What Became Of Ajax ’95 (Part 3)
Welcome to the third and final part of this series looking at the victorious Ajax side of the 1995 Champions League final. The latter part of this piece looks at the substitutes on the night, but firstly the forward trio which was somewhat cosmopolitan in comparison to the rest of the side.
Marc Overmars: Currently a member of the backroom staff at his first ever club Go Ahead Eagles, he is also involved in the building trade, more specifically with a project entitled Drain4You.
The winger retired in 2004, however he hit the headlines in 2008 having returned to professional football as a player with Go Ahead at the age of 35. Upon retirement Overmars had continued to train with the Go Ahead players and ex Oranje team mate Paul Bosvelt once a week. His one season comeback was sparked by an impressive showing during Jaap Stam’s testimonial (in which six of the Ajax ’95 final team made an appearance) when up against defender George Ogararu (of Ajax at the time).
Having had spells with Go Ahead Eagles and Willem II Overmars arrived at Ajax in 1992. He enjoyed a five year period with the Amsterdammers which was the most successful time of his career, scooping three Dutch league titles, The Champions League and European Super Cup amongst others.
Missing out on Euro ’96 with The Netherlands (for whom he won 86 caps) due to a serious knee injury, it was a considerable gamble for Arsene Wenger to bring the player to Arsenal, where he was affectionately nicknamed Roadrunner by supporters. The £5.5 million gamble paid off, with Overmars becoming a key player in the side which won a Premier League and FA Cup double in his first season at the club. The only further silverware he added in North London prior to a £25 million pound transfer to Barcelona was the following season’s annual curtain raiser, The Charity Shield.
Arriving in Spain, Overmars was at the time the most expensive Dutch player in history, unfortunately for him he was not to add any further honours to his list during a four year stint at the club which saw him make just shy of 100 appearances.
Finidi George: In November 2010 Finidi was appointed as Director of International Football at Real Betis. The former Nigerian International will be expected to use his footballing knowledge and vast web of contacts to bring fresh talent to the club from all around Europe and particularly Africa.
After playing for three clubs in his homeland Finidi arrived at Ajax alongside his compatriot Nwankwo Kanu, going on to win the Eridivisie three times as well as The Champions League before moving to Spain with Real Betis, the place where he called home for four years.
The wingers’ previous success at club level proved a hard act to follow, only adding a Spanish Cup runner’s up medal (‘96/’97) to his collection for the remainder of his career which also saw moves to Mallorca, Ipswich and back to Mallorca again before retiring in 2004.
Winning the African Nations Cup in 1994 and playing in two World Cup’s (USA ’94 & France ’98) Finidi was awarded 62 caps for Nigeria.
Jari Litmanen: The 39 year from Finland currently dons the number 10 shirt of hometown club FC Lahti, recently rolling back the years by scoring a spectacular overhead kick in a match against AC Oulu. Clips of this goal were seen by thousands as it sprung up on numerous football websites, not content with this Litmanen hit the headlines once more after scoring in Finland’s 8-0 defeat of San Marino in November. This goal made him the oldest player ever to score in a European Championship Qualifying match.
Inheriting the Ajax number 10 shirt vacated by Dennis Bergkamp who had left for Inter Milan, Litmanen spent 7 years in Amsterdam winning 4 Dutch Championships and 3 Dutch cups (to go with his Champions League winners medal of ‘95) this was to be the most successful period of his career with the remainder blighted by injury.
A two year stint at Barcelona was followed by a move to Liverpool and although he was part of the 2001 squad that won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup treble, injury prevented his involvement in any of these finals.
His second coming at Ajax was never destined to be as successful as the first, the highlight of this spell being progression to the Quarter Finals of the 2002/03 Champions League.
Three players of different backgrounds, all of whom moved to England at some point in their career’s with somewhat differing levels of success. Unable to break the deadlock in the final, this brings us to the substitutes who made an appearance on the night.
There were two substitutes made by Ajax during the course of the final, one of these provided the inspiration for this article (mentioned in part 1) and the other scored the winning goal (85th minute), providing the Ajax team of 1995 with a lasting legacy.
