Ajax Shares Hit Record as Youngsters Keep Toppling Soccer's Rich

(Bloomberg) -- AFC Ajax N.V. shares rose to a record on Thursday as the Dutch team built on the cheap by developing young players continues to outshine European soccer’s wealthy elite on the biggest stage of all.

A 1-0 away victory over Tottenham Hotspur in the first match of a two-game semi-final sees Ajax favored by bookmakers to reach its first UEFA Champions League final since 1996.

In Amsterdam’s first trading session since Tuesday’s game, the stock gained as much as 6.6 percent to 20.9 euros, extending its advance in the past year to 90 percent. Dutch markets were closed for a holiday on Wednesday.

Ajax Shares Hit Record as Youngsters Keep Toppling Soccer's Rich

Having earned 91.9 million euros ($103 million) of adjusted revenue in 2018 versus Tottenham’s 381 million pounds ($497 million), Ajax went into the tie as comparative paupers. But the club’s faith in youth paid off once again as 22-year-old academy graduate Donny van de Beek scored the only goal during a first half that Ajax dominated.

Seven of the 22 players that started the game graduated from Ajax’s youth academy, including three -- Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen -- who wore Tottenham shirts. With captain Harry Kane watching from the stands due to injury, the home team didn’t have any of their own youth products on display.

Ajax Shares Hit Record as Youngsters Keep Toppling Soccer's Rich

By the standards of England’s Premier League, Tottenham are by no means big spenders on players, focusing instead on funding their new 1 billion-pound 62,000-seat stadium. That said, the London club’s 185 million-pound outlay on players since the 2016/2017 season, according to the transfer statistics website transfermarkt.co.uk, is about 1.8 times that paid out by Ajax during the same period.

The second leg of the tie will be played in Amsterdam on Wednesday, May 8, with the winners meeting either Barcelona or Liverpool in the final. The Catalan club has the advantage over last year’s runners-up after a 3-0 win in Barcelona on Wednesday.

This year’s finalists will each receive an extra 15 million euros in prize money, with the winner taking home an added 4 million euros.

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