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A decade back world was a different place. A year of 2001 has been an iconic year and it will be remembered for demise of George Harrison, Sir Don Bradman, Robert Ludlum, horrors of 9/11 and Afghan war which was brought upon us. But it also gave us something to remember.

It happened in Italy. The season of 2001-02 gave us a thrilling chase for The Scudetto. It has been by far one of the best Serie A season in my memory. Of course there have been seasons all over the world where the titles have been decided on the last day. But this season was like no other. After so many twists and turns throughout the season, three teams headed into the final day with a chance to win the title.

With the fate in their own hands Inter, Juventus and AS Roma entered into final day all with a chance to clinch the title. But it was Juve who snatched the title as Inter suffered a dramatic meltdown in Rome.

The world also saw return of El Fenómeno, Ronaldo on the pitch after a lengthy absence of one and half year due to horrific injury. Ronaldo again got injured but regained full fitness just in time to return in last 4 matches for Inter.

Juventus having lost previous two titles to Roma and Lazio by 2 and 1 point were eager to shake up nervousness in the final run in and claim their 26th title. Roma were defending champions and were looking solid under Fabio Capello.

Crazy Transfer Season

With the World Cup looming large in the summer of 2002, Italian teams got super busy in the 2001 summer transfer window. Among 18 teams, staggering 230 players were signed and 198 were transferred out. With an average of 12 players per team signed in and 11 signed out, it surely must’ve been a craziest transfer season.

Juventus sold Zinédine Zidane to Real Madrid for a record fee of €86.5M and paid exuberant €54M to Parma for Gianluigi Buffon, making him world’s most expensive Goalkeeper. Juve also paid Parma €36.5M for Lilian Thuram and also bought Pavel Nedved from Lazio for €41M. Inter certainly had been a busiest team in the League. They actually bought an entire additional squad as an addition to their current players. Have a look at Inter’s second XI below.

Subs: GK Fontana, DF Padalino, MF Guly, Brncic, FW Adriano, Ventola

Lazio bought Manchester United defender Jaap Stam, Valencia midfielder Gaizka Mendieta and the promising Stefano Fiore and Parma bought Japanese superstar Hidetoshi Nakata and goalkeeper Sébastien Frey. AC Milan They bought young Italy U-21 superstar Andrea Pirlo from Inter, and executed a very strange deal with Juventus. Milan had bought youngsters Cristian Zenoni and Massimo Donati from Atalanta, but within hours had sent Cristian Zenoni and cash to Juventus in exchange for Filippo Inzaghi. One of the big sagas of the summer was the destination of new superstar Antonio Cassano, who had Juventus and Roma fighting for his signature. Cassano chose Roma, defending champions.

This merry go round was for the managers as well. After 2 disappointing seasons, Juventus sacked Carlo Ancelotti in the summer and brought back Marcello Lippi from Inter. Inter signed Héctor Cúper from Valencia as their manager. Milan was hoping to not repeat last season’s disappointment, and hired Turkish manager Fatih Terim. He was sacked in midseason and was replaced by Ancelotti. Lazio had fired Dino Zoff in the summer and signed Alberto Zaccheroni.

Fiorentina confirmed Roberto Mancini as their coach but after a run of poor results, sacked him and appointed Ottavio Bianchi. Bianchi too was sacked within 2 months and then was replaced by Luciano Chiarugi. Venezia, Udinese, Leece and Fiorentina all changed coaches during the season. Renzo Ulivieri at Parma was sacked in November and was replaced by Daniel Passarella, but he too was sacked within a month and replaced by Pietro Carmignani.

Season Unfolding

Above four components made the season very interesting. Newly promoted Chievo Verona under Luigi Delneri, stole the hearts of the football lovers and heartbeats of the opponents by their incredible performances. They not only finished 5th in the league, they actually led the league for 5 weeks and were one of the strong contenders for the title.

In the wake of World Cup starting in June 2002, Serie A started in August than usual September.

Juventus’s blistering start

Matchday 1-2

In the season opener Mohammed Kallon and Christian Vieri scored twice to give Inter a 4-1 thrashing of Perugia at Home. In Turin David Trezeguet’s 2 goals in 2 minutes and 2 by Il Capitano Alessandro Del Piero helped Juventus to score 4 unanswered goals against Venezia while Chievo travelled to Florence for their first even top flight game, shocked the world by beating Fiorentina 0-2. Defending champions Roma threw away lead against Chievo’s city rivals Hellas Verona and could only draw 1-1.

Corradi and Cassato scored for Chievo against Bologna at home in Matchday 2. Del Piero and Trezeguet ensured an easy 0-2 away win at Alatanta. Inter conceded an 85th minute equaliser against Parma and salvaged 2-2 draw. Roma’s bad luck continued as they too conceded 90th minute goal against Udinese at home and posted a 2nd consecutive draw.

Matchday 3

In the top of the table clash Juventus hosted Chievo at Stadio delle Alpi and produced a thrilling spectacle. Del Piero had 2 chances within 8 minutes from the start. The deadlock was broken by Chievo through a mistake from Buffon when he spilled the ball from the corner in front of Marazinna and he just slotted the ball in the net. Chievo shocked the Old Lady by taking 0-2 lead within 20 minutes. Tacchinardi’s volley a minute later brought one goal back. Juve then created host of chances and scored an equaliser through Tudor’s header on 40th minute. On the 83rd minute, Marcelo Salas’s chip hit the crossbar and hit the defender’s hand on the rebound. Referee awarded the penalty to Juve which Salas coolly converted. The match ended in 3-2 score line although there could’ve been many more goals.

Inter’s match against Venezia too provided thrilling finish. Inter took a lead through Kallon’s penalty and conceded an 89th minute equaliser. It was Adriano (remember him? Yes, he was signed in the summer from Flamengo for €7M before being loaned out in January) in the injury time pounced on a loose ball when his header was saved and scored a dramatic winner.

Roma slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Piacenza.

 

Flight of “The Flying Donkeys”

Next 6 games were no less than miraculous for Chievo. The Flying Donkeys grabbed 14 points out of 18 available by winning 4 games and drawing 2.

In Matchday 4 they beat Piacenza 4-2, 1-2 victory against Udinese in Matchday 5. In Matchday 7, Chievo could’ve made a history by winning 3 games in a row but they conceded 80th Minute equaliser against Brescia and earned a 2-2 draw. In Matchday 8 Parma was beaten 1-0, In Matchday 9 Chievo put 3 goals past Torino and in Matchday 10 they played out 0-0 draw at Venezia.

AS Roma quietly got on with their business and started a voyage of 24 unbeaten games. Roma too picked up 14 points from maximum 18 available in 6 games.

