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Dusan Tadic, late greatness

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It is never too late. It applies in football. It applies in life. And it certainly applies to the case of Dusan Tadic’s career. The Serbian was talented and yet uneventful kind of character throughout most of his career, but once he joined Ajax in 2018, he found his place in the world and a club where he managed to get the most of his potential, finally becoming the kind of player he was meant to be. And today we celebrate the man’s growing legacy in one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

By the time Dusan Tadic left Southampton in 2018 to return to the Eredivisie, this time playing for Ajax, it was hard to not look at this move as a career decline. The Serbian started off well in the English Premier League, but his performances declined and went back to the Netherlands where he made a name for himself at Twente. Maybe a return to the Eredivisie was going to help him return to the best version of himself.

Well, Tadic did that and then some. In his first season at the Johan Cruyff Arena, manager Erik Ten Hag made a very smart decision: to switch Tadic from the wing to perform as a false nine. And the results were monumental as the former Southampton man went on to score 38 goals in 56 games across all competitions and lead Ajax to a league and cup double plus the UEFA Champions League semifinals.

Of course, his crowning achievement was that masterful goal at the Santiago Bernabeu against Real Madrid as the Dutch side overpowered and dominated the then-European champions in their own stadium. It was a prime example of Ajax football at their best and a great reminder of Tadic’s potential–it was the best performance of his career and most likely the greatest he ever had as a professional footballer.

Not only that, but his production is still stellar at Ajax and he is the player with the highest amount of assists in the Eredivisie in this century with 88, which goes to show he is also great at assisting his teammates and not just scoring goals. He is one of Ten Hag’s most important players and his combination of technique, intelligence and leadership has been essential in such a young squad as Ajax’s.

It is never too late to turn your life and career around. Tadic could have come to Ajax to just collect a paycheck while doing the bare minimum, but he took this challenge and achieved something very important, winning over the hearts of Ajax fans all over the world in the process. A great story and reminder of what football can do for people.

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