Neil Humphreys: Ajax Amsterdam's upset a victory over game's greed
Dutch kids prove money can't buy victory
Those pesky Ajax Amsterdam kids are typical teenagers.
They don't do as they're told. They're making it up as they go along and threatening to throw Planet Football off its axis.
The Dutch were supposed to lose. They had one job to do against Juventus yesterday morning (Singapore time) and that was to respect their elders and bow at the altar of greed.
Cash is king in the Champions League. And no one has more cash than Cristiano Ronaldo, so he rules over the continent like a rich heir with slick hair.
Five Champions League titles were expected to become six.
But Ajax achieved something inspirational in Turin, something beyond their unexpected 2-1 win. They turned the natural order upside down.
Wealth didn't win.
Money didn't buy Juve a place in the final four. Genuine idealism triumphed over the annual shopping sprees of Europe's most gluttonous autocrats.
Holland's emphasis on youth development and constant attacking, pioneered by Total Football advocates in the '70s and then exported to the world via Johan Cruyff's Barcelona, has somehow prevailed in today's Champions League.
It's a mission so impossible that Tom Cruise might as well be sitting alongside coach Erik ten Hag in the dugout.
The Ajax model isn't new, for either club or country.
They reached the semi-finals in 1997 with a similar style and PSV Eindhoven made the final four in 2005 - the last Dutch side to do so until yesterday.
But to compare eras is to compare apples and oranges, or an entire apple orchard with the Oranje. The gap in resources is simply too vast.
Ronaldo was bought to win the Champions League for a fee of 100 million euros (S$153m) - about 10m euros more than Ajax's annual revenue.
The Dutch club's total wage bill is four million euros less than what the Juve striker makes before tax. He's literally worth more than the entire team that defeated him.
But it was a treat to watch an effervescent side skip around bulging wallets to throw every cliche out with the Old Lady of Turin.
To get a taste of the hypocrisy, just consider the fallout from Manchester United's exit on the same day.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the manager hired on the promise of a return to the "United Way" of youth development and endless attacking (in other words, the template laid down by Ajax) now needs money, pots of the stuff.
It's £200 million (S$354m), no, £300 million, no, it's half a billion, according to any number of features calling for Solskjaer to follow the same path as Jose Mourinho, Louis van Gaal and almost every other manager currently operating at the rarefied levels of blank-cheque football.
But Ajax have ridiculed such lazy thinking by bridging the rich-poor divide with a long-term philosophy rather than a panic-stricken dash around the transfer market.
Matthijs de Ligt, who scored the match-winner, is an academy graduate. He's also the 19-year-old captain of a Champions League semi-finalist.
Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are both in their early 20s and still struggling to turn teenage potential into pedigree, which was arguably the fault of English Premier League managers not blessed with Ajax's indifference to birth certificates.
Age is an irrelevance. Ability trumps all other considerations.
Six of Ajax's starters were 23 or under, many of whom would struggle for game time in the English Premier League.
The likes of Chelsea are criticised for not nurturing their academy graduates with enough first-team opportunities.
Ajax fielded four against Juve (five if Daley Blind is included, a 29-year-old veteran once written off at United, but now indispensable at centre-back).
Ajax's homegrown talents aren't just selected. They are liberated, sent out with like-minded recruits to wreak havoc, loosely following a fluid concept of total football and zero fear.
Brazilian David Neres, 22 and Moroccan Hakim Ziyech, practically an old man at 26, operated either side of their star turn, Donny van de Beek.
He nipped between Juventus' household names like a squirrel scampering between statues in a park, playing with a confidence that was contagious. He turns 22 today.
Ajax weren't overawed by their opponents, the venue or the occasion, swopping passes as if they were schoolmates knocking a ball around, which they essentially were.
As their academy forged close relationships, the kids developed a telepathic understanding that is never guaranteed in the transfer market.
It is an understanding that has seen them hold Bayern Munich twice in the group stage (1-1 away and 3-3 at home) and guided them past Real Madrid at the Bernabeu (4-1) and Juventus at the Allianz Stadium.
Those clubs had superior bank balances, but an inferior concept.
Whatever happens next, Ajax have already defeated the idea that the road to Champions League glory must always be paved with gold.