Nicolas Tagliafico’s performances so far in Ajax this season speaks volumes about his desire to make do on his word when he penned down a contract extension with Ajax despite being courted by many clubs during the summer transfer window.
Tagliafico made the move from the Argentine Primera Division to Ajax on 5 January 2018 for a fee of £4m and since his debut for the club in the Klassieker versus Feyenoord on 21 January 2018, has been an integral part of Ajax and looks set to be even more integral in just his second season with the club.
Tagliafico was one of the stars of last season’s Ajax team who almost was scooped up by other clubs but chose to stay in Amsterdam. He posted a message to Ajax’s Twitter platform after ignoring other clubs interested in his services, and in the message, he echoed the sentiments of everybody at the club that this season will be just as good as their very impressive 2018/19 season.
¡Vamos @Nico_Taglia! ???
❌❌❌ is his home! pic.twitter.com/F7uzj8keuW
— AFC Ajax (@AFCAjax) May 3, 2019
Since this message, Ajax has gotten off to a great start and Tagliafico has put in a much-improved performance for the club, making him look like a whole new player.
His immense impact from the left-back role has been felt by the club, and he has consistently turned in performances which have not been rated less than 7.0 by SofaScore. Ajax have played 10 matches so far in all competitions since the start of the season and he has starred in all of them – he even put in a man of the match performance gainst Heerenveen on Saturday, scoring two and assisting one in the 6-0 demolition of the Eredivisie club.
He has also almost equaled his total tally for goals from last season (six) with four goals so far, including the goal against LOSC Lille in the Champions League on Tuesday in Ajax’s 3-0 opening matchday win, where he also provided the assist for the first goal.
With the match tied at 0-0 after 18 minutes, Tagliafico sent a cross into the penalty area which found the head of Quincy Promes to open the scoring. Ajax would score a second shortly after the break and Tagliafico would get the third goal of the match from an Hakim Ziyech assist in the 62nd minute after the Moroccan whipped in a corner kick into the Lille penalty box which the Argentine headed into the net.
Because of his incredible pace, stamina, and enterprise, as well as his playing position he has been compared to former Argentina full-back Javier Zanetti. Tagliafico’s style is similar to a midfielder’s – he has no fear about running into central areas to tackle, intercept and create turnovers for his team – however, he blends this with impressive work-rate and crossing ability.
Tagliafico is adept at going forward and tracking back and has a very strong right foot with which he whips in accurate crosses for the forwards in the box. He can receive the ball in tight areas and has a good first touch.
Tagliafico also is aggressive in his defensive duties and will press the opponents into mistakes from the front (when he overlaps) or from the back (when he tracks back). He never shies away from a tackle and has perfect timing when going into 50/50 tackles, which is where the comparisons to Zanetti come from.
A look at his heat map from all competitions this season shows how much energy he brings to the Ajax side, and how much he is willing to run up and down the wings endlessly for the club.
While primarily a left-back, he also has limited but sufficient experience as a centre-back. Standing at just 5’7″ tall, he is hardly an ideal choice for the position anyway but he could easily fill in as a left-sided centre-back in a back three.
Despite coming into Europe a bit later than most, he has proven his quality to the world and has improved Ajax greatly while at it. The story of a young boy from Buenos Aires in Argentina who dreamt of following in the footsteps of his Argentina legend Javier Zanetti is about to come full circle this season and is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
Tagliafico is tied to a contract with Ajax through to the summer of 2022 and Ajax will do well to keep him happy until then, and possibly beyond.