Following four promising but ultimately underwhelming campaigns with Southampton, Dusan Tadic looks a man reborn following his summer move to Ajax. Fox Sports Asia takes a look at what has changed for the man who finally seems to have rediscovered his golden touch post his switch to Amsterdam.
“My family would pick Amsterdam over England every day,” Dusan Tadic said in an interview earlier this month and for anyone acquainted with the travails faced by foreign players in adjusting to England, not just on the pitch but off it as well, it’s not hard to understand why.
Interestingly for the Serbian, his adaptation to the English game was rather immediate with his first season under then-boss Ronald Koeman yielding a good return of four goals and seven assists, his form continuing into the next season with a sensational seven goals and 12 assists to guide the Saints to a sixth place in his second season.
Dusan Tadic since joining Ajax
What a signing for Ajax! pic.twitter.com/nYDJgkw9Cg
— Dutch Football (@FootballOranje_) September 19, 2018
In the two ensuing campaigns, however, the telling factor was that his total goal involvement — assists and goals combined — never equalled those of either of his first two seasons. As is so often the case, with the notoriously short memory fans are famed for, Tadic became associated with the Jekyll and Hyde performances of his later years at the St. Mary’s Stadium than with his initial promise.
Both parties were perhaps then glad to see the back of each other when Tadic secured a move back to the Dutch top division this summer.
The Saints might be in for a rethink though, if they’ve been watching his early season exploits both in the Champions League as well as the Eredivisie. In only 12 games so far, Tadic has managed seven goals and five assists. In his entire Premier League career, he managed better only once.
In an Ajax team desperate to win its first domestic league title in four years, as is evident by their three managerial changes in the past two seasons, Tadic might be the missing link. Erik Ten Hag’s intelligent deployment of Tadic has certainly been key to his renaissance, in addition to the midfielder’s own undeniable graft.
What has been key to his return in front of the goal so far has been his movement getting in behind. So often tasked with being the creative outlet in the Southampton side, Tadic instead has thrived with the fluidity in this Ajax side, combining with smooth interchanges between him and Moroccan attacking midfielder Hakim Ziyech.
While the Dutch League is admittedly inferior to its English counterpart, Tadic has gone on to show his European pedigree with a total of three goals and an assist in their playoffs, adding to that tally with another strike in their opening matchday against AEK Athens at home.
Another factor in Tadic’s resurgence has been in fact the quality in this Ajax side. So often expected to be the main man in England, thanks partly to his early showings, each bad performance was made to look worse than it actually was. With Klaas-Jan Huntelaar shouldering the goalscoring burden and Ziyech more often than not in the spotlight, Tadic has been given the freedom to express himself and he definitely has.
While he has so often flattered to deceive with his early-season showings, Tadic’s figures so early into the season certainly point to this being more than just a flash in the pan.
At the moment, he is a man on fire.