With the away game versus Lille coming up the Champions League group stage is almost over. Ajax is dreaming of a scenario like last year, and so is Nico Tagliafico. Ajax spoke with him about the Champions League of last season, this season and Ajax in general.
‘It was my first time in the Champions League, we achieved something that none of us had expected.’ the Argentinian says about the Champions League journey of last year. ‘If someone would have told us in the beginning that Ajax would make the semi-finals I don’t think I would have taken that person seriously. I’m proud of all we did that tournament. We were only one step away from the final! It’s indescribable but also devastating. We were about to… or actually we made history. But we could have done the unthinkable..’
Everything we worked for was destroyed in 5 secondsTagliafico about the heartbreaking defeat versus Tottenham
The upset versus Tottenham is still fresh in his mind and it has left its marks on Tagliafico. ‘A tournament which was going so great ended in a gigantic drama. It was a difficult moment, really difficult. Everything we worked for was destroyed in 5 seconds.’ But the defender relativises immediately: ‘Later, when you start thinking about it you realise you achieved something amazing.’
This season Ajax is on route to reaching the KO-stage of the Champions League, leading the group with 2 games to go. ‘This team should be able to make it, we’re ready for the next round. After that, we’ll see. Just like last year, we’ll take it one step at the time. With that mindset, we achieved something we never even dreamed about.’ Tagliafico seems really excited to play on the highest level in Europe again: ‘We want to show Europe that Ajax is still strong. We want to show we can still play that style of football.’
The Ajax philosophy
When Tagliafico joined Ajax two years ago he was still a relatively unknown player coming from the Argentinian league. The left-back still gets surprised in Amsterdam on the daily. ‘When I came here I sort of knew what to expect, this club has a massive history. They’ve won Champions Leagues, they play a unique style of football inspired by Johan Cruyff. The thing that surprised me the most was the huge amount of talents Ajax utilises. I think I’ve trained with about 15-20 players that were under 20 years old. That really surprises me, not only the amount but also how talented they are.’
In his two years at the club, Nico became one of the fan favourites. Thanks to his untamed passion, effort and his ability to score. ‘That has surprised me as well, before I came to Ajax I scored about 6 goals in total. I’m already on 11 goals at Ajax! I’m enjoying my new role as poacher but I have to stay focused on my core task, which is defending. If I can be important in the attacking third that’s a nice bonus.’