Well quite simply because many fans called him this due to the pure magic he brought to the football pitch while wearing the famous red & white Ajax shirt.
Litmanen was a special player who nearly didn’t sign for Ajax, he had missed out on a contract with Romanian team FC Dinamo Bucureşti, after the disappointment of that, many European clubs were chasing for the signature of Litmanen, but he eventually signed for Ajax.
Well what a career he had with the Dutch giants, below is the story, enjoy!
During 1992–93, his first season at Ajax, he played mostly in the reserves. Supposedly the manager, Louis van Gaal, was already thinking of sending him back to Finland, but the team physiotherapist advised him to use him to stand in for Dennis Bergkamp, who was injured at the time. Van Gaal liked what he saw, and knowing that Bergkamp was about to leave for Inter Milan, he announced that during the following season Litmanen would be Bergkamp’s successor, something that people in Litmanen’s native Finland found difficult to believe. However, this was just a matter of time before this was true and he inherited from Bergkamp the famous number 10 shirt, which is often given to playmakers.
In the 1993-94 season “Merlin” went on to score 26 goals becoming the league’s top scorer, and leading Ajax to the title. He was also voted the footballer of the year in the Netherlands in 1993.
Litmanen was one of the star players of Louis van Gaal’s team that reached the UEFA Champions League final twice in a row.
He became the first ever Finnish player to have won the European Cup when Ajax beat Milan 1-0 in the 1994-95 final. In 1995–96, Litmanen was the Champions League top scorer with nine goals, including the equaliser in the final against Juventus, which Ajax lost on penalties 4–2.
He also won the Intercontinental Cup against Grêmio in 1995, and came third in the voting for the Ballon d’Or, having finished eighth the previous year.
Litmanen spent seven years in Amsterdam, winning four Dutch championships and three Dutch Cups.
He is the club’s top scorer in European competition with 26 goals in 54 matches. Litmanen owns the honour of being one of just three players presented in a special video featurette at the Ajax Museum. The other two are Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff.
Litmanen decided to return to Ajax, and was given a hero’s welcome with the crowd again singing his name. He was one of the key players as Ajax reached the quarter-finals of the 2002–03 Champions League, but he continued to be plagued by injuries, and much of the following season was once again spent on the sidelines. In the spring of 2004, the club released him from his contract.
Below are Merlin’s Top Ten Goals for Ajax, Enjoy what a Legend!!!
Source: Ajax TV.