In Matchday 4, Roma came back from behind to beat Fiorentina 2-1 at home, thanks to Panucci’s 87th minute goal. Matchday 5 was an emphatic 0-2 win against Juventus at Stadio Delle Alpi. After playing a boring 0-0 draw against Perugia, Roma thrashed Leece 5-1 in Matchday 8 at Home. Matchday 9 was a “Derby della Capitale” against Lazio which was won 2-0 by Roma. In Matchday 10 Roma drew 1-1 against Atalanta.

Matchday 4 saw Ronaldo making comeback for the 1st time after a lengthy absence of one and half year due to Injury and 2 operations on his knee. Ronaldo was an unused sub in a 0-1 victory against Torino. He did not feature in 1-0 victory against Bologna and in a 1-1 Draw against Udinese. Matchday 8 was a “Derby della Madonnina” and Inter suffered a humiliating 2-4 defeat in the hands of AC Milan which was their 1st of the season. Next up was a trip to Juventus which ended in a 0-0 draw. Inter recovered from this mini slump and beat Leece 2-0 at home. Ronaldo didn’t feature in any of these 3 games as well.

Juventus however had a miserable run of 6 games in which they could manage to pick up only 5 points. Juve drew with Leece (0-0), Torino (3-3), Bologna (0-0), Inter (0-0), Hellas Verona (2-2) and lost to Roma in the Matchday 5.

 


AS Roma tightened the screws

Matchday 11-15 and 6.

Matchday 6 was played between Matchday 15 and 16.

Roma continued their resurgence and posted 4 wins in a row (1-3 vs. Bologna, 1-0 vs. Vicenza, 1-2 vs. Parma and 1-0 vs. AC Milan), sandwiched between 2 draws (0-0 draw against Inter in Matchday 11 and 0-0 draw in Matchday 6). They picked up 14 out of 18 points and surged up to 3rd place.

Inter too, posted 3 wins in a row in Matchday 12, 13 and 14 against Fiorentina (2-0), Atalanta (2-4) and Brescia (1-3) respectively. In the match against Brescia, Ronaldo played for 66 minutes and opened the scoring for Inter. In Matchday 6 against Hellas Verona, Ronaldo again scored a brace in 3-0 win.

Chievo maintaining their impressive form won 2-0 vs. Perugia and a hat trick of wins in Matchday 14, 15 and 6 against Leece (2-0), Inter (1-2) and Lazio (3-1). They however lost to first ever Verona derby against Hellas Verona 3-2, after squandering a 0-2 lead. Chievo squandered 1-2 lead against AC Milan in Matchday 13 and lost 3-2.

Juventus too, had a series of mixed results. Apart from winning against Parma (3-1), Perugia (2-0) and Piacenza (2-0), Juve drew against Milan and Fiorentina and lost to Lazio (1-0).

Chievo’s 2 defeats saw their lead at the summit reduced to only 1 point and Inter ready to pounce on any slip up. Steady performances by Inter and Roma, Juventus’s erratic form saw them in the 4th place, 7 points adrift of the leaders Chievo.


Old Lady joins the party

Matchday 16-21

Although Juventus were 7 points behind, they were unbeaten in their last 4 games and were firing all cylinders. Juve now had turned the tide. They extended their unbeaten streak to 10 games and posted 6 wins in a row, picking 18 out of 18 points.

In Matchday 16 Juve thumped Brescia 0-4, and Inter defeated Piacenza 2-3. Chievo met Roma at home and were hoping to maintain the lead at the summit. Roma got a corner on the 25th minute and Emerson’s header was heroically saved by the goalkeeper but resulted in another corner. This time Emerson rose again and headed the ball in the net. But in the 53rd minute Roma’s goalkeeper Antonioli got sent off for stupidly bringing down Marazzina on the edge of the box. This sending off galvanised Roma and they scored 2 more goals without a reply. Chievo were comprehensively beaten by the defending champions.

In the next game, Juve put 3 goals past Udinese while Roma and Chievo too got 1-0 and 1-2 victories respectively. Inter’s 0-0 draw at home against Lazio meant Roma take the lead at the top of the table for the first time in the season.

Chievo threw away 2-1 lead against Fiorentina when Adriano (on loan from Inter) scored another 90th minute goal to salvage 2-2 draw for the Violas. Roma hosting Hellas Verona went down 0-2 within 53 minutes through Adrian Mutu’s brace. But an incredible fight back saw Roma equalising through Assunção and Cassano by 63rd minute. Fabio Capello had brought on Gabriel Batistuta for Zebina in the 46th minute. Batigol scored a winner in the 89th minute to maintain Roma’s lead at the top.

Juventus now in top gear, went on to comfortably beat Atalanta (3-0), Chievo (1-3) and Leece (3-0). Roma and Inter could only win once and draw twice while Chievo’s slump had started. They lost twice in a row and drew against Piacenza saw them losing ground to leaders by 7 points.

Matchday 16 saw Ronaldo getting injured again and faced another lengthy term on the sidelines.

Relentless Inter at the Summit

Matchday 22-29

Roma and Juve both hit some sort of mini slump and lost the ground on Inter. In the next 8 games, Inter lost against Bologna (2-1), and then won their next 3 games in a row against Hellas Verona (0-3), Udinese (3-2) and a derby victory against AC Milan (0-1).

Juve meanwhile played a goal less draw against Roma, defeated Fiorentina (2-1), drew 2-2 in the Turin derby against Torino and had beaten Bologna (2-1).

Matchday 26 was between Inter and Juve at San Siro. Clarence Seedorf hit a 30 yard bullet shot in the 6th minute to put Inter ahead. David Trezeguet scored a headed goal in the 13th minute to bring parity. In 81st minute, unmarked Igor Tudor scored a header to put Juventus ahead. But Seedorf had another plans. In the injury time he unleashed another missile in the top left corner, this time from 40 yards. Match ended in a pulsating 2-2 draw.

Roma meanwhile had managed 3 win and 3 draws in their 6 games. After drawing to Juve in the matchday 22, they drew blank again against Brescia. Roma managed to beat Perugia by a solitary goal and drew again to Leece (1-1).

While Inter and Juve were locked in an epic battle at San Siro, Roma played “Derby della Capitale” at Stadio Olimpico against Lazio. Roma annihilated their eternal arch rivals 1-5 in which Vicenzo Montella scored incredible 4 goals.

Blessed by Seedorf’s lifeline, Inter won their next game against Leece (1-2).

Matchday 28 was a top of the table clash between Inter and Roma. Both teams went in the match on same points. Inter mercilessly thumped Roma 3-1 and on the same day Juventus too, lost to Parma after conceding 87th minute goal.

Juve came from behind to draw their next game against Lazio (1-1). While Inter and Roma both posted wins against Fiorentina and Bologna respectively.

This Juventus’ slump pushed them down to the third spot and opened up 6 point gap to the leaders Inter. With 5 games to go in the season and 3 point lead over Roma, it was surely Inter’s title to lose. And it turned out to be exactly that way.

