Patrick Kluivert Ajax Days

Youth (1976-1994)
Kluivert learned to play football on the street. He spent most of his time at the red court at imagethe Naardermeerstraat, where he played with other kids, including Edgar Davids. He also played at local football club Schellingwoude for one year. He immediately impressed by the amount of goals he scored. At the age of seven Tonny Bruins Slot scouted him for the famous Ajax youth academy. He got through this tough academy with relative ease. Throughout the years he was used on every possible position, even as a central defender. This way he grew to an allround forward, with much more abilities than just scoring goals. Judged by the TIPS-system (Short for technique, football intelligence, personality and speed) he scored excellent grades on technique, football intelligence and speed. The only aspect that raised some questions was the personality-aspect: his trainers deemed Kluivert too impulsive sometimes. For example, he often received unnecessary cards. During his youth Kluivert also featured in several youth squads of the Dutch National Team: under-15, under-16 and under-17.

After Ajax failed to sign the talented Brazilian Ronaldo (who went from Cruzeiro to rival PSV instead) trainer Louis van Gaal decided to select Kluivert for his first team. By stating “They have Ronaldo, but we have Kluivert” he expressed his confidence in his protégé. The young striker became part of a team with promising talents like Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars and Edgar Davids, names like Edwin van der Sar, Jari Litmanen and the De Boer twins, and experienced players like Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard. In this young, talented squad Kluivert had the task to succeed Stefan Pettersson, who returned to Sweden that summer.

AFC Ajax (1994-1997)
Kluivert made his debut on 21 August 1994, starting in the match about the Dutch Super Cup against Feyenoord. He immediately scored during his first match, just like other big names from the Ajax academy did. He put the 3-0 on the scoreboard, which turned out to be the final score. It meant he won the first prize of his career. During his first season season, he had to compete with Kanu and Ronald de Boer for the striker position. He also often played as an attacking midfielder behind the striker. Kluivert played 25 league games, in which he scored 18 goals. This tally made him club top scorer of Ajax. In the Eredivisie only Ronaldo was able to score more goals, becoming Dutch top scorer with a large margin. Kluivert did win the most important prize of the Dutch league though, as he won the Dutch title with Ajax without losing a single match. In the Amstel Cup Kluivert only played and scored for Ajax 2, with who he reached just as far as the first team, namely the quarter finals. The undisputed peak of his season was his role in the Champions League final against titleholder AC Milan. The way Ajax reached this final was impressive. Two group wins over the 1994 winners and a legendary 5-2 win over Bayern Munich were the finest moment in an undefeated road to the final. In the final match in Vienna Kluivert replaced Litmanen in the 69st minute. Five minutes before full time Frank Rijkaard set up a combination with the young striker. But instead of returning the ball, Kluivert turned away from his marker, slipped into the created space and beat goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi with the tip of his shoe, delivering Ajax the Champions League Cup. With this cupwinning goal he marked his name in all Europe. That was also the purpose of his goal-celebration: after scoring he turned his shirt around for everybody to read his name.

During the season 95/96, Ajax continued their impressive football. Kluivert was named Dutch Talent of the Year and European Footballer of the Year under 21 of 1995, putting a crown on his impressive first season. Ajax again won the Dutch Super Cup, by defeating Dutch Cup winner Feyenoord just like one year earlier. This time the game went into extra time with a 1-1 score, and in extra time Kluivert netted the Golden Goal from the penalty spot. Also the European Super Cup was added to their honours, by defeating UEFA Cup winners Real Zaragoza. Kluivert scored the equalizer in the away game, after which the tie was decided in Amsterdam as Ajax impressed with a solid 4-0 win. At last Ajax was also allowed to call themselves the best club in the world. They defeated the winner of the Copa Libertadores, Brazilian side Gremio, in the game for the Intercontinental Cup. The Brazilian team eventually lost after a penalty shootout, despite a Kluivert miss. The Dutch title was prolonged, with Kluivert scoring 15 goals and assisting on 7 more. In the Champions League he scored five times. Their best match was against Real Madrid, with names like Hierro, Redondo and Raúl. Kluivert and Litmanen each scored twice, but both saw one of their goals disallowed incorrectly. The bar also prevented Ajax from scoring three times. Despite the final score of ‘just’ 0-2, many regarded this game as the peak of this Ajax-generation. Ajax even got a standing ovation from the Madrilen crowd. Ajax went on to reach the Champions League final again, but lost to Juventus this time after a thrilling penalty shoot-out. It was a defeat which brought some controversy years later, when stories about doping use of the Turin side became public. In 2004 the UEFA even considered for a short time if Ajax should receive the Champions League title after all, but it was quickly decided that the Champions League title 1996 would remain in Italian hands.

Kluivert’s thirth season was a lot less pleasant for him. A traffic accident in which one person died and an accusion of rape made 96/97 a difficult season for him in personal life. He also experienced the first setback in his football career. Because of all the side affairs Kluivert only played 17 Eredisie matches, in which he often couldn’t impress. He was criticized by older teammates several times and on top of that was being whistled at by his own supporters. The rest of Ajax shared in the malaise too though. To underline the sharp contrast with the previous seasons: Kluivert scored six Eredivisie goals, which still made him joint top scorer of Ajax. In the Champions League Kluivert only featured four times, but that was enough for him to be of importance twice. In the decisive group fixture against Grasshoppers Zürich he scored the only goal, which granted Ajax a place in the quarter finals. Here he was valuable too, by scoring the important equalizer away against Atlético Madrid: after a combination with Jari Litmanen he netted his final goal in service of Ajax, determining the final score 1-1. After the game he was the only player refusing to trade his shirt, due to a automatic suspension he assumed he had played his last European match for the Amsterdam side. In the semi final Ajax was once again stopped by Juventus. Kluivert wasn’t with them at the time: he had to undergo a knee surgery in April, which meant he couldn’t take part in the final stage of the season. The elimination, together with the fourth place in the Eredivisie, the unsuccessful attempt for the national cup and the loss of the Super Cup, meant the end of a disappointing season without winning any prizes. Kluivert had lost a lot of credit in Amsterdam, but even more in the rest of Holland. The striker was continuously booed and was almost weekly a victim of abusive chants. It didn’t help that the Dutch media spent massive attention to all controversies around the formerly adored talent. As a result the public opinion about Kluivert made a radical U-turn in 1996. Because Kluivert didn’t want to continue his career in the Netherlands like this, he decided to leave. Despite everything he still got a fine goodbye at Ajax, stating he would return some day.

Source: Patrick Kluivert Website

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