Ajax destroyed Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu with Frenkie de Jong, who joins Barcelona in the summer, playing a starring role at the heart of midfield.
For the first time in 1,393 days, Real Madrid have been eliminated from the UEFA Champions League. A phenomenal run of form that has seen them win three titles in a row – they’re the first side to do so since Bayern Munich in the late 70’s.
Madrid have appeared invincible in this tournament. It’s not that they’ve been the best side around, but they’ve had such a relentless will to win and a capability to simply “pull it out of the bag” at the last minute that no one ever countenanced the fact that they could lose.
But lose they did. Frenkie de Jong stepped up and guided Ajax to an absurd victory. The Dutch side lost the home leg 1-2, yet went to the home of the European Champions and not only beat them, not only thrashed them, but absolutely dominated them. This was just the seventh time in European Cup history that a side have overturned a first-leg home deficit, and two of the previous ones were Ajax! So tonight fits a pattern, sure, but was a spectacular sight to behold.
Dusan Tadic was the star forward, Matthijs de Ligt the rock in defence, but Frenkie de Jong was the architect of Madrid’s demise. The man who designed the death of a dynasty. And to really ram it home, Los Blancos can’t even respond in the way they’d most want to by buying him, because he’s joining their arch-rivals Barcelona in the summer.
The Barcelona connection actually makes the whole thing quite poetic. Back in 1960, Real Madrid had won the first five editions of the European Cup and were looking to get their sixth when they were drawn against Spanish Champions Barcelona in the first round. Improbably, they lost.
Frenkie de Jong’s game by numbers vs. Real Madrid:
100% tackles won
100% aerials won
91% passing accuracy
6 ball recoveries
2 take-ons completed
1 shot blocked
1 foul won
Already got that winning feeling at the Bernabéu. 😏 pic.twitter.com/100ueoXbmU
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2019
Barcelona ended their epic run 59 years ago. And now in 2019, with their back-to-back beatdowns at the Bernabeu leading into De Jong’s masterclass for Ajax that dethroned the three-time winners, Barcelona have done it to their rivals yet again (albeit indirectly). A week ago they knocked them out of the Copa del Rey, at the weekend they pushed them out of the title race and all Madrid had left was the Champions League but unlike in previous years, Frenkie took that away from them as well!
The links between the two clubs go beyond De Jong, as Ajax and Barcelona are inextricably bound by their connection to Johan Cruyff, but they are perfectly expressed through the Dutch youngster. Frenkie is everything good about Ajax, which makes him ideal for Barcelona. And the fact that he’s just destroyed Real Madrid means he will arrive at the Camp Nou already regarded as a legend.
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From the first minute to the last at the Bernabeu, you can see why Barcelona signed Frenkie. Even his major mistake, overplaying on the edge of his own box trying to play the ball out and getting caught in possession, was the kind of mistake Barça “like” their players to make because it shows confidence to play the ball out under immense pressure.
Frenkie’s ability to raise his game to match or surpass the level of his opponents is remarkable. He’s done it in the group stages against Bayern Munich, for the Netherlands against World Champions France, and now against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. This is the kind of mental strength one needs if they’re going to succeed at the Camp Nou.
The match itself was a masterclass. Frenkie won 100% of his tackles, he completed 91% of his passes and made 75 touches, recovered the ball 6 times, made 3 clearances, won 2 take-ons, completed 1 interception and there was possibly a Partridge in a pear tree involved as well.
Luka Modric, FIFA’s “The Best” midfielder in the world, was ritually humiliated on more than one occasion as De Jong skipped by him or dipped away from him with moments of such extreme serenity they recalled Andrés Iniesta in his pomp.
At least Modric was there to contest Frenkie, though. Toni Kroos and Casemiro could barely get close to him on the field. Any time they did, the Dutch wonder would just drop his shoulder and motor by them into space beyond. When Los Blancos would try to up the tempo, Frenkie would just put his foot on the ball and slow things right down again. He was so cool, calm and in control.
Ajax used every bit of Frenkie’s skill-set to beat Real Madrid. The midfielder’s ability to defend transitions at the base of midfield like Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic, whilst also being able to dribble and pass penetratingly like Andrés Iniesta, meant there was no situation Madrid could present him that he wouldn’t be comfortable in.means he can fill any role the Blaugrana want him to next season. New Busquets? New Rakitic? New Iniesta? Whatever they need, he can get it done.
And that’s ultimately what was so impressive about Frenkie de Jong against Real Madrid. He simultaneously beat a world-renowned side, dethroned the three-time-defending European Champions, controlled the tempo of the match for his inspirational young side and then also delivered the perfect audition (or early start) for his next club by dominating and dismissing their arch-rivals in their own back yard.
“I spoke to [Barcelona] when I signed the contract and they told me to try to knock out Real Madrid, as that would be great for Barca too,” De Jong said to De Telegraaf. Well, he did better than that. Frenkie De Jong ended Real Madrid’s season at the start of March and now he gets to make some history with Ajax before moving to Catalunya and dominating at the Santiago Bernabeu every single season.