Frank de Boer and Ajax aim for a fourth Eredivisie title
By Babette van Haaren
There couldn’t be a bigger contrast. After a seven year drought between 2004 and 2011, newbie manager Frank de Boer has won the championship three successive times, rejuvenated Ajax and has given the club its face back.
The fact that Ajax were crowned champions three times in a row has relieved some pressure this season. Of course it will be a target to win it for the fourth consecutive time, a first in the history of the club. But if it doesn’t happen, it will be much easier to accept it than back in 2011. Especially as the fans recognize that they have ‘their’ Ajax again.
Once De Boer became head coach, it was clear he would stick with the traditional Ajax model and style of play. Not only that, Ajax’s transfer policy has changed rigorously since De Boer and Marc Overmars (director of football) have been calling the shots. Buying players like Miralem Sulejmani for more than €16 million is ancient history. De Boer stated Ajax won’t pay more than €6 million for one player.
The Dutch giants were heavily linked to Marco van Ginkel and Adam Maher at the start of the transfer window. The young Dutch internationals were favourites to replace Christian Eriksen and Siem de Jong. Many expected Ajax could easily sign those two talents but it didn’t happen as Van Ginkel moved to Chelsea and Maher joined rivals PSV.
It wasn’t all down to money. Overmars said: “Money isn’t the main reason. We’re in a very good position financially and we are willing to spend money. We have proven that in the attempt to sign Marco van Ginkel.” Ajax reportedly made a bid of €7 million but Vitesse never wanted to sell to a rival, which ruled out a transfer of Van Ginkel from Arnhem to Amsterdam.
Overmars also revealed why Ajax never made a real attempt to sign Maher. “We make choices and we have decided not to make a bid. Maher is a good player but we have never contacted AZ about him. In that sense we haven’t dropped out because we’ve never negotiated.”
It’s almost a ritual that Ajax’s best players leave at the end of the season. Many expect Toby Alderweireld, Eriksen and De Jong to leave before the close of the transfer window. But as things stand all three are still in Amsterdam and captain De Jong has even ruled out a transfer as he’s focusing on another season with the Eredivisie powerhouse, even though only a month ago he suggested that he felt it might be the right time for him to take the next step and move on.
It’s a boost for the Amsterdammers. De Jong has come to the conclusion that it would be best for him to stay at Ajax and is hoping Alderweireld and Eriksen do likewise. “It would be nice if this group stays together,” the Swiss-born attacker told his club’s official website. “I have spent the whole pre-season here already and I have a good feeling about the group and the staff. I’m here enjoying myself. I do not see why I should go now. I spoke to the coach yesterday and said that they can count on me.”
The coach is delighted with his captain’s decision. “This is a fantastic signal. I hope Siem’s decision convinces other players to do the same. We have a fantastic group, it would be nice if we can hold it together.”
The successful Ajax coach still expects Alderweireld and Eriksen to leave but he knows they won’t say goodbye to Ajax for any club. The 21-year-old Dane has turned down a big contract from Bayer Leverkusen this summer because of sporting reasons and the Belgian defender said ‘no’ to Norwich City because the club doesn’t match his ambitions.
The current situation is probably why Ajax never tried to sign Maher and accepted Vitesse didn’t want to negotiate regarding Van Ginkel. The club expected De Jong to stay whilst a possible transfer of Eriksen could be internally resolved. Thulani Serero, Davy Klaassen, Lasse Schöne and even Viktor Fischer could fill the gap if Eriksen decides to go abroad.
Mike van der Hoorn’s arrival from FC Utrecht might raise some eyebrows in this situation. Ajax lined him up as Alderweireld’s replacement but have bought him before the Belgian has even left. The reason is De Boer wants every position doubly occupied. Ajax have been proactive in this situation. If Van der Hoorn wasn’t brought in and Alderweireld would have left, 21-year-old Jöel Veltman would be the only right centre-back in Ajax’s squad.
No one knows what will happen in the upcoming weeks. The transfer window doesn’t close until September 2nd so Ajax still fear Alderweireld and Eriksen’s departures. But as things stand the sun is shining. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in both either. The successful group of last season is still together and Van der Hoorn and FC Barcelona’s Bojan Krkic have been added to it.
Ajax’s rivals PSV and FC Twente have lost their key players. PSV have made some excellent signings in Maher, Jeffrey Bruma and Stijn Schaars but they still need to build a team and prove themselves. At this moment, Feyenoord haven’t lost any of their talented players whilst Vitesse have lost stars Van Ginkel and Wilfried Bony.
It’s not a secret that Ajax find themselves in a very good position at the moment. If they can manage to hold this group together, next season can bring beautiful things. It’s a team that oozes talent and has proven to be successful. Besides the league title, the KNVB Beker (Dutch Cup) and even the Johan Cruijff Schaal (Dutch Community Shield) the main goal remains to get through to the knock-out stages in the Champions League. It all depends on the draw but this group is more than capable of reaching that goal.