Old Lady’s heat starts a meltdown

Matchday 30-33

What happened next is some sort of miracle.

Old Lady of Turin suddenly woke up from her cocoon and posted 4 wins in a row. First Juve beat Perugia (4-0) and then a lucky own goal by José Antonio Chamot helped them to nick a 1-0 victory against Milan. Juve held on to their nerves and through Pavel Nedved’s 88th minute goal, beat Piacenza (1-0). In the penultimate game against Brescia, a Trezeguet hatrick and Del Piero brace helped them to thump Brescia 5-0. Juve sneaked past Roma into the 2nd spot with this win.

Sluggish Inter lost to Atalanta at home (1-2) but the next game against Brescia saw the return of El Fenómeno to the full fitness. Ronaldo inspired Inter and scored a brace in defeating Brescia 2-1. In the next match against Chievo, Dalmat and Ronaldo put Inter in the lead (1-2) but they went off to sleep in the injury time when unmarked Cossato coolly slotted the ball past Toldo to make it 2-2. Inter woke up by this alarm and then thrashed Piacenza 3-1 in the penultimate game and maintained the lead in the table.

On the other hand, AS Roma recovered from being 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Venezia, defeated Parma (3-1), drew a crucial game against AC Milan 0-0 and in the penultimate game thrashed Chievo (5-0) in which Montella again scored a hat trick. Roma lost a ground on Inter and traded the place with Juve because of these draws.

Capital Meltdown

So after so many twists and turns, on 5th May 2002, all teams entered into the final Matchday for a simultaneous kick off.

The points table and head to head results meant all three teams had an opportunity to win the Scudetto.

Inter had the title in their own hands. A win or same results by all teams would be insuring the title for Inter. But Inter’s draw and Win by Juventus would take the title to Turin. A draw by Inter and Juve but a Roma win would mean Roma will be the Champions. Juventus would have had to better Inter’s result and Roma would have had to better Juventus AND Inter’s result for the championship.

Interestingly all the three teams travelled away from home for the last game. Inter travelled to Lazio (AS Roma’s Rivals), Roma travelled to Torino (Juventus’ Rivals) and Juventus travelled to Udinese. All the three stadiums were packed by Away fans, hoping for their team to clinch the title. All eyes on the ground and ears on their radios, fans sat nervously watching the game.

An interesting factor was developing between Lazio and Inter game. Lazio ultras ‘Irriducibili’ have a strongest friendship with the ultras of Inter. So on the last day many fans of Lazio were supporting Inter, their opposition, hoping they would claim the Scudetto instead of hated rival Juventus and Roma.

What happened on the Matchday can be termed as a Meltdown in Rome.

Juventus’ David Trezeguet opened the scoring with a simple header in the 2nd minute.

Trezeguet’s cross from the left side of the half line on 11th minute, released Alessandro Del Piero in space on the right. Del Piero gave a perfect first touch to the ball and let it roll perfectly in front before unleashing a fierce right foot shot in the bottom corner of the net. 0-2 up.

Title was going to Turin.

Stadio Friuli full of Juventus supporters held on to their breath and switched their ears towards Rome.

Switch to Rome.

12th Minute in Rome. Inter got a corner and the ball was swung in. Lazio keeper Peruzzi rose to claim it but very conveniently spilled the ball in the feet of Christian Vieri, who put the ball in the net and immediately took his shirt off and ran emphatically. 0-1 at Rome.

Title was going to Milan.

19th Minute in Rome. Lazio’s Karel Poborsky pounced on a loose ball in the box and scored for Lazio against the run of play, the plan and mainly the fans. 1-1. Pin drop silence in the stadium. Both sets of fans became unhappy.

Title was again heading towards Turin.

23rd minute in Rome. Inter got a corner after Fernando Couto needlessly put the ball behind. Diego Simeone failed to mark Luigi Di Biagio at the near post and he flicked a header in for a goal. 1-2. Stadio Olimpico erupted.

Title again made a U-turn towards Milan.

45th Minute in Rome. Inter’s Vratislav Greško’s header towards his own keeper fell short and in the feet of charging Karel Poborsky. Poborsky could do nothing but slot the ball into the net. 2-2.

Half Time in the Capital, and the Title was heading towards Turin.

55th Minute in Rome. A free kick to Lazio. Critiano Zanetti failed to mark Diego Simeone and he scored an easy header. 3-2.

Meanwhile Alessando Nesta of Lazio made a goal like clearance. Inter’s hopes were quickly fading into obscurity.

73rd Minute in Rome. Unmarked Simone Inzaghi scored a header past Toldo to make it 4-2. Ronaldo had given his all and was clearly spent. He was substituted in the 77th Minute. Ronaldo had barely made it to the bench and couldn’t keep his emotions and started sobbing.

Inter had blown it up.

News of Inzaghi’s header sent Juve’s supporters in Stadio Friuli into hysteria. Lazio’s ultras were getting unhappy to see their team win.

Meanwhile Antonio Cassano scored for Roma against Turin and that rubbed further salt in Inter’s wounds.

Full time whistle brought happiness in Turin, sorrow in Milan and anger in Rome. Juventus grabbed their 26th Scudetto.

Incredible thing about Juve’s win was they led the table for only 5 weeks. After leading the table for initial 4 weeks, Juve returned to the top only after Matchday 23 before getting knocked down to 3rd place again.

Have a look at their standings after each match day.

Juventus kept their cool while Roma and Inter simply choked up at crucial stages.

This act of betrayal by Lazio players was taken seriously by ‘Irriducibili’ Ultras and they demanded Lazio manager Alberto Zaccheroni to be sacked.

Not only Lazio sacked Alberto Zaccheroni but also transferred two goals scorer Karel Poborsky to Sparta Prague.

After all those wrong things in 2001, the season finale will always be remembered.

Stanley Rous, ex FIFA president had correctly said,

“If this can be termed the century of the common man, then soccer, of all sports, is surely his game…. In a world haunted by the hydrogen and napalm bomb, the football field is a place where sanity and hope are still left unmolested.”

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A look at “Il Perugia dei miracoli” (The Miracle of Perugia) and their unbeaten Serie A season.


Perugia, a province in region Umbria (Central Italy) has given the mankind its greatest gift, Monica Bellucci. It was 1978 when 14- year old Monica began her glamorous career by accepting modeling offers from local enthusiasts; it was also the same year when non glamorous football club from the same province A.C. Perugia Calcio embarked on amazing journey in the club’s history.

Perugia came into limelight during 2002 FIFA World Cup, when Chairman Luciano Gaucci cancelled the contract of South Korean player Ahn Jung-Hwan after he scored a golden goal against Italy to knock them out. He was quoted as saying, “I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football.” He also tried to sign Hanna Ljungberg and Birgit Prinz, two female footballers in his squad.

