Jump directly to the content

News Corp is a network of leading companies in the worlds of diversified media, news, education, and information services.

DREAM TEAM

Your Sun

A News UK Company
TOP
DUTCH COURAGE

From unwanted luxury player to Ballon d’Or shortlist in 18 months

That’s that then, no more tedious Ballon d’Or debate for another year.

Lionel Messi triumphed for an astonishing sixth time on Monday night, the Argentine edging out Virgil van Dijk in the Paris glitz and glamour.

There were 28 other names on the shortlist for the gong – and one of those nominees will have undoubtedly set tongues wagging on the south coast.


DON’T FORGET – WIN £1K EVERY WEEKEND BY PLAYING FANTASY FOOTBALL


Captain fantastic

Getty - Contributor
8
Captain fantastic

At Southampton there are mixed feelings towards Dusan Tadic, where he spent four years before his £10m move to Ajax last summer.

But 18 months on Tadic deservedly sits alongside the world’s best, earning more Ballon d’Or votes than Heung-min Son, Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and Karim Benzema.

An ‘absolute treasure of a player’, Steve McClaren waxed lyrical about his former pupil when we sat down with the ex-England boss.

McClaren had two spells at Twente, the second of which coincided with Tadic’s time there

PA:Empics Sport
8
McClaren had two spells at Twente, the second of which coincided with Tadic’s time there

“He was both low maintenance and high maintenance,” McClaren, who worked with Tadic at FC Twente, told Dream Team.

“He wanted to work night and day to build himself up, in the gym morning and afternoon before training.

“He always wanted to go to the Premier League and play in Europe. He always had the mentality to be at the very top.

“But Southampton was a middle to lower end of the table team and he didn’t have the platform required.”

His performances were patchy at Southampton

Getty - Contributor
8
His performances were patchy at Southampton

Tadic was never regarded as a flop at St Mary’s but many felt his levels of application inhibited his undeniable talent.

Luke Edwards at The Telegraph says “few [Saints fans] were sorry when the 30-year-old announced he was leaving” and his departure statement contained just 103 words.

Moments of brilliance were undermined by periods of anonymity and Tadic was outspoken about what he perceived as a lack of protection from referees in the Premier League.

Tadic managed 62 goal involvements in 56 games last season

AFP
8
Tadic managed 62 goal involvements in 56 games last season

CLAIM YOUR FREE £30 BET NOW - AD

Yet returning to Holland has proved a masterstroke and how Saints supporters must yearn for Tadic’s creative spark now.

The 31-year-old produced some truly eye-watering numbers last season, racking up 38 goals and 24 assists in all competitions for Ajax.

In 2019 he has more league goals than Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and as many as Kylian Mbappe, all from a player still getting to grips with a more advance role.

That night at the Bernabeu lives long in the memory

AP:Associated Press
8
That night at the Bernabeu lives long in the memory

“Ajax is the perfect platform for him,” McClaren adds.

“He’s been tantamount to their revival in recent years. It’s an ideal home for him.

“The way they play, the style and freedom he’s given. He’s even playing centre forward which I never thought he’d be able to do.

“All the players that come out of that league [Eredevisie] have done very, very well in Europe and Dusan is the perfect example of that.”

Some Ajax fans claim they haven’t witnessed genius like it since Luis Suarez was making a mockery of the Eredivisie, such has been the impact of Tadic’s arrival.

And if the Ballon d’Or had an award recognising the best individual display of the calendar year, his spellbinding exhibition of Dutch total football on a March night at the Bernabeu would surely rank right up there.

This was Ajax re-announcing themselves to the biggest stage, rolling back the years by humiliating the three-time reigning European champions in their own back yard.

Sergio Ramos sat smugly in the stands, anticipating a routine Real Madrid win while the cameras rolled on his somewhat mildly indulgent upcoming documentary.

Instead he witnessed a Tadic masterclass, the Serb registering a goal, two assists and invoking prime Zidane at times during an unforgettable 4-1 demolition job.

Sorry Sergio

Reuters
8
Sorry Sergio

The notoriously brutal French news outlet L’Equipe have only ever awarded 12 perfect 10 player ratings, of which one went to Tadic for his 90-minute dismantling of Real.

He is now the focal point of arguably the most breathtaking attacking outfit in Europe, winning at Real, Juventus and Spurs before falling agonisingly short of a richly deserved Champions League final berth.

Naysayers will look down their noses at the level of quality in domestic Dutch football, but Tadic and Ajax’s performances in Europe in 2019 will silence any doubters.

This season they sit six points clear at the top of the Eredivisie and have one foot in the Champions League knockout stages again, Tadic hitting 10 goals and 15 assists in 25 appearances so far.

Ajax are flying again this season

Getty - Contributor
8
Ajax are flying again this season

So, at the age of 31 and with plenty of admirers, would he consider another challenge in a bigger European league?

McClaren believes the answer hinges more on manager Erik ten Hag’s plans.

“He has found the perfect coach in Ten Hag,” McClaren says. “That’s important, you always need a good relationship with the coach.

“He’s very family orientated but also very ambitious.

“Ajax is perfect for him but that doesn’t mean Erik couldn’t go to a big club and take one of his best players with him. That’s always a possibility.”

McClaren believes Ten Hag’s future will influence Tadic’s

Getty - Contributor
8
McClaren believes Ten Hag’s future will influence Tadic’s

There’s no denying this version of Tadic, Tadic 2.0, would complement any setup in Europe but his prior remarks about the Premier League make a return unlikely.

With Ajax now at the top table again and playing a brand of football other clubs could only dream of, why would he leave?

View this post on Instagram

When you see it 🖐️

A post shared by Dream Team (@dreamteamfc) on