Captain Tadić: Ajax’ MVP is under the radar

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When you think about the nigh endless stream of goals coming from Ajax so far this season, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the infamous Ziyech-Promes connection. Despite the fact that this duo has claimed the centre of attention by scoring the same goal over and over, Ajax’ captain is still the Most Valuable Player. The statistics of Dušan Tadić this season are impressive, to say the least.

“Dušan will have to become one of the leaders of Ajax”, spoke Erik ten Hag in the summer of 2018 after the presentation of the Serbian playmaker. “Not just verbally, but also on the pitch.” Now, almost a year and a half later, Ajax and Tadić still seem to share the happiest of marriages: a match made in heaven.

When Dušan Tadić joined from Southampton for a fee of 11.4 million euro, it didn’t take long for the fans to embrace “the new artist in town”. He quickly developed himself as a prolific goal scorer who also racked up a lot of assists. He impressed both in the Eredivisie as in the Champions League, a stage that was still new to him. He showed his class with dominant performances like those against Bayern Munich at home and Real Madrid away. Southampton fans barely recognized him and wondered why they let him go for a measly 11.4 million. Tadić himself remembers that night at the Bernabéu as the best game of football in his career.

Not much changed for Tadić over the summer, except for the fact that he was promptly handed the captain’s armband, following the departure of Matthijs de Ligt. He kicked off the current season showing the same incredible form with which he wrapped up last season. Despite still having the best goal-participation numbers of the squad, more of his efforts seem to go under the radar this season.

As mentioned before, the spotlights have mostly been aimed at either Hakim Ziyech, Quincy Promes or both. This might be partly due to the fact that Tadić scored eight of his ten goals so far at a point in the match when Ajax was already winning. Last season he managed to put Ajax ahead nine times, and he scored the first goal of the game on six occasions. A second explanation for the fact that fewer people are talking about Dušan Tadić is that he hasn’t scored as much in big games against big opponents. The statistics also indicate that Tadić sees less of the ball this season, averaging almost ten touches per game fewer than last season.

Ajax’ captain was the MVP of both Ajax and the Eredivisie in the 2018-2019 season, and this year it’s no different. His goals-to-assists ratio has somewhat shifted, however. He might not be on course to equal last season’s 38 goals, but he is miles ahead of his past self when it comes to assists. This allows Tadić to be almost as valuable to Ajax as last year.

Dušan Tadić doesn’t seem to be feeling his age yet, which is good news to any Ajacied, especially when you remember he has a contract that runs until the year 2026.

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