This season has been an amazing one for Ajax. Ajax had to fight really hard to get where it is right now and that is number one.
Too many times, the prospect of a spot in the highly lucrative Champions League that is important to the financial health of the team was increasingly distant. AZ Alkmaar, FC Twente and PSV Eindhoven dominated the top spots while Ajax lingered below. It was frustrating.
The sign showed that the Dutch Eredivisie was no longer a division dominated by the Big Three: Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV. It has been so far several years now but this season has been the most competitive as far as I remember. AZ and Twente had sealed their reputation. Their previous years performance was not just a temporary luck. It was a permanent boost that made the two deserving of respect.
By mid-season, Ajax was fourth in the Eredivisie, 5 points behind leader AZ Alkmaar and just 2 points above Feyenoord. By the end of February, Ajax was fifth with even Heerenveen was placed above Ajax. The only saving grace was that Feyenoord squatted the sixth rung. Yet, Feyenoord beat Ajax 4-2 in January. The more painful defeat was back in November when FC Utrecht beat Ajax 6 to 4.
Things only started to turn around late in the season as the latter stages of the Champions League and the Europa Cup were underway. Ajax performance in the Champions League and later in the Europa Cup was disappointing. I personally thought Frank de Boer, despite being an Ajax legend and despite his stewardship that brought the title back to Amsterdam in the last season.
But the exit had a silver lining. It allowed the team to focus on the domestic league while others were still busy with European competitions.
It was during this time that PSV did terribly and suddenly found themselves quickly discounted from winning the crown. Ajax meanwhile scored 12 straight wins since February. That included 2 wins against PSV and Twente.
And yesterday, Ajax effectively won the Eredivisie from the 31st time. It is still not official because with two games remaining, only 6 points separate Ajax from Feyenoord. But with over 53 goals difference and Feyenoord having only 29, Ajax definitely can lose the final two games and still win the Eredivisie.
I think the biggest surprise is Feyenoord. The Rotterdammers did very poorly in the last few seasons that it was impossible to hate them. In the last season, Feyenoord finished 10th. This season they may finish second. At worst, sixth. Judging by their fixture, first against Heracles and later Heerenveen, they are unlikely to lose their grip on the second place.
Whatever happening to the Rotterdammers, I am happy. This is the first time in a very long time Ajax won the title in two consecutive years. The last time that happened was in, well, 1995. How appropriate!