1978, A year when Franco Baresi made his début for AC Milan at the age of 17 and Paolo Rossi had worked wonders for Vicenza; Perugia became the first team in Serie A to finish the league season undefeated. But it was mighty AC Milan under the legendary captaincy of Gianni Rivera in the final year of his career, that lifted the Scudetto after 11 years.

Background:

Having spent all the years in lower divisions of Italian football, Perugia got promoted to Serie B in 1967-68, when Monica Bellucci turned 3. She turned 10 and they won Serie B title and earned a promotion to Serie A.

Perugia appointed Ilario Castanger, a former Perugia player as their manager in 1974. Under his tactics, Perugia adopted 1-3-2-3-1 formation. They quickly established themselves in the league. In a tragedy in a match against Juventus in 1977, saw midfield dynamo and 24-year old star Renato Curi collapsed due to heart attack and passed away. In the beginning of the season, they sold their forward Walter Novellino to Milan who went on to play in all the Milan’s matches and scoring 4 goals. It was in the 4th year of club’s history in the top flight football, “Perugia dei miracoli” happened.

The Squad:

Perugia used a extremely small squad, using only 16 players throughout the season. Everyone except the 2nd goalkeeper featured in more than 12 matches. In the days of only 1 substitution per game, this is an incredible testimonial to the fitness levels at the club.

Goalkeeper

Nello Malizia (28 games): He had joined Perugia in their historic Serie A promotion campaign in 1974 and stayed till 1982, making 133 appearances.

Defenders

Antonio Ceccarini (29 games): Nicknamed ‘The Tiger’ for his determination and aggression, played on the left side of defence. Ceccarini joined Perugia in 1976 and played till end of his career in 1983.

Mauro Della Martira (29 games): He had joined from Fiorentina in the 1978 season. He made 51 appearances in 2 seasons. He was convicted in Totonero scandal (betting and fixing scandal) in 1980 and got 5 year ban which was reduced to 3 years.

Pierluigi Frosio (24 games): Captain of the team, joined Perugia in 1974 and ended his career with them after 11 years, making 323 appearances. He played as a sweeper.

Michele Nappi (21 games): A rightback joined in 1974 and made 213 appearances for Perugia till his move to AS Roma in 1982. He returned to Perugia after spending 2 seasons in the capital.

Midfielders

Salvatore Bagni (28 games): A right midfielder joined Perugia in 1977. He left for Inter in 1981, having played in 109 matches and scoring 24 goals for Perugia. He played for Italian U-21 while at Perugia.

Cesare Butti (26 games): A central midfielder arrived from Torino in 1978 season and played till 1982, making 114 appearances for the club.

Paolo Dal Fiume (28 games): He formed a strong defensive central midfield partnership with Butti. He was signed from Pergocrema in 1977, remained with Perugia till 1982, making 108 appearances.

Franco Vannini (17 games): Without a doubt a star of the team. He was the fulcrum of Perugia. Signed from Como in 1974, he played in only 17 games in 1978 season. An injury against Inter ended his career. He’d scored 29 goals in 128 matches.

Forwards

Gianfranco Casarsa (28 games): Signed from Fiorentina in 1978 season, he scored 6 times in 60 appearances for Perugia in 3 years.

Walter Speggiorin (26 games): He joined from Napoli in 1977 and rejoined them after 1978-79 season. In his 2 years stay at the club, he scored 17 times n 44 matches. From Serie A’s standards in that era, you can call it as a prolific goal scorer.

The Season unfolding:

* Please note 2 points were awarded for win, 1 for a draw and 0 for a loss.

Perugia and AC Milan ran neck to neck for much of the season. It was AC Milan’s grit and determination to convert losses into draws and draws into wins helped them to clinch their 10th league title. Although Milan lost 3 games in the season compared to Perugia’s 0, they also won 6 more games than Perugia.

Match day 1-10: The season started with Perugia at Home, beating Vicenza 2-0 in which Bagni and Dal Fiume got on the score sheet. In the next game vs. Inter at San Siro, Perugia came back from behind to score an equalizer in the 87th Minute through Marco Cacciatori. In the next two games, Perugia beat Fiorentina 1-0 at home and Juventus 1-2 away. Perugia drew 0-0 against Avellino at home in the next game and in the next two games; they beat Atalanta 0-2 away and 2-0 Ascoli at Home. Match day 8 and 9 ended with 0-0 draws against AS Roma at Stadio Olimpico and Torino at home.

Match day 10 was against AC Milan at San Siro. Franco Vannini hit the post in the 1st minute of the game before opening the scoring in the 3rd minute. But Roberto Antonelli equalized in 62nd minute through 25 yard drive by latching on a beautiful reverse pass by Gianni Rivera.

Milan meanwhile picked up 6 wins, 3 draws and had lost to Juve, scoring 17 goals on the go. Perugia and Milan entered the round 11 with same points, but Milan leading on Goal difference.

Matchday 11-16: Perugia’s early season thrust faded in this period. They drew to Napoli 1-1 at Stadio San Paolo which was their 4th draw in a row. In the next game they beat US Catanzaro 1-0, thanks to Walter Speggiorin’s 62nd minute goal. Perugia squandered one goal lead to Verona in the 88th minute and drew 1-1. Next match against Lazio at Stadio Olimpico ended 0-0. In the next game Perugia, playing at home, posted their biggest win of the season beating Bologna 3-1. It was the first time and only time when they scored 3 goals in a league match. By this time first round of league fixtures got over and reverse fixtures had started. Perugia again drew against Vicenza 1-1.

While Perugia could pick up only 8 points from 6 matches, Milan had collected 10 points by winning 5 matches in a row before surprisingly going down to Avellino on the matchday 16.

Matchday 17: It wouldn’t be wrong to say that this game was a definitive turning point in the way season went on to shape up. Perugia was playing against Inter at Home and Milan was at Home to Roma. Milan having lost the earlier game, Perugia were hoping to close the gap and praying for Roma to inflict another defeat on Milan. Inter were just 2 points adrift of Perugia and were hoping to beat them and swap the positions. Inter had scored 2 goals in the first half through Altobelli and Muraro. Franco Vannini pulled one back in 53rd minute. But later on Adrian Fedele of Inter launched himself into Vannini for a horrific tackle which ended his career. Perugia having to play with 10 men dramatically scored in 92nd minute through Antonio ‘The Tiger’ Ceccarini. This was the only goal of his career of 365 matches.

The injury to Vannini proved pivotal in Perugia’s league campaign as well as history. The club lost its star midfield dynamo and most creative player.

In the other game at San Siro, Milan beat Roma 1-0 with the help of 80th Minute penalty by Roberto Antonelli.

