Over the summer of 2018 in a transfer deal that shook Europe, Italian champions Juventus paid a reported $140 million, per ESPN, to pry five-time Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo away from European champs Real Madrid. With seven straight Serie A titles already under their collective belt, Juve did not need Ronaldo to win the league. Instead the club had one objective — Champions League glory.
But that $140 million aspiration went out the window on Tuesday, when Juventus — despite a goal from Ronaldo — fell 2-1 to the tournament’s miracle team, 33-time Dutch titlists AFC Ajax, who had not made a trip to the Champions League semifinals in 22 years, according to SI.com.
But thanks to goals by Donny van de Beek in the 34th minute and a 67th-minute header past Juve keeper Wojciech Szczesny by 19-year-old Ajax Captain Matthijs de Ligt — who would not be born for three years when Ajax was last in the UCL semifinals — the Dutch club will be returning to Europe’s final four where they will meet the winner of the Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City quarterfinal. The second leg of that tie, with Tottenham holding a 1-0 first-leg lead, will be played at the Etihad on Wednesday.
Watch video highlights of the nail-biting match below.
And for commentary on the match from the panel at United Kingdom broadcaster BT Sport, as well as more highlights, see the following video.
In addition to the $140 million transfer fee, Juventus pay Ronaldo a salary of a reported $650,000 per week, according to The Telegraph newspaper. And yet, Ronaldo has appeared in exactly three games, including Tuesday’s match, since March 19 when his hat trick completed a stunning second-leg comeback for Juve over Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16. At that time, it appeared that Ronaldo was earning his keep, with Juve moving on to face what on paper appeared to be an overmatched Ajax club.
But in the first leg, played in Amsterdam, a David Neres goal answered a Ronaldo strike with just one minute between them, per Soccerway, and Ajax held on for a 1-1 home draw. But having allowed an away goal, their chances to top the Italian champions by a goal as required in Turin seemed slim at best.
When the qualifying rounds for the 2018-2019 UEFA Champions League got underway last summer, Ajax stood as a 250-1 underdog to win the European title, according to the BBC. Now they will be one of four teams remaining with a chance at the trophy.
But for Ajax, it will likely be their last chance for quite some time, with De Ligt and fellow teenage sensation Frenkie de Jong already committed to leaving after the season ends, and Neres looking to switch to the English Premier League, the BBC reported.