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Monaco 2016/17 or Ajax 2018/19 – which Champions League underdog story is better?

Monaco were ripped apart after their run to the semi-finals two years ago, so will the same happen to Ajax?

A true underdog story befitting of Peter La Fleur and the Average Joes.

The Champions League is generally regarded as a gated community for Europe’s elite, but Monaco and Ajax have dodged plenty of wrenches to rip up the rule book in recent years.

Ajax have been the perfect antidote to some of the continent’s heavyweights, just as plans to make the competition even more exclusive escalate.

Oh what a night

Reuters
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Oh what a night

The delightful Dutch side are following in the footsteps of their French counterparts from two years ago.

Monaco went all 4-4-f***ing 2 in 2016/17, trailblazing their way to the last four with the best bunch of youngsters seen for a generation.

At full back Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe were as good going forward as they were going backward.

Little and large

EPA
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Little and large

In the middle Fabinho and Tiemoue Bakayoko destroyed any impending attacks while Bernardo Silva and Thomas Lemar were a box of tricks on either wing.

And, of course, complementing the revived Radamel Falcao in attack was a certain Kylian Mbappe.

Six of their starting line up were well under 25 and, Sidibe aside, have all gone onto bigger and better things for mammoth prices since.

Bakayoko scoring the winner against City

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Bakayoko scoring the winner against City

Monaco stunned Pep Guardiola’s Man City and then beat Borussia Dortmund home and away before eventually succumbing to Juventus’ experience.

But two years on, despite moving hell or high water to bring Cristiano Ronaldo to Italy, Juve were left dazed and confused by an Ajax side with no regard for the hierarchy.

No title this year for Ronny

AFP or licensors
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No title this year for Ronny

After reducing Real Madrid to mere spectators in the Bernabeu, Dusan Tadic and co. laughed in the face of the Champions League favourites to end Ronaldo’s Champions League stranglehold.

For many romanticists Real and Juve, for one reason or another, represent everything that is wrong with the top tier of European football.

Fickle fans, exuberant spending and questionable moral compasses, they tend to play by their own rules.

So for Ajax to topple both by playing the kind of liquid football that dreams are made of really doesn’t get more satisfying.

All hail Dusan

AFP OR LICENSORS
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All hail Dusan

Frenkie de Jong is already on his way and 19-year-old captain Matthijs de Ligt won’t be far behind, but the mood is more celebration than mourning.

This Ajax side still have the Eredivisie title to wrap up and then two, potentially three more Champions League nights to showcase their talents.

Then, like Christian Eriksen, Luis Suarez and many more before them, they will depart for pastures new, yet already enshrined in Ajax folklore.

A legend in the making

AFP or licensors
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A legend in the making

Johan Cruyff’s legacy lives on, year on year, with their relentless talent factory ensuring the club remains with an almost constant clean bill of health.

Monaco blew their opponents away but were still ultimately backed by the billions of Russian owner Dmitry Rybolovlev.

Ajax are different; authentically genuine in every way and with an even greater prize still within their reach.

A showpiece finale between the Dutch giant killers and Barcelona would be, for many, the perfect way to say goodbye.