The impact of the Matchday 17 on the standings was like this,

Matchday 18-25: Now it was AC Milan’s turn to slip up. In the next 6 games, Milan and Perugia could pick up only 8 points by winning twice and drew 4 games. Perugia’s run in was certainly tougher than Milan’s. After snatching dramatic draw against Inter, they travelled to Florence and drew 1-1 against Fiorentina before hosting Juventus for another 0-0 draw. In the next 2 games Perugia saw off Avellino 1-0 and Atalanta 2-0, Salvatore Bagni scoring two of those 3 goals. The matchday 24 saw Milan getting beaten by Napoli at San Siro by Valerio Majo’s goal on 40th Minute. But Perugia couldn’t take any advantage of this slip up and only drew 0-0 at Torino. Had Perugia won this game, it would’ve been only 1 point difference rather than existing 2.

Matchday 25 was a reverse fixture between Perugia and Milan at home. Milan took a lead through Stefano Chiodi’s 15th minute penalty. But as soon as the game restarted, referee awarded a penalty to Perugia in the 17th minute which was converted by Gianfranco Casarsa. The game ended in 1-1 draw, which was Perugia’s 4th in a row.

Perugia’s inability to score another goal turned out to be greatest escape for Milan who maintained their 2 point lead going into last 5 games of the season.

Matchday 26-30:

Perugia won the next game 2-0 against Napoli at home and Milan thrashed Torino 0-3 away. Ironically Perugia and Milan’s next two games were against the same teams. Perugia played against Catanzaro and Verona. In both the games they threw away the lead and could only draw the games 1-1. But Milan showed the grit and determination to beat Verona 2-1 and in the next game beat Catanzaro 1-3.

These two consecutive wins by Milan in Matchday 27 and 28 decided the title as they took unassailable 4 points lead over Perugia with 2 fixtures to go. The inferior goal difference and less goals scored had washed away any mathematical chances as well.

That’s it. Perugia had blown it off.

In the next round’s meaningless match against Lazio, Perugia won 2-0 and drew the final game against Bologna 2-2. Milan having already secured the title mathematically played out boring 0-0 and 1-1 draws against Bologna and Lazio.

Matchday 30 saw AC Milan winning the title for the 10th time and acquiring the ‘Star’ above their crest. The Final standing read like this.

There’s an interesting story about Perugia’s last week draw against Bologna.

Italian clubs over the years had maintained the unspoken football rule that you just don’t score near the end of a late-season game which has no meaning for your own side but carries a lot of significance for the other team, which has led to series of dodgy draws and losses in last couple of weeks. Perugia had already lost the title to Milan and had cemented the 2nd spot. They travelled to Bologna, themselves desperate for at least a draw in order to avoid the drop to Serie B.

Most of the fans believed a draw was definitely on the cards, but lack of awareness about such rule led Salvatore Bagni to score twice in the first half and a cloud of despair and disbelief descended on the Stadio Dall’Ara. Before the half had ended, a Bologna defender elbowed Bagni in the face, sending him the message he had gone too far, and when Perugia took the field for the second half Bagni was nowhere to be seen, having been taken off. Inevitably, Bologna scored twice and avoided the drop on goal difference.

Points Tally and League Position after each matchday:

AC Milan had acquired the top spot in the league after the Matchday 2 by 1 point and never surrendered it. Perugia on the other hand, never gave up their 2nd spot in the whole season.

Statistically let’s see how the season actually went.

The ratio of 1.90 goals per game had been lowest in past 5 seasons.

19 draws by Perugia is a record for most draws in a season for any 2nd placed team. They were involved in all the possible scores from the permutation combination of the numbers 0 to 2. Of course since they were undefeated, for the home games the score lines of 0-1, 0-2, 1-2 and for away games 1-0, 2-0, 2-1 are not possible. Take a look at all the scores by Perugia in the season.

10 out of 30 games ended in 1-1 score line and 7 out of those 10 games were played away from home. Also only 3 wins out of 15 away matches speak a great volume about the away form.

Perugia deserves a special mention to have gone through a season without collecting a single card, whether it is yellow or red. This exceptional disciplinary record is a rarity in football, especially in Italian football.

Perugia’s tally of 34 goals in 30 games has been a lowest for any 2nd placed team in the past decade. There’s no doubt that Perugia’s goal shyness was a chief architect for their inability to win the title. Only 9 players contributed to the goal tally of 34.

The goal scoring distribution according to position is gives the real picture of Perugia’s set up and style of play. The Modus operandi had been Possession football. They relied heavily on their Midfielders to surge ahead and get in the box and pounce on the opportunity after a slow build up play.

Perugia only conceded 16 goals in 30 games. Theirs was the meanest defence in the league that season. Next best was AC Milan with 3 more goals conceded. Their defence was so tight that they conceded more than one goal only twice in the season. This is Perugia’s best ever defensive performance in Italian top flight football.

It is true that if you don’t leak goals if you don’t lose matches and you don’t win the matches if you don’t score more goals than other team. But it is also true that if you don’t win championships if you don’t win more matches than the other team.

The comparison is in between Perugia’s performance in last 4 years vs Serie A Champions. We can see in terms of goals scored, on an average of 47 goals per season would’ve won them the League title. Perugia fell short of that mark by 15 goals. Their goal scoring performance was consistent throughout 4 years.

But how AC Milan and Perugia did fared against each other in terms of showing the grit and grinding down the results. I have considered the following type of results for this type of comparison.

  1. Drawing the game from losing position
  2. Coming from behind to win the game
  3. Winning the game from scoring draw situation. I.e. winning 2-1 after 1-0, 1-1.
  4. Throwing the leads and earning only a draw
  5. Outright wins
  6. Losses

Perugia came back in the game and managed a draw more than AC Milan but Rossoneri’s sheer experience and quality all around the park enabled them to convert more wins from draws than Perugia could manage. Milan not only secured 3 more outright wins, they also threw away matches from winning position less often than Perugia.

Maybe because the final point difference between AC Milan and Perugia was only 3 points, it might not show the difference between them. But according to the current system of 3 points per win, the difference would become 61 – 52 = 9; that equals 3 wins.

Just take a look at the difference between the matches in which Perugia and Milan threw away the lead only to salvage the draws. It is exactly of 3 wins.

If Perugia had kept more concentration in 2 matches against Verona when they let the equalizer after 80 minutes and one game against Roma when they gave away the equalizer in injury time, the small provincial team too could have taken a first step on the big stage just like their icon did. Monica Bellucci.

Are you reading La Veccia Signora di Torino?

Russia has successfully launched themselves on to the Football Horizon.The impressive show in Euro 2008 by the National team and direct qualification for Euro 2012 has made them one of the tougher contenders. Also the consistent participation by the Russian Clubs have elevated the football standards in Russia.

Russian Premier League has taken giant strides and as per 2011 Final Rankings, is ranked no. 7 in the UEFA League Rankings, ahead of  Dutch League. (Russian National team is ranked 6th).

