Dusan Tadic and Ajax set sights on Juventus after Bernabeu heroics, Latest Football News - The New Paper

Dusan Tadic and Ajax set sights on Juventus after Bernabeu heroics

In the wake of Ajax's stunning victory against holders Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16, the headlines across Europe were mainly about the new golden generation emerging in Amsterdam.

The club of Johan Cruyff, and of Louis van Gaal's side that lifted the trophy in 1995, are into their first Champions League quarter-final since 2003 with a team packed with products of their famed youth system.

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong, aged 21 and headed for Barcelona at the end of the season, and 19-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt are the brightest young stars in a side that triumphed 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu.

However, the most decisive player in this Champions League campaign for Ajax - which continues into tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) quarter-final, first leg against Juventus - is a grizzled veteran by comparison.

Dusan Tadic, 30, scored one of their goals in Spain and now has nine altogether in a continental campaign that started with a second qualifying-round win over Sturm Graz.

The goal apart, the Serbian international's display in Madrid will be best remembered for that moment in the first half when he escaped Casemiro with a sensational turn.

Formerly of Groningen and FC Twente, Tadic came back to Holland in a £10-million (S$17.7m) move from English Premier League strugglers Southampton last year.

His signing, and that of Daley Blind, the defender rejoining from Manchester United, highlighted part of the strategy at the Johan Cruyff Arena.

The club's decision-makers, with former players Edwin van der Sar and Marc Overmars now respectively chief executive and technical director, needed experience to surround the youngsters.

The main goal for Ajax was reclaiming the Dutch title, last won in 2014. Erik ten Hag's team are level with PSV Eindhoven at the top of the table with five games left. They are in the Dutch Cup final, too.

Tadic has scored 20 league goals and added nine assists - those figures make him the most decisive player in Holland since Luis Suarez with Ajax in 2009/10.

"He was signed to be the replacement of Hakim Ziyech but, with the Moroccan playmaker still at the club, the two have struck up a partnership that knows no bounds in terms of creativity," says Michiel Jongsma, a journalist and an editor with sports analysts Opta, covering the Dutch league. - AFP