Football Expert & Columnist
Ajax: Dutch club produce conveyor belt of players, says Andy Walker
Andy Walker salutes Ajax's artistry and academy as he reflects on one of Celtic's poorest European nights.
Last Updated: 07/11/13 12:04pm
But, in the cold light of day after a hugely disappointing 1-0 defeat, the reality is that Celtic will now do well to qualify for the Europa League and have further European competition early next year.
A home win over AC Milan is Celtic's only real chance now of keeping their European hopes alive as Neil Lennon's men finish the group away to Barcelona where the chances of getting any points in the Nou Camp are minimal.
It has to go down as one of the poorest performances from a Celtic side in the Champions League, all the more baffling given what was at stake.
For all the criticism Ajax received for being too young and inexperienced to seriously compete at this level, you have to admire the way they play.
I've yet to see any Ajax player uncomfortable on the ball in any area of the pitch no matter how much pressure he's under. They simply do not panic or get flustered.
Frank de Boer has faith in all his players to receive it under pressure and still retain possession.
The amount of times goalkeeper Jasper Cillissen is in possession is astonishing but even though Celtic players tried to pressure high up the pitch, he continually looked to play out of defence and build from the back through the middle and eventually to the front.
When it comes off, it's a joy to watch.
In contrast, every time the ball was played back to Fraser Forster he would kick it as high and as long as possible and from there it becomes 50-50 as to who stays in control.
Unlike previous post-match assessments, Neil Lennon's summation of this one was spot on. His big players didn't come close to showing their best. Kris Commons looked unfit and lacked any sort of sharpness, while captain Georgios Samaras didn't look in the mood.
The only goal of the game was a thing of beauty. Controlled possession followed by a series of quick passes at the business end of the pitch proved that Ajax can seriously compete at this level.
With an average age of just over 22, this is a team that can improve enormously.
Not for the first time, the system and youth academy Ajax has in place is to be admired. A philosophy of playing 4-3-3 with every age group and constantly producing world-class players is the model for most clubs to follow.
Ajax will never be the richest club in world football but few can boast of consistently producing talent like Johan Cruyff, Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Denis Bergkamp, Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Marc Overmars and Wesley Sneijder.
It's a remarkable conveyor belt of talent and after looking at last night's squad, guys like Viktor Fischer, Daley Blind, Stefano Denswil and Thulani Serero will surely go on to bigger and better things.
And once they do, others will take their place.
Alongside Barcelona, it's a system that is the envy of clubs all across Europe.