Not before long ago, Russian clubs used to survive on their ‘Exports’ to other European clubs, but now with the focus of Russian Oligarchs and their multimillion dollars investment, they have started to become major ‘Importing’ league.

Usually when we talk about Imports, FC Anzhi Makhachkala and their signing of Samuel Eto’o from Inter bumper deal. As per Guardian the Russian club has paid Inter €25m (£21.8m) for the 30-year-old forward and he would be earning €20.5m (£17.9m) after tax per season, making him world’s best-paid footballer. The club had already signed Roberto Carlos, Balázs Dzsudzsák a Hungarian winger from PSV for €14m and Yuri Zhirkov from Chelsea. Recently Anzhi has signed Guss Hiddink as their new manager and have added Christopher Samba from Blackburn. This is not it. In this transfer window, Alexander Hleb, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Andrei Arshavin have also moved to Russia.

Currently in Russian Premier League, out of 394 registered players, 44% are foreigners (175). Also out of 16 teams, 7 have foreign Managers.

This recent upheaval of Football couldn’t go unnoticed by the Media. RPL is being televised in Italy by Sky Sports, Nova Sport telecasts the games in Czech Republic, Canada and Australia are covered by Setanta Sports and ESPN telecasts 2 live games in UK and Ireland. ESPN also telecasts the league in Brazil and in Germany, it is being televised by sportdigital channel.

But this is not exactly the point of discussion here. I’m not talking about Russian Revolution, I’m talking about Russian Evolution.

Until 2010, Russian Premier League used to be conducted in the same calendar year. The league would start in March and end in November, to avoid playing in severe cold and snowy conditions. The teams used get 3 month winter break.

So when European competitions would resume in their knockout phase in March, the Russian teams would often under perform due to lack of competitive match practice. The teams qualified for European competitions would have to wait until next September to compete in those competitions. ie 2010 League will end in 2010 November and the winner will enter in 2011-12 UEFA Champions League which will start in 2011 September.

Also, Russia will be hosting FIFA World Cup Finals in 2018, and The Finals are conducted from Mid June – Mid July. What that means is all the Russian Football leagues will have to be suspended for June and July, postponing minimum 8 league fixtures. These postponement will take drag the League in extreme cold weather conditions of December and January when the minimum temperatures are well beyond -50°C.

To tackle this issue, On September 2010 Executive committee of the Russian Football Union took a decision to change the system of football competition in Russia into so-called «autumn – spring» system. But this switch certainly couldn’t be done in one year.

Thus the season of 2011-12 has been a transitional season in Russian Premier League and it has been stretched over staggering 18-months and 44 fixtures, making it one of longest run league season in football.

The season has been split into two phases.

1st phase: All 16 participating teams will play regular Home – Away schedule of 30 games per team. 1st Fixture was played on 12th March and 30th Fixture on 6th November 2011.

The League table at the end of the phase one was,

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Zenit St. Petersburg 30 61
2 CSKA Moscow 30 59
3 Dynamo Moscow 30 55
4 Spartak Moscow 30 53
5 Lokomotiv Moscow 30 53
6 Kuban Krasnodar 30 49
7 Rubin Kazan 30 49
8 Anzhi Makhachkala 30 48
9 Krasnodar 30 38
10 Rostov 30 32
11 Terek Grozny 30 31
12 Volga Nizhny Novgorod 30 28
13 Amkar Perm 30 27
14 Krylia Sovetov Samara 30 27
15 Spartak Nalchik 30 24
16 Tom Tomsk 30 20

2nd phase: The league has been split in to 2 groups of 8 teams. The teams will play Home – Away against each team from their respective group. Thus each team will play 14 additional fixtures. Fixture 31-32 were played in the 3-4th week of November before the League took a winter break and resumed on 3rd March 2012.

In the 2nd phase, 8 teams in the Championship Group will play for The Championship. Also winner will get a direct group stage place in 2012-13 Champions League, while the runner-up will be placed in 3rd Qualifying round, 3rd, 4th and 5th placed teams will get place in Play-off round, 3rd Qualifying round and 2nd Qualifying round of 2012-13 Europa League.

The Championship Group as on 12th March 2012 is,

Pos Team Pld Pts
1 Zenit St. Petersburg 34 67
2 CSKA Moscow 34 61
3 Dynamo Moscow 34 59
4 Spartak Moscow 34 59
5 Lokomotiv Moscow 34 57
6 Rubin Kazan 34 57
7 Anzhi Makhachkala 34 56
8 Kuban Krasnodar 34 51

Similarly in the Relegation Group, at the end of the league season teams in 7th and 8th place will be directly relegated to 2012-13 National League Championship, while 5th and 6th placed teams will have to play against 3rd and 4th placed team from 2011-12 National League Championship in the promotion / relegation playoffs.

The Relegation Group as on 12th March 12 is,

Pos Team Pld Pts
9 Krasnodar 34 45
10 Rostov 34 39
11 Terek Grozny 34 38
12 Amkar Perm 34 37
13 Volga Nizhny Novgorod 34 31
14 Krylia Sovetov Samara 34 31
15 Spartak Nalchik 34 27
16 Tom Tomsk 34 24

This long winding season will come to an end on 13th May 2012 when all the teams will kick off simultaneously for their 44th League Fixture.

Once the league season is over in May, the national team will be playing in Euro 2012 and starting from 2012 football seasons, Russian Premier League will be played in a synchronized with Europe manner: starting in late July and finishing in May.

With 10 games to go in the longest league season, more twists and turns are guaranteed before we finally see the trophy being lifted after 18 months.

Patience always bears the sweetest fruit.

We all love football. We have our favorite teams and we buy their jerseys to show the support. We value those jerseys (due to the sentiments associated with the clubs and maybe due to the incredible high cost we have to pay for them). We also buy the jerseys of our national teams (and sometimes jerseys of other national teams too).

We worship our stars on the pitch and we buy the jerseys having their name on the back.

But what about the front? Do we notice the changes? Other than changing the design and the sponsors, something else changes too.

The STARS.

Sometimes it gets added above the badge for the first time, and sometimes it gets added to the existing one.

Do we really know what is the significance of those stars?

It is pretty obvious when it comes down to the national teams and the stars above their badges. When you win a world cup, you add a star.

Brazil can take the credit for being the first team to add the stars for the World Cup wins. After winning their 3rd World Cup in 1970, they added 3 stars above their badge, Italy followed them after 1982 and now it is being followed by all the World Cup winning nations.

As per the FIFA, section 18.2 in the Equipment Regulations for FIFA competitions, “Those Member Associations that have won the FIFA World Cup may put a symbol on the playing shirt representing this accomplishment and the number of times won.”

Have a look at the table below.

