David Neres exchanges Ajax for Shakhtar Donetsk. It is a transfer that causes mixed feelings in Amsterdam. Thanks to a combination of samba, nonchalance and infectious cheerfulness, Neres has become a crowd favorite since his arrival at Ajax in the winter of 2017, but after a changeable period, the feeling now prevails that it is better this way. A comprehensive overview of the unforgettable Ajax years of Neres, universally loved inside and outside the lines.
More than two months after coming to Ajax, Neres makes his basic debut against Feyenoord on April 4, 2017. Kasper Dolberg is missing and then Ajax coach Peter Bosz posts Bertrand Traoré in the striker. As a result, a place is available for Neres in the right winger position. The Brazilian is far from playing well, but does open his goals account for Ajax on the advice of Hakim Ziyech. In 180 duels for the team from Amsterdam, 46 more hits would be added.
Among all these goals, the most important are undoubtedly Neres’ goals at home against Juventus and PSV and at the Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid, each scored in the successful 2018/2019 season. Against Juventus, he outwits goalkeeper Wojciech Szczęsny by placing the ball in the far corner with his lesser right leg and a curious curl. Against PSV, Neres decides the match in injury time by determining the final score at 3-1 with a diagonal shot across the ground and bringing Ajax back into the title fight. In the historic away game against Real Madrid, Neres ensures the 0-2 after more than fifteen minutes by crowning excellent preparatory work by Dusan Tadić with a marker over the coming Thibaut Courtois.
They are goals with an already historic value and they are goals that put an absolute crown on Neres’ Ajax period. Something that, to a lesser extent, also does his winning goal in the cup final of 2021 against Vitesse. In the category of goals by Neres for Ajax, his great streak against Heracles Almelo (2020/2021) and his fine marker in the Classic of 2019/2020 won 4-0 should also not be missed. Also striking: Neres had his most productive season for Ajax in 2017/2018. Under Marcel Keizer and later Erik ten Hag, Neres scored fourteen goals and thirteen assists in 32 Eredivisie games. Figures that he would never achieve again due to long-term injuries and a lost competition.
In his best days, Neres was elusive to any defender. His strong months at the beginning of 2019, in which the attacker also scored the goals described above, are the most concrete example of this. But the Brazilian also regularly got the Amsterdam public on the benches with his beautiful dribbles and technical feats. The flair, guts and conviction with which the flamboyant Neres juggled the ball at times suited him perfectly.
His most memorable individual action was undoubtedly in favor of Real Madrid back Dani Carvajal, but also the way Neres showed Ridgeciano Haps on the backline in De Kuip and his brilliant assist on Kasper Dolberg against Willem II (then Neres defender Jop van der Linden showed all corners of the Johan Cruijff ArenA) should not be forgotten. The most impactful individual move by Neres is probably his cap move in the 68th minute against PSV on March 31, 2019. Daniel Schwaab tapped Neres to the ground and after the intervention of the VAR Ajax – playing with ten men after a red card from Noussair Mazraoui – a penalty kick. Tadić scored and gave Ajax the lead in a match that was finally decided by Neres later in stoppage time.
Another point that contributed to Neres’ immense popularity at Ajax is the way he celebrated goals. Recently, this was mainly by jumping against friend and compatriot Antony, but his varied dances and hand movements with players such as Hakim Ziyech, Davinson Sánchez and Justin Kluivert are also still on the retina.
But how much fun all that rehearsed cheering often was; little can match the sincere and spontaneous discharge of a cheering Neres. How he threw his match shirt into the crowd in complete ecstasy after the 3-1 against PSV, how he sprinted after his goals against Juventus and Real Madrid and how he stole the show as a pacemaker at tributes of cups and championships, Ajax will remember forever . Also, the over-confident face Neres made after Tadić gave him a clap sold after the 1-0 against LOSC Lille went viral on social media. The captain of Ajax immediately made amends with his beloved teammate and gave him a kiss on the cheek as a consolation.
In his Ajax days, Neres regularly caused a stir both on and off the field. This is also the case when he entered the studio together with Danilo Pereira and singer Sarita Lorena due to the arrival of Antony to Ajax to give his compatriot a warm welcome with a rap. Neres had talent according to professional singer Lorena and the song ‘Bem-vindo Antony’ is on Spotify already streamed more than 4.5 million times. The now platinum song ‘Herres’ by Dutch rapper Sevn Alias has been streamed even more often. The lyrics ‘I put Herres, I put Herres, on that flank like David Neres‘ hit massively around the Champions League success of 2019 and Neres himself appreciated this very much. With the departure of the Brazilian, besides countless beautiful football memories, a musical legacy also remains in Amsterdam.
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Two and a half years after Neres, a second Brazilian wing attacker arrived at Ajax with Antony. From the first moment a special friendship developed between the two compatriots. Antony saw Neres as his big brother and role model: a player who had shown in the Champions League and even went on to become a Brazil international. But no matter how well the two get along; within the lines, Antony and Neres are each other’s main competitors. Partly due to injuries and variable performances of the latter, Antony is now undisputed in the right wing position. The left leg excelled in the group stage of the Champions League this season and played his way to a place in the Brazilian selection.
Neres watched it mainly from the reserve bench, but did not begrudge his friend anything. On the contrary: Neres and Antony grant each other everything. Goals are only celebrated together and Neres and Antony are inseparable off the field as well. The latter put it this way a few months ago: ‘We are very good friends, both privately and during training. It doesn’t matter that we are competitors. We remain friends on the field. He does his thing and I do mine. That doesn’t affect our friendship. It is up to the trainer whether we play together or not.’ There is no question that the presence of Neres contributed enormously to the fact that Antony was able to settle so quickly in Amsterdam. From now on Antony will have to show it for the first time without the presence of his great friend Neres at Ajax.
Great successes, beautiful goals and great moments off the field have made Neres an absolute crowd favorite at Ajax. Still, looking back on Neres’ Ajax period, the feeling will always stay that there was so much more in it. What if Neres had been spared that persistent and complicated knee injury sustained in the insane 4-4 draw against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge? Then the attacker had played many more than 180 matches for Ajax and his next destination would not have been Shakhtar Donetsk, but a European top club. It may be going too far to say that Neres’ Ajax time is overshadowed by injuries, but it is certainly a big blemish. After the agonizing knee injury, Neres was never the same again. Hopefully he succeeds here in Ukraine.
Phenomenon on social media
Neres was phenomenal on the field, especially in 2018 and 2019, but the departing pacemaker from the Ajax selection was never out of shape on social media. A new haircut, jokes with a teammate or adventures in shopping carts; on his Instagram account, Neres managed to entertain us in recent years. A compilation:
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