After both teams drew a blank on the first leg of their European Cup semi final clash, Ajax FC entertained a strong Bayern Munich side at home knowing that 90 minutes separated their team from their first European Cup final since 1973. Bayern, with a host of stars including German internationalists Markus Babbel, Thomas Helmer and Mehmet Scholl, were favourites to progress against a talented but youthful Ajax squad. In an epic match that saw both teams give 100% commitment to every tackle, Ajax came out on top with a 5-2 win that sent them through to the final in Vienna against AC Milan.
Milan, having beaten PSG both home and away to progress, went in as slight favourites and rightly so. With a squad featuring Paolo Maldini, Demetrio Albertini, Zvonimir Boban and Daniele Massaro, Milan had coasted to the final without conceding a goal from the quarter finals onwards. However, the signs that this Ajax team could beat Milan were there from the group stages where the two had already locked horns in group D with Ajax winning both times by a two goal margin.
After a thrilling match, Ajax scored the only goal of the game in the 85th minute through 18-year-old substitute striker Patrick Kluivert, on for Jari Litmanen, and held on to win and crown Ajax champions of Europe. This was their finest hour, not only because of the teams they had beaten along the way but by the way they had played, especially for such a young squad. The achievement itself was even more remarkable as the squad was built of mostly local talent, all eager to impress and build a name for themselves. Even with Dutch legend Frank Rijkaard returning to the team at the age of 32, the average age of the squad was still only 23.
At the age of 25, Edwin Van Der Sar was one of the oldest members of the team, having been in the first team for the past 4 years. A towering goalkeeper at 6 ft 5 inches, Van Der Sar (picture below) was a crucial part of the 1995 season, picking up the Best European Goalkeeper award of that year.
The defence, either as a straight back 4 or as a central 3 was a combination of youth and experience. At right back, Michel Reiziger was a constant, no-nonsense defender who had broken into the first team at the age of 17 and become a regular in the side since then. In the final in 1995, the then 22-year-old played as the right-sided defender along side Danny Blind (centre) and Frank De Boer (Left). Blind, 33, was an experienced centre half who was brought to Ajax in 1986 by then manager Johan Cruyff to add much-needed steel. Completing the back three was the younger twin brother of Ronald Be Boer, Frank. The solid left-sided defender (picture below) came through the youth ranks in the late 80’s and by 1995, the 25-year-old was a permanent fixture in the team.
In midfield, the trio of Davids, Seedorf and George provided the Ajax strikers with the supply and the flair needed for them to win games. Davids, 22 at the time of the final, came through the youth ranks at Ajax and went on to make a name for himself as a tough tackling midfield general affectionately known as Pitbull. Clarence Seedorf, who played alongside Davids, was only 19 during the 1995 campaign but already displayed glimmers of the talented player he would become. His natural ability shone through especially in the second leg of the semi final against Bayern where he shackled Mehmet Scholl and prevented him from playing his game. Switching between midfield and attack, Findi George was a pacey Nigerian winger brought in two seasons before to add flair to a workman like midfield. At 24 years old, he was known for his dazzling runs and shooting abilities which gave a different dimension to the team.
Up front, Ajax usually played with the trio of De Boer, Litmanen (above) and Overmars, with the latter acting more as a winger than a striker. Frank De Boer, like his brother, had come through the youth system. His goals in the 95 campaign helped Ajax to get to the final including strikes against Milan in the group stages and Hajduk Split in the quarters. The 25-year-old performed different roles for the team, sometimes dropping to midfield or behind the strikers, depending on the opposition. Litmanen, a Finnish international, was the recognised striker. Having built his name in the Finnish leagues, he moved to Ajax in 1992 and went on to play 159 times for the club, scoring 91 goals. by 1995, the 24-year-old had established himself as the central striker in the team. Marc Overmars supplied Litmanen with a majority of his goal scoring opportunities throughout his 5 year spell at Ajax. The winger was 22 at the time of the final and along with George gave the team the width needed to stretch games and open up spaces for De Boer and Seedorf to attack.