National Team Title(s) represented Number of stars
 Brazil World Cup 5
 Italy World Cup 4
 Germany World Cup 3
 Uruguay World Cup and Olympics 2+2
 Argentina World Cup 2
 England World Cup 1
 France World Cup 1
 Spain World Cup 1

Here, a question arises, Why Uruguay are allowed to don 2 stars for their Olympic Gold Medals?

Uruguay won the Olympic Gold Medals in 1924 and 28. Since FIFA hosted its first edition of World Cup in 1930, Uruguay consider their Gold Medals equivalent to the World Cups. Uruguay’s jersey for 1930 World Cup had 2 stars above their crest. They added 2 more stars after their consecutive World Cup wins in 1930 and 1950 (they did not participate in 1934 and 38 World Cup).

Apart from these World Cup winners, African teams like Egypt (7-Stars), Cameroon and Ghana (4-Stars each) and Tunisia (1-star) have added the stars in order to commemorate African Cup of Nations titles.

The style of including the stars was adopted by the clubs much later compared to National teams. In 1950, Colombian outfit ‘Once Caldas’ modified their badge to include 1 silver star after their first Premiera A victory. Now Caldas’ badge dons 4 silver stars within their badge for 1 league title teach. Caldas had won the Copa Libertadores in 2004, and since then have added 1 gold star over the badge.

Juventus, however can brag the rights of introducing this trend in the Europe. Juve added one gold star above their badge in 1958 to celebrate their 10th Serie A title. Italian league adopted this concept of awarding 1 star for 10 league titles. Now Juve have 2-stars above their crest for their 27 League wins. After Juve, Inter added 1-star above their crest after winning 10th Serie A title in 1966. AC Milan clinched their 10th title in 1978-79, they too adopted 1 star.

Many European countries have now adopted the system of awarding one star for every 10 league titles. Notable star winners (for 10 titles) are in the table below.

Team Country

No of stars

Rangers Scotland

5

S.L. Benfica Portugal

3

R.S.C. Anderlecht Belgium

3

AC Sparta Prague Czech Republic

3

Olympiacos Greece

3

Rapid Vienna Austria

3

PFC CSKA Sofia Bulgaria

3

Ajax Netherlands

3

Rosenborg Norway

2

APOEL Nicosia Cyprus

2

KF Tirana Albania

2

Steaua Bucharest Romania

2

Dynamo Kyiv Ukraine

2

Ferencvárosi TC Hungary

2

Helsingin Jalkapalloklubi Finland

2

Partizan Belgrade Serbia

2

FC Basel Switzerland

1

Saint-Étienne France

1

AIK Sweden

1

Maccabi Haifa Israel

1

Wisla Kraków Poland

1

Shamrock Rovers Ireland

1

Turkey, however have adopted a system of awarding 1 star per 5 League titles. Thus eternal rivals Galatasaray and Fenerbahçe, both share 3 stars.

The concept of German stars is entirely different. In 2004, Germany introduced the honor of “Verdiente Meistervereine” (distinguished champions clubs). In Germany the practice is to award one star for three titles, two stars for five titles, three stars for ten titles, and four stars for twenty titles. But they consider the titles only since the establishment of the Bundesliga, which was in 1963-64. Any league titles won prior to that season haven’t been considered for stars. Hence, the stars table in Germany looks like this,

Team Bundesliga Titles Stars
Bayern Munich

21

4

Borussia Mönchengladbach

5

2

Borussia Dortmund

4

1

SV Werder Bremen
Hamburger SV

3

VfB Stuttgart

The controversy aroused, when former East German side Berliner FC Dynamo claimed that since they had been East German Premier League Champions for 10 seasons in a row, they needed 3 stars to be awarded to them. The DFB initially refused this claim to recognize anything but the Bundesliga, but eventually allowed teams who have won the titles prior to the Bundesliga and in East German League to wear 1-star. But the teams who have been awarded stars for the Bundesliga titles, can’t add this star to the current tally. For eg, Borussia Dortmund have won total 7 German championships, out of which 4 have been since Bundesliga inception. Hence although according to the German star system, they should get 2-stars, Dortmund will wear only 1-star as a star awarded for the earlier victories can’t be added.

Although the Americans have a simple system of 1-Star per MLS Cup title, the twist to this system is, a team can add a star to their crest only after 2 years of winning the MLS Cup. The defending champions will have to wear MLS Cup badge for one season before adding a new star to their club crest. DC United are leading in US and have added 4th star to above their crest in 2006 after wining the MLS Cup in 2004.

I’m sure you must be thinking about the missing nation from the Euro list.

Yes. England.

To begin with England has no standardized system for the stars. The table below illustrates the few teams in England who have adopted the stars above their crest.

Team

No of Stars

Reason
Bury

2

For winning FA Cups in 1900 and 1903
Burnley

2

For winning English First Division titles in 1921 and 1960
Nottingham Forrest FC

2

Silver Stars for Winning European Cups in 1979 and 1980
Ipswich Town

3

For winning English First Division (1962), FA Cup (1978), UEFA Cup (1981)
Huddersfield Town FC

3

For winning English First Division titles in 1924,25 and 26
Aston Villa FC

1

For winning European Cup in 1981

Manchester United have worn a single star in their special European kit between 1997-1999. After winning the Champions League in 1998-99, United added one more star to their European kit for 99-00 season.

Liverpool likewise, wore 4-stars over their crest for 2001-03 Champions League games and have added 5th star to their Champions League kit after winning in 2004-05.

In Scotland, Celtic have added 1-star for winning European Cup in 1967 and Aberdeen have added 2-stars for winning European Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup in 1983. Red Star Belgrade in Serbia have added 2-stars for winning European Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 1991. Marseille too sport 1-star over their crest for winning the Champions League in 1993.

Instead of giving stars, UEFA have introduced two special badges to be worn.

1) Multiple Winner Badge: This badge has been introduced in 2000-01 for clubs who have been awarded the trophy permanently (for winning 5 Champions Leagues or 3 in a row). This badge is to be worn on the left sleeve. Only Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Liverpool and AC Milan can wear this badge.

2) Title Holder Logo: Other 31 teams in the Champions League wear a Star-Ball Badge on their right sleeve. But the Defending Champions will wear a special badge on the right says Champions and the Year and stars of from ball of the Champions League Logo will be illuminated.

While all these teams above have adopted stars to represent illustrious history, there are Oil dipped Manchester City, who also don 3 stars above their crest just to give them a continental feel. Ah! Come On..

The 2014 FIFA World Cup will see another star being added to some crest. Barcelona have a fantastic chance to win the Champions League for the 5th time and sport both the special Badges for the next year.

If you don’t believe in the article above, go to Google Images and search for the crests for all these teams mentioned. 😛

Ajax is without a doubt, one of the greatest clubs in European football. Just a look at the achievement numbers will make your eyes roll.

