By Can Erozden
ANKARA (AA) - Ajax Amsterdam have reigned over football in the Netherlands since 1900, winning dozens of titles and producing global stars as the club celebrated its 120th anniversary this year.
Commonly known as Ajax, the club dominated the Dutch top-tier Eredivisie division, being crowned champions 34 times.
Their rivals, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord Rotterdam are far behind Ajax in this category.
PSV have won the Eredivisie 24 times while Feyenoord have 15 league trophies in their cabinet.
Ajax have bagged 73 cups, including 34 Eredivisie titles, 19 Dutch Cups, nine Dutch Super Cups, three European Cups, one UEFA Champions League and one UEFA Cup.
Europe's top-tier club competition, the UEFA Champions League, became the successor of the European Cup in 1992.
The UEFA Cup was Europe's second-tier club tournament founded in 1971. But European football's governing body, UEFA, rebranded the UEFA Cup in 2009 as the tournament’s name was changed to the UEFA Europa League.
- Golden generation shapes Dutch football
In May 1995, Ajax won the Champions League title after beating Italian powerhouse AC Milan 1-0 in the final.
Dutch teen Patrick Kluivert scored a late winner against the Italians in Vienna to make Ajax the kings of Europe.
In 1996, Ajax reached the Champions League final once again but lost to Italy’s Juventus on penalties in Rome.
The 1995 triumph sparked the rise of Dutch football as Ajax's Dutch players shaped the national team in the 1990s and 2000s.
As of 1995, the Dutch national team harvested a golden generation from the Ajax squad, which had many promising players.
In 1996, Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, defenders Danny Blind and Winston Bogarde, De Boer twins Frank and Ronald, right-back Michael Reiziger, midfield trio Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Richard Witschge, left-winger Marc Overmars and forward Patrick Kluivert were Ajax players.
With this generation, the Dutchmen reached the quarterfinals in the 1996 European Football Championship, widely known as UEFA EURO 96.
The Netherlands finished fourth in the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Ongoing with the final four trends, they were also eliminated in EURO 2000 and 2004 semifinals.
- Ajax rampant in late 2010s
The Amsterdam club became silver medalists in the 2017 Europa League final, losing against English opponents Manchester United 2-0 in Stockholm.
But the defeat did not discourage Ajax, and they reached the Champions League semis in the 2018-2019 football season.
But their fairytale was ended by English opponents Tottenham Hotspur in the semifinals, who won 3-3 on aggregate thanks to an away goal rule.
Ajax won the first leg of the semifinals 1-0 in London but lost the return match 3-2 in Amsterdam. Brazilian forward Lucas Moura's very late winner brought Tottenham a ticket to the final.
But underdogs Ajax had good memories in 2019 as they knocked out Real Madrid in the last 16, then Juventus in the quarterfinals phase to be in the Champions League semifinals.
The Dutch team earned respect by eliminating two European giants in the same season.
- Pure product Cruyff becomes legend
Famous for its prolific youth academy, Ajax produced many global stars such as Dutch internationals Wesley Sneijder, Seedorf and Kluivert and Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez as well as a Dutch legend Johan Cruyff.
Promoted from the Amsterdam club's youth setup, Cruyff is regarded as one of the most remarkable players of his generation, if not beyond.
The creative genius for Ajax, he managed to claim three consecutive European Cups from 1971.
In the 1974 World Cup, he helped the Dutch national team reach the final, one he would lose 2-1 to West Germany. He played for the Netherlands a total of 48 times.
After playing for Ajax and Barcelona in the sixties and seventies, he would manage both clubs in the eighties and nineties.
Cruyff's intuitive style of play and coaching philosophy of rapid passing is widely credited to have affected football to this day.
In 2007, Ajax retired Cruyff's famous No. 14 shirt to pay tribute to a legend.
On March 24, 2016, Cruyff died of lung cancer at the age of 68 in Barcelona.
In 2018, Ajax renamed the club’s stadium as the Johan Cruijff ArenA out of respect for the Dutch veteran.