Ajax 1995 starting eleven:
GK – Edwin Van Der Sar – After leaving Ajax, Edwin starred for Juventus, Fulham and most recently Manchester United where he won the Champions League in 2007. Capped 130 times by Holland to become the most capped player of all time, Edwin currently works as an analyst and has stated an interest in coaching in the near future. He is now back at Ajax as Sporting Director.
D – Michel Reiziger – Reiziger left Ajax at the end of the 1996 season to join AC Milan then going on to play for Barcelona, Middlesboro and PSV before retiring. Capped 72 times by Holland, the right back is now pursuing a coaching career.
D – Danny Blind – Defensive rock Blind was the heartbeat of the Ajax team during the 90’s. After joining from Sparta Rotterdam in 1986, Blind never looked like leaving the club and didn’t in the end. He played 372 times for Ajax, finally retiring in 1999. Blind took up the role of Technical Director at Ajax shortly after retiring and held the post until boardroom unrest resulted in him departing from the club. He was head coach for the Dutch national team before being fired after a poor start to qualifying.
D – Frank De Boer – A defender with great technical ability, De Boer joined Barcelona from Ajax after the 1998 World Cup. Unsuccessful spells at Galatasary, Rangers and Al-Rayyan then followed. After retiring, De Boer took up a role at Ajax in charge of the youth team and during the 2020 world cup acted as assistant manager of the Dutch National team. In December 2010, following Martin Jol’s departure, Frank De Boer was appointed Ajax manager, a position he held for six years with great success. A move to Inter Milan didn’t quite go as planned and now De Boer is looking for his next job.
D/M – Frank Rijkaard – The 1995 Champions League Final proved to be Rijkaard’s last game before retirement. He took up the Dutch managers role in 1998 but was dismissed after a fairly unsuccessful time in charge. In recent years, Rijkaard enjoyed success as manager of Barcelona, winning 2 titles and a Champions League. He was manager of the Saudi Arabia national team until January 2014 when he was dismissed.
M – Clarence Seedorf – Arguably the most successful of the ’95 youngsters, Seedorf’s CV boasts spells at Ajax, Sampdoria, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan. In 2003 he became the first player to win the Champions League with 3 different clubs. After finishing his playing career in Brazil with Botafog, Seedorf took his first managerial job back at AC Milan. Despite the positivity around the move, Seedorf failed to get AC back on track and was fired after only six months in charge.
M – Findi George – Following his 3 years at Ajax, George moved to Real Betis in 1996. English fans may remember him playing for Ipswich during their brief stay in the Premiership. He retired in 2004 after a season with Real Mallorca. He is Director of international football at Real Betis in Spain
M – Edgar Davids – A ferocious tackler in the middle of the pitch, Davids was instantly recognizable for his protective glasses which he wore during matches. Davids formed a formidable midfield with Zinedine Zidane for Juventus in the late 1990′s. Following Juventus, Davids played for Barcelona, Inter Milan, Tottenham and Ajax before retiring in 2008. He travelled the world promoting Street Football before eventually ending up at Barnet of all places for his first managerial role.
M/F – Ronald De Boer – Like his twin brother Frank, Ronald also moved to Barcelona after the 1998 World Cup. Unlike Frank, Ronald struggled to make an impact at the Nou Camp and moved to Rangers in 2000. He retired in 2008 after a number of seasons in the Middle East. He is now working back at Ajax as a youth coach.
F – Jari Litmanen – On of the best players in the world at the time, Litmanen was a highly talented attacking midfielder. Like many of the 1995 side, he went on to play for Barcelona. He moved to Liverpool in 2001, in search of first team football. After being criminally underused by Gerard Houllier, Litmanen returned to Ajax in 2002. Until recently he was still playing back home for HJK.
F – Marc Overmars – The lightning fast winger was a key member of Arsenal’s double winning team of 1998. He moved to Barcelona for £25m in 2000 before retiring in 2004 at the age of 31. Overmars returned to football briefly in 2008 to play for the Go Ahead Eagles in the Dutch lower leagues. He is now Director of Football at Ajax.
Coach – Louis Van Gaal – After leaving Ajax, the Dutch master helped Barcelona to win the La Liga in 1997 before stints as firstly Holland boss then Bayern Munich before returning to the Holland national team job. Van Gaal then landed in the Premiership taking over at Manchester United before being fired after one season.