30 League championships, 18 KNVB Cups, 7 Johann Cruijff Shields has made them most successful club in Holland. Furthermore with the haul of 2 Intercontinental Cups, 4 European Cups, 1European Cup Winners Cup, 2 UEFA Cups and 2 UEFA Super Cups, Ajax has elevated themselves as one of the premier clubs in the Europe.

And we know the reason behind it.

Ajax Youth Academy named De Toekomst, which literally translates as The Future is a foundation on which whole success structure has been built. The Academy recruits children, put them through hard training for years and shape them up into better players. Some of them make it into first team and shine well. Year after year Ajax keeps on selling their academy players from their first team to other European giants for enormous sum so that it can cover the expenses towards running the academy.

They have produced superstars in every decade. The 70’s has seen Johann Cryuff, there was Marco van Basten in the 80’s, Dennis Bergkamp in the 90’s and Wesley Sneijder in 10’s. There are literally hundred odd players which have come through the De Toekomst and shone on the big stage of football. In the current Ajax team, 22 out of 35 have come through the youth academy. Last season the number of players who had come through academy was 24 out of 35.

Look at the table at 2011-12 squad of Ajax.

Name

Position

Ajax Youth

Span

Apps

Kenneth Vermeer

GK

Y

1999–2005

32

Jeroen Verhoeven

GK

Y

0

Gregory van der Wiel

DF

Y

1996–2007

21

Toby Alderweireld

DF

Y

2004–2008

30

Jan Vertonghen

DF

Y

2003–2006

31

Vurnon Anita

DF

Y

1999–2005

34

André Ooijer

DF

Y

1986–1994

9

Nicolai Boilesen

DF

Y

2010–2011

7

Daley Blind

DF

Y

1998–2008

16

Ruben Ligeon

DF

Y

2000-2011

4

Ricardo van Rhijn

DF

Y

2002-2008

9

Dico Koppers

DF

Y

2003-2011

8

Christian Eriksen

MF

Y

2008–2009

34

Siem de Jong

MF

Y

2005–2007

29

Derk Boerrigter

MF

Y

2005–2006

19

Lorenzo Ebecilio

FW

Y

2005–2010

20

Aras Özbiliz

FW

Y

10

Jody Lukoki

FW

Y

7

Davy Klaassen

FW

Y

2004-2011

7

Lesley de Sa

FW

Y

2002-2011

1

Jasper Cillessen

GK

N

6

Bruno Silva

DF

N

0

Eyong Enoh

MF

N

23

Theo Janssen

MF

N

28

Nicolás Lodeiro

MF

N

18

Thulani Serero

MF

N

10

Ismaïl Aissati

MF

N

8

Miralem Sulejmani

FW

N

31

Kolbeinn Sigþórsson

FW

N

11

Dmitry Bulykin

FW

N

21

Mounir El Hamdaoui

FW

N

0

 But since last few years, Ajax is no longer a dominating force in Europe as they used to be earlier. Domestically too, they has been able to win the league only 3 times in the last 10 years. As only League winner gets a direct entry in the Champions League and runner up gets a playoff spot, Ajax are feeling the pressure to finish in the top two.

The problem is, after selling Wesley Sneijder to Real Madrid in 2007-08 for exuberant € 27 million, Ajax hasn’t been able to produce that kind of talent. From the recent squad, till now only Gregory van der Wiel and Christian Eriksen have been linked with a move to the bigger clubs.

Let’s look at all the players from the academy that has been sold to other clubs by Ajax in last 4 years.

Name

Position

Season

Type

Fee

Sergio Padt

GK

2011-12

Sell

€ 300,000

Maarten Stekelenburg

GK

2011-12

Sell

€ 6,3 million

Jeffrey Sarpong

MF

2010-11

Sell

€ 200,000

Urby Emanuelson

MF

2010-11

Sell

€ 1,7 million

Thomas Vermaelen

DF

2009-10

Sell

€ 12 million

Rydell Poepon

FW

2008-09

Sell

€ 1 million

John Heitinga

DF

2008-09

Sell

€ 12 million

John Goossens

MF

2008-09

Sell

€ 900,000

* Free transfers have not been considered.

The figure of €34.4 million that Ajax has earned over last 4 years by selling their players may look impressive. But income from the sale of non academy players has been € 54.5 million.

Name

Position

Season

Type

Fee

Demy de Zeeuw

MF

2011-12

Sell

€ 6 million

Luis Suárez

FW

2010-11

Sell

€ 26,5 million

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

FW

2008-09

Sell

€ 27 million

* Free transfers have not been considered.

Thus for each of these 8 academy players that have been sold, Ajax has managed to get €4.3 million only comparing to €18.67 million for each of those 3 non academy players.

Ajax traditionally has never been a buying club. Instead they rely on their Academy to bring the kids through the ranks and giving the exceptionally talented youngsters a chance to make their dream come true, by giving promoting in the first team.

Although more than 62% of the players in the Ajax roster have come from the academy, they have spent € 63.8 million over 27 players, out of which 11 were free transfers. Almost 1/4th money has been spent in this season. That means Ajax has paid almost €4 million for each of these 16 bought players.

Another problem is, Ajax hasn’t been able to produce any quality strikers through their academy. In last 2 decades Ajax had produced classic forwards like Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert. Last time any academy striker had scored maximum goals in the league, was in 1992-93 when Dennis Bergkamp had scored 26 goals. In this season, number of goals scored by all the ‘Dutch’ Strikers from the Ajax Academy are 3 (Lesley de Sa, Davy Klaassen and Lorenzo Ebecilio have scored 1 each). This lack of firepower by the academy strikers mean Ajax had to go in the transfer market to buy them. So out of those € 63.8 million, they’d spent € 25.75 million on the strikers.

The academy is of no use if it produces only trick stars, or ball magicians who are indulged in solo performances. Instead they have to produce more players who can successfully adapt to the team work and who are ready to put team’s interest before individual glory.

Any club’s youth academy’s success is measured by how many of those kids go on to contribute significantly to the success of the first team and from that first team, how many of those represent the national team.

A kind of cold conveyer belt means this blip has reflected on Ajax’s representation in the national squad as well. Since a very long time, none of the Ajax players have been called for Holland’s friendly against England. Similarly in a recent U-21 squad of Holland, there are no Ajax players.

This whole exercise reflects that in order to negate the expenses occurred in purchasing other players, Ajax has to keep on selling their star non academy players as well. This vicious cycle will not be slowed down till Ajax produces a streak of domestic league titles
and improved performances in the Champions League.

All the players do have a dream to play in the Champions League and Ajax has to deliver on that front. Progression in the Champions League will ensure more money is guaranteed through TV deals, sponsorships and gate receipts. Once you have adequate money, you no longer need to sell your best players and buy mediocre also rans from the other teams. By capturing the success on the pitch, the team can be built around those young stars and also attract more natural talent for the team as well as the academy.

All I can say, future of Ajax is in the hands of ‘The Future’.