It was quite a week for Ajax. First there was that big away game against little-but-by-now-big brother Barcelona. Then there was the passing of Gerrie Muhren, erstwhile midfield maestro and to top it all of, there was/is all that criticism on Ajax’ playing style by none other than a number of Ajax icons…
Let’s start with Gerrie. The Muhrens are a famous family from Volendam. If you want to experience Holland in all it’s glory, you don’t want to go to Amsterdam or Delft or the Keukenhof. You go to Volendam. What you’ll get there is wonderful fish (eal), great music (paling-rock) and tremendous football talent.
Wim Jonk and the Muhren Bros are probably the most famous ones. The Muhren bros (Gerrie and Arnold) played football for Ajax. Their Muhren cousins played paling rock for the Cats. With Golden Earring, the most successful Dutch rock/pop band. See below….
Gerrie was quite a big talent when he was young and Ajax wanted him so much that they also signed his young brother Arnold to please the family. Arnold didn’t make it big as a youngster in Amsterdam and left to play for Twente