since 2010 and risen through their youth system. In September 2018 he received his senior debut, but he has spent most of this season with Jong Ajax waiting for his chance to play. With Frenkie de Jong making a move to Barcelona in June 2019 there is going to be a spot open for Gravenberch in the Ajax midfield eventually, so getting him and his 15 flair, 13 technique, and 13 agility some game time early on would be wise. He's just 16 though, so there is no need to rush Gravenberch, and with his high 150-180 PA range he should be a star in the future.
Lassina Traore - CA 2 star (95), PA 3.5 star (130-160)
The young Burkinabe striker is a remarkable prospect for the future of Ajax. He only arrived with Ajax in January 2019 and is 17, but his ability in front of goal is already good and he can be lined up as a replacement for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Traore's 14 finishing, 14 first touch, and 14 heading are all good for a teenager, and his PA range of 130-160 means he could become a leading striker in Europe.
Kenneth Taylor - CA 1.5 star (90), PA 4 star (130-160)
Another superb midfield prospect, Kenneth Taylor is only 16 but is already a well-rounded player. A forward-thinking midfielder with 15 passing, 14 technique, and 13 composure, he can move possession well and is the perfect kind of player to give game time to in a lesser Eredivisie match. He isn't going to be ready to step into the first team when de Jong moves on, but given some time he can take up the midfield maestro role and keep the Ajax engine room running. His 130-160 PA range could well make him a superb player for Ajax.
|Scouting staff||Wage budget|
|Coaching staff||Overall depth|
Team Leaders: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Daley Blind, Lasse Schöne
Highly Influential: Dusan Tadic (VC), Joel Veltman, Hakim Ziyech
The dynamics of the squad gives you a look at the hierarchy within the dressing room. The team leaders are exactly what they sound like, the mentors and reliable personalities within the squad. Keeping these guys happy is a good way to ensuring the overall morale of your team stays high. That's not always easy though as they are mostly veteran players who are under threat from youthful starlets. Current captain Matthijs de Ligt is not yet a highly influential player but with more game time he will quickly rise up through the hierarchy.
The Transfer Market
Starting transfer budget: £13.5 million
Remaining wage budget: -£14,000 a week
The Ajax transfer budget is not a lot, and the wage bill is already too high. You can make a budget adjustment within the Finances tab and it is recommended that you do. This will reallocate some transfer budget to the wage budget and just relieve some of the strain on the clubs books.
If you lower the transfer budget to £10.5 million you can create a remaining wage budget of around £43,000 a week.
Players to sell
There aren't many spare parts to this squad or expensive players you should get rid of, so creating a lot of transfer budget through the sale of players will come at a big cost to the quality and balance of the squad. It is important to note that Frenkie de Jong has agreed to a future transfer to Barcelona that will go through on July 1st 2019. This is a £67 million deal that could rise to £72 million. With 90 percent of transfer revenue being made available you will have some money to make moves if you are just able to be patient.
New transfer budget: £10.5 million
New remaining wage budget: £43,000 a week
Left wing depth
Dusan Tadic is an excellent player on the left hand side, but he can't play every minute of every game. Ajax's depth behind him isn't great with neither Ziyech or Shone comfortable out there it would be wise to add someone that can play there. Enter transfer listed Paul-Georges Ntep. The 25-year-old Frenchman is valued at £3.4 million, and while his wage will put more stress on your budget you should be able to get a deal done for him. His CA of 130 and PA of 142 are nice marks for a club like Ajax.
|Pione Sisto (loan)||23||Vigo||Denmark||138/155||£7m||£24.5k|
|Mijat Gacinovic||23||Eintracht Frankfurt||Serbia||132/141||£5.75m||£17.25k|
Full back options
In most tactical styles the fullbacks end up doing the most running, resulting in a need to rotate them more than most positions. The current Ajax squad doesn't have a lot of options at fullback, while Daley Blind can fill in on the left he is too slow to provide much forward threat, and on the right Rasmus Nissen Kristensen is young and still developing. Another transfer listed player that could solve some of those issues is Ignazio Abate. The veteran right back still has a lot left in his legs and can deliver a good ball into the box. His wage (£73,000 a week) may be a problem though.
|Jonathan Schmid||28||FC Augsburg||France||131/136||£4.3m||£20.5k|
|Inigo Lekue||25||Atletico Bilbao||Spain||128/137||£2.3m||£17.5k|
Ajax don't have a big budget to start handing out pricy contracts to everyone. They are fairly fortunate to have only Klaas-Jan Huntelaar start FM19 in the final year of his contract, though backup goalkeeper Bruno Varela is only on the team on loan so he will leave too. At 34 years old Huntelaar doesn't really need to be retained, which will free up £17,250 a week in the wage budget, but that isn't much.
