Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt says the underdogs’ run to the Champions League semi-finals has left him speechless.
The Dutch side have beaten Real Madrid and Juventus in the knockout stages to make the last four, where they will face Tottenham or Manchester City.
“It’s bizarre. It’s not normal. I have no words for it,” the 19-year-old Netherlands defender told BT Sport.
“We have shown once again that we are very strong and that we can make it difficult for large teams.”
De Ligt scored the decisive goal in Tuesday’s semi-final second leg at Italian giants Juventus, as Ajax secured a deserved 3-2 aggregate win and a return to the last four of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 1997.
“I was going a bit crazy because we couldn’t convert any of the chances. I wasn’t born the last time we reached the semis,” added De Ligt.
Ajax are the first team from outside England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France to reach the last four since compatriots PSV Eindhoven did so 14 years ago.
“We have incredible talents and, for our nation, it will get better and better,” said manager Erik ten Hag.
“We were not favourites, but with our philosophy we again exceeded our limits.
“We know how to push boundaries every time. And with Tottenham or Manchester City there will be another challenge. We look forward to it.”
Ajax last lifted the trophy in 1995 with a young, homegrown squad that contained future superstars like Edgar Davids, Clarence Seedorf and Patrick Kluivert.
Their star players were gradually picked off by the era’s biggest clubs, but they still managed to return to the final the following year and the semi-finals the season after.
Several of this year’s squad are expected to leave in the summer, with Frenkie de Jong already having agreed a summer move to Barcelona.
“Apart from the first five minutes of the second half, we dominated after the break and were well worth our victory,” De Jong said.
“In fact, we probably should have won by more.”
‘Football is vicious’
Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri said Ajax benefited from good fortune – Donny van de Beek’s first goal in their 2-1 second-leg victory came from a mis-hit shot by Hakim Ziyech – but they ultimately deserved their win.
“Football is vicious, as you concede a fortuitous goal, the fear sets in, we got stretched out in the second half and should’ve had a different approach,” he said.
“Ajax fully deserved their result and qualification to the semi-finals.”
Allegri had been linked with a possible move to Chelsea, but insists he will stay at Juventus for the next season at least.
“I told the president that I will stay. We’ll sit down with the club and think about the future,” he added.