Mohammed Kudus scored a hattrick for AFC Ajax in their UEFA Europa League playoff tie against Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad.
The Ghana Black Star took centre stage for De Godenzonen in their attempt to scale through to the group stages of Europe's second tier competition, which begins in September.
Ajax finished third in the 2022/23 Eredivisie season to earn a spot in the Europa League playoff.
Now, it looks like Mohammed Kudus will miss out on their campaign after playing a key role in getting them closer to the finals thanks to his impending move to the Premier League.
Ludogorets 1 – 4 AFC Ajax – Mohammed Kudus hattrick seals major first leg win for Eredivisie side
Mohammed Kudus made the 10,500-capacity Huvepharma Arena, home ground of Bulgarian side Ludogorets, into his playground on Thursday night.
The Eredivisie giants are playing in the Europa League playoffs for the first time in a while after a poor season that saw them finish third in the 2022/23 league. Their quality shone through from the first blast of the whistle.
They shed their league struggles when faced with opponents who were frankly not on the same level as they were, and in 16 minutes, Kudus found the back of the net.
Ludogorets fans got louder, having witnessed their team pass through the Europa League qualifying while beating seemingly tough opponents. However, Kudus and Ajax did not let their cheers last for long as two minutes later, the Ghana international got his second of the night.
Brian Brobbey added a third five minutes before halftime to officially silence the Huvepharma Arena.
🇬🇭 Mohammed Kudus tonight scored his 5th goal from outside the box since joining Ajax in 2020.
— Owuraku Ampofo (@_owurakuampofo) August 24, 2023
The second half was more of the same. Ajax created more quality chances and passed the ball round better than their opponents. But after Kudus got his hattrick goal and Ajax's fourth of the night, they slowed down and Ludogorets took over the game once more.
However, their goal in the 70th minute proved only to be a consolation on a night that Mohammed Kudus shone as bright as a Black Star.
He was the best performer of the night and was substituted in the 89th minute after playing what could be his last match in Ajax colours.
Ajax manager gives key hint on Mohammed Kudus future
Ajax manager Maurice Steijn has hinted at Mohammed Kudus' exit from the club after their match against Ludogorets in Bulgaria.
Steijn dropped this hint when he was quizzed by journalists following the emphatic win over their hosts.
Answering the question of if Kudus has played his last game for the club, Steijn simply replied: “I don't know. It looks like it.”
Journalists then went further to ask him if he would miss the Ghana international for the rest of the season. “Asking the question is answering the question,” Steijn said. “He is one of our key players.”
Tim Steidten is out in Bulgaria to get the Mohammed Kudus deal over the line and hopes to fly him back in a private jet, as we saw with previous signings.
— West Ham (C)entral 🏆 (@WestHam_Central) August 24, 2023
West Ham technical director Tim Steidten was also spotted at the match watching Mohammed Kudus play. It is understood that he intends to meet with the Ajax executives who travelled for the game to complete the player's signing and fly him back to England from Bulgaria.
This article was most recently revised and updated 1 month ago