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Ajax and Madrid to provide glimpse into future?

Legacy-building head-to-heads and a first for Cristiano Ronaldo – what links European giants Ajax and Real Madrid?

Karim Benzema has scored for Real Madrid in all three seasons he has faced Ajax
Karim Benzema has scored for Real Madrid in all three seasons he has faced Ajax ©AFP/Getty Images

They have 17 European crowns between them and a list of former players that reads like a who's who of football greats, yet Ajax and Real Madrid have met just 12 times in Europe's premier club competition.

However, those contests have proved useful pointers to future peaks and troughs. We select the choice cuts from their past encounters and pay homage to the select bunch of players to have graced both clubs.

Head-to-head record

Ajax wins: 4
Draws: 1
Real Madrid wins: 7

Key matches

Watch Cruyff lead Ajax to glory in 1972
Watch Cruyff lead Ajax to glory in 1972

1967/68 European Cup first round, second leg – Real Madrid 2-1 Ajax (agg 3-2)
The Merengues already had six European Cups in the bank but their Dutch opponents were laying the foundations for their domination of the early 1970s.

An Ajax side boasting the likes of Johan Cruyff, Sjaak Swart and Wim Suurbier had claimed a 1-1 draw in Amsterdam and around 120,000 fans packed into the Santiago Bernabéu for the return. Francisco Gento and Hendrick Groot traded goals in normal time before José Veloso edged the hosts through in the 101st minute.

1972/73 European Cup semi-final second leg – Real Madrid 0-1 Ajax (agg 1-3)
Ajax were heading for a third straight European crown yet Madrid offered the sternest test thanks to José Pirri's away goal in the first leg. Ruud Krol, Arnold Mühren, Johan Neeskens, Arie Haan, Johnny Rep and Cruyff – the names tripped off the tongue – were in their prime and Gerrie Mühren struck early in the second half to send the visitors into the final, where Juventus could not stop them either.

See how Ajax won the 1995 final
See how Ajax won the 1995 final

1995/96 UEFA Champions League group stage – Real Madrid 0-2 Ajax
The Amsterdammers had won their fourth and last European title in 1995 while Madrid were building the team that would scoop the silverware three times in five seasons in the late 1990s and early 2000s. That momentum shift did not occur this season, though.

Marc Overmars had already given Ajax first blood in the reverse fixture and Louis van Gaal's men sealed top spot in Group D with a game to spare here. Jari Litmanen and Patrick Kluivert, who would both lock horns with Madrid as future Barcelona players, clinched the victory – Ajax's most recent against the Blancos.

Cristiano Ronaldo scores against Ajax in 2012
Cristiano Ronaldo scores against Ajax in 2012©Getty Images

2012/13 UEFA Champions League group stage – Ajax 1-4 Real Madrid
The clubs were meeting in a third consecutive group stage and if the hosts were not sick of the sight of Cristiano Ronaldo before this match, they certainly were afterwards. Ronaldo had struck three times against them in the two previous campaigns and he doubled that tally in one night as Madrid beat Ajax for the fifth time running.

Niklas Moisander had given the hosts hope after strikes by Ronaldo and Karim Benzema but Madrid's talisman added two in three minutes to complete his first UEFA Champions League hat-trick. Madrid success and Ronaldo goals became familiar features of the next five years.

Played for both

Clarence Seedorf
Midfield hub of the Ajax side that conquered Europe in 1995, Seedorf's graceful style always seemed suited to a club about to enter the Galáctico era. Madrid signed the Dutchman from Sampdoria in 1996 and he was virtually ever-present for three seasons.

Clarence Seedorf helped Madrid to European glory
Clarence Seedorf helped Madrid to European glory©Getty Images

His winning experience proved crucial too as he helped Real end their 32-year wait by claiming the UEFA Champions League in 1998. He repeated that feat twice during a decade of excellence at AC Milan.

Wesley Sneijder
A product of the renowned Ajax academy, Sneijder had five seasons in the Amsterdam club's first team. His 22 goals from midfield in the last of those campaigns convinced Madrid to make him the second-most-expensive Dutch player ever in 2007.

He spent only two years in Spain but did land a league title to add to his Eredivisie crown. Another championship followed with Internazionale, along with the 2010 UEFA Champions League triumph that marked his finest hour, while he also won the Turkish league twice at Galatasaray.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during his prolific first spell with Ajax
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during his prolific first spell with Ajax©Getty Images

Rafael van der Vaart
Sneijder wore the prestigious No10 at Madrid during the 2008/09 season, with his previous No23 inherited by former Ajax team-mate Van der Vaart. A similar schemer to his predecessor, the diminutive Dutchman also lasted just two years at the Bernabéu.

He helped the Netherlands reach the FIFA World Cup final in 2010 before two impressive campaigns at Tottenham Hotspur and a second three-year spell at Hamburg.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
The striker had a burgeoning reputation with AGOVV and Heerenveen before becoming, with Ajax, one of Europe's hottest properties. He bagged more than 100 goals in three years in Amsterdam, winning two Dutch Cups and the UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Surprisingly, things didn't quite work out following his Madrid switch in January 2009, nor the next season at Milan. He recovered his scoring touch at Schalke, particularly when plundering 48 goals in as many games in 2011/12, and is still finding the net in his second season back at Ajax.