The very first thing you should do is try to lock up Matthijs de Ligt to a new contract. His current deal expires in June 2021, giving you just three years until he can leave for free. If you want to cash in on his sale at some point then locking him up to a long term deal will help, it will also help keep the teenager happy at Ajax.
Ajax are on a pretty firm financial footing, but it isn't bulletproof. Their balance is expected to rise, but so is turnover, and profits are expected to tick down over the next few years. This makes getting into the group stages of the European Champions Cup key to the financial future of Ajax. They will get a big infusion of cash from the sale of Frenkie de Jong but you'd rather not rely on large outgoing transfers to keep the team afloat.
European success and the financial return that has will be the priority for Ajax over the next 5 years, and while you may well haul in a big transfer fee for de Ligt or Kasper Dolberg you will have to spend to replace them. With such a narrow grip on financial security it is up to you to be extremely prudent in the transfer market and be willing to use the youngsters coming through the academy to fill out your squad.
Return to prominence
Ajax's domestic stature is in something of a state of flux. When you take over they have been runner-up in the Eredivisie for the last four years, so reestablishing them atop the Dutch league standings is job number 1. Along with that, you will want to make the team a power in Europe again. With the quality of their academy and the young stars in the squad it could well be possible to make Ajax a recognisable threat in the European Champions Cup once again.
Their European Coefficient is only 23rd, which means the club are not the power they used to be. It may not be possible to hold onto the current generation of stars and knockout Real Madrid, but with the quality of youth coming through to the first team you can raise their profile and make some future triumph more possible.
That is the ultimate goal, but a more realistic one for Ajax manager is domestic dominance. Overtaking PSV atop the Eredivisie is how you will be judged by the board, and that is where you should set your sights in the immediate short term.
Full Ajax Player Ratings
|Andre Onana||22||GK||SK||Attack||3.5 star||142-159|
|Joel Veltman||26||D (RC)||WB||Support||3 star||136-141|
|Matthijs de Ligt||18||D (C) DM||BPD||Defend||4 star||144/160-190|
|Lisandro Magallan||24||D (C)||CD||Defend||3 star||136/141|
|Nicolas Tagliafico||25||D (L) WB (L) M (L)||CWB||Support||3 star||141-143|
|Frenkie de Jong||21||D (C) DM M (C)||Regista||Support||3.5 star||144/150-180|
|Donny van de Beek||21||DM M (C) AM (C)||RPM||Support||3 star||133/140-170|
|Hakim Ziyech||25||M (RLC) AM (RLC)||APM||Attack||4 star||150/155|
|David Neres||21||M (RL) AM (RL)||W||Support||3.5 star||134/130-160|
|Dusan Tadic||29||AM (RLC)||IF||Support||4 star||147/149|
|Kasper Dolberg||20||AM (L) ST (C)||DLF||Support||3.5 star||137/140-170|
|Bruno Varela||23||GK||GK||Defend||2.5 star||123/136|
|Rasmus Nissen Kristensen||20||D (R) WB (R) DM M (R)||WB||Auto||2.5 star||120/142|
|Daley Blind||28||D (LC) WB (L) DM M (C)||DLP||Support||3.5 star||139/152|
|Lasse Schone||32||DM M (RC) AM (RC)||DLP||Support||3 star||133/140|
|Zakaria Labyad||25||M (RLC) AM (RLC)||IF||Attack||2.5 star||125/131|
|Vaclav Cerny||20||AM (RL) ST (C)||IF||Attack||2.5 star||116/120-150|
|Klaas-Jan Huntelaar||34||ST (C)||Poacher||Attack||3 star||137/162|
|Noussair Mazraoui||20||D (R) WB (R) DM M (RC)||WB||Auto||3 star||127/130-160|
|Daley Sinkgraven||23||D (L) WB (L) M (LC) AM (LC)||CWB||Support||2.5 star||122/137|
|Hassane Bande||19||AM (RL) ST (C)||IF||Attack||2.5 star||119/130-160|