Football

Ajax Amsterdam dedicate double success to Abdelhak Nouri

Ten Hag's men secure Eredivisie title after winning Dutch Cup

Ajax Amsterdam dedicated their first domestic league title in five years to their former player Abdelhak Nouri, a talented youngster who suffered brain damage after collapsing before a friendly in July 2017.

"Nouri has always been there. It was terrible what happened," Ajax coach Erik ten Hag told Fox Sports after goals by Lasse Schoene, Nicolas Tagliafico and Dusan Tadic (two) saw them defeat De Graafschap 4-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time) to secure a domestic double.

"It does something to a person. The boys were like family to him, that hurts incredibly much."

Veteran defender Daley Blind also paid tribute to Nouri, who used to don the No. 34 jersey, saying: "It's wonderful for him and for his family. This subject is an emotional one.

"A lot of guys have played several games with him. It's nice we can pay him back with the 34th title, that is something extra."

Ajax came into the final match of the season three points clear of closest rivals PSV Eindhoven with a superior goal difference, after they beat Utrecht 4-1 and the defending champions lost 1-0 at AZ Alkmaar on Sunday.

Those results made a first double in 17 years - Ajax won the Dutch Cup on May 5 - a near-certainty, and rendered PSV's 3-1 win over Heracles irrelevant in the end.

Ajax, who captured hearts as their scintillating football took them to the brink of a first Champions League final in more than two decades, nonetheless turned on the style in their final game before their stars are sold in the summer, reported AFP.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong will leave for Barcelona in July for an initial 75 million euros (S$115m), while captain Matthijs de Ligt, who sent Juventus packing with a bullet header in the quarter-finals, could follow his teammate to Catalonia.

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But the 19-year-old told Fox Sports after the match that he did not want to talk about his future.

"I don't know if I will go with Frenkie de Jong. I still have to analyse things and see everything. We'll see what happens," said the centre-back.

De Ligt's move hit a snag when his agent Mino Raiola was handed a three-month ban by Fifa and the Italian football federation.

Marca reported that the uncertainty surrounding Raiola's situation will likely cause de Ligt's move to be delayed.

De Ligt has also been linked with Liverpool, where he would be partnering Holland captain Virgil van Dijk at the heart of defence.

He's not the only one with suitors. After knocking out Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, former Ajax coach Frank de Boer admitted that forwards Hakim Ziyech and David Neres would also all be targeted by Europe's biggest clubs by the end of the season.

Their European adventure ended in gut-wrenching style last week, when Lucas Moura's 96th-minute strike for Spurs saw Ajax throw away a 3-0 aggregate lead and miss out on a trip to Madrid on away goals.

While the make-up of the Ajax team may not be the same next season, the footballing world has not seen the last of these stars.

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