Nwankwo Kanu: The Nigerian who has literally touched the hearts of many having set up the Kanu Heart Foundation in July 2000 currently finds himself playing in the second tier of the English league with Portsmouth having been relegated from The Premier League with the club last season. The highlight of Kanu’s time at Pompey being his winning goal in the 2008 FA Cup final against Cardiff, this netted him a career third FA Cup winner’s medal.
Kanu made 54 appearances for Ajax before a brief spell at Inter Milan which was marred by a heart scare for which he had to undergo surgery. A stint in North London with Arsenal was to follow. It was here that he won both The Premier League and FA Cup twice (one cup double) and is still fondly remembered for scoring a spectacular goal against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in 1999. Shimmying past goalkeeper Ed De Goey and slotting home from almost the byline, the goal was made even sweeter by the fact that this was his third in 15 minutes, winning the game for Arsenal who were previously 2-0 down.
A spell at West Bromwich Albion before his transfer to Portsmouth, Kanu can also add domestic league titles, a UEFA Super Cup and an Intercontinental Cup with Ajax, a UEFA Cup with Inter, an Olympic Gold medal with Nigeria (84 caps) and a brace of African Footballer of the Year awards to his honours list.
Replaced Seedorf on 54 minutes.
Patrick Kluivert: The Dutchman is currently employed as assistant coach at NEC Nijmegen of the Eridivisie, signing a contract for the 2010/11 season this is his first full time coaching role having obtained his professional coaching badges at the close of 2009. Kluivert completed his 15 month traineeship to obtain said badges with the PSV youth team having initiated the course as a youth team coach with AZ Alkmaar.
Born in Amsterdam Kluivert joined the Ajax youth academy aged seven. By the time he had departed for AC Milan in 1997 following in the footsteps of boyhood idols Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten he had won a Champions League, two Eredivisie titles, two Dutch Super Cups and two European Super Cups with the senior team.
Despite being reunited with some of his former team mates (Davids, Reiziger and Bogarde) at Milan he was unable to relive past glories in his one season at the club, culminating in a tenth place finish in Serie A.
Moving to Barcelona in 1998 the striker was this time reunited with his former coach at Ajax, Louis Van Gaal. A successful first season in Spain saw the Catalan giants defend their crown as champions of the domestic league. That La Liga trophy was to become the only piece of silverware Kluivert would win with the club during six years at Camp Nou.
A series of one year stints plagued by injury at Newcastle United, Valencia and PSV where Kluivert was to add another Eridivisie title to his tally all preceded his final year at Lille where he retired in 2008.
Still the all time leading goalscorer for the national side with 40 goals Kluivert went full circle, joining the compatriots he once idolised as a boy on the FIFA 100 list named by Pele in 2004.
Replaced Litmanen on 69 minutes.
Two great strikers of the modern game with vastly differing playing styles, both chose to move on from Ajax to the San Siro, albeit one choosing blue stripes and the other one red. With Kluivert going on to become Barcelona’s all time top scorer since the 50’s with an incredible 90 goals in 182 appearances it is perhaps a shame that he didn’t follow Kanu to the Premier League sooner.
Finally, a brief look at the unused substitutes on the night.
Fred Grim: Now aged 45 Grim currently finds himself working as Youth Goalkeeping Coach at Ajax.
Winston Bogarde: The former Dutch defender who made 20 appearances for his country is now coming to the end of a coaching course which will see him obtain a UEFA Pro Licence.
Peter Van Vossen: The former striker who earnt 31 Oranje caps is now Assistant Manager at Dutch second tier club RBC Roosendaal, contracted to the role until June 2011.
Such a wonderful group of individual talent, such a brilliant team under the stewardship of Louis Van Gaal it would have been impossible to predict the future success stories of each of these player’s despite their remarkable abilities.
I hope that you have enjoyed this series and it has provided you with some insight into this triumphant side, if you wish to contact me for anything be it questions or feedback please get in touch on twitter @itbeganin1992 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.