Well, who saw this coming?
It is the end of 2019 and Dušan Tadić has spent the last 12 months performing like one of the world’s elite talents. We’ve never seen a redemption story quite like it.
The former Southampton man looked done and dusted at the top level, only to reinvent himself with Ajax as one of the most dangerous forwards around. He was a core part of the side who shocked the world en route to the Champions League semi-final, but that was just part of his astounding year.
Here are four of the Serbian’s best moments of 2019.
Being Named Man of the Match at the Bernabéu – 05/03/19
If you only remember one thing from Tadić’s entire career, it will be that performance against Real Madrid in March. Ajax went to the Santiago Bernabéu needing to overturn a 2-1 loss from the first leg. Thanks to Tadić, that could hardly have been easier.
His pass allowed Hakim Ziyech to open the scoring, but his second assist moments later was even better. Tadić span around almost the entire Real defence before slotting in David Neres to make it two. But Tadić was not done.
The Serb powered home a stunning effort after the break to leave the Bernabéu stunned, and it was enough to fire Ajax to one of the most surprising results in Champions League history.
Thanks to his perfect performance, he became just the ninth player in history to earn a 10/10 rating from L’Équipe, and he was not far off earning an 11 instead. This was one of the Champions League’s greatest showings of all time.
Clinching Eredivisie Title – 15/05/19
When Ajax decided to spend so heavily on Tadić in 2018, most people were mocking them for their ‘stupidity’. When he lifted the Eredivisie title the following summer, nobody was laughing anymore.
Tadić finished the league campaign with a ludicrous total of 28 goals and 13 assists from 32 appearances, and he was certainly the driving force behind Ajax’s phenomenal improvement from the previous campaign.
His switch from Southampton to Ajax was supposed to have been a step down. He ensured it was anything but.
This was the ultimate reward for a year of tireless work. Tadić proved almost the entire world wrong, and he loved every minute of it.
Winning Eredivisie’s Top Scorer & Top Assist Awards – 15/05/19
Some people score goals. Some people create goals. Tadić does both.
To win either the Eredivisie’s top scorer or top assister awards is an enormous achievement, but to win both in the same season is almost unheard of. That’s how good Tadić’s season actually was.
His 28 goals was level with PSV Eindhoven’s Luuk de Jong, while his 13 assists tied him up with teammate Ziyech for the creator award. That speaks volumes of his impact on Ajax’s side that year.
He has already reached double figures in all competitions this season too, so there might be even more silverware in his future if he keeps this up.
Finishing 20th in Ballon d’Or Voting – 09/12/19
In the summer of 2018, you would have almost passed out from laughter if someone had told you that Tadić would be anywhere close to the Ballon d’Or award. He was a massive disappointment for Southampton, so his career at the highest level was supposed to be over.
However, when 2019 came to a close, the only argument was over whether Tadić actually deserved better than the 20th-place finish which was afforded to him.
That was ahead of the likes of Son Heung-min, Kalidou Koulibaly and Marc-André ter Stegen – all of whom are touted as some of the best around. But Tadić was better than them all.
The result was testament to Tadić’s ability to bounce back from disappointment. He completely deserved to be recognised as one of the world’s top talents in 2019, and he will hope to be part of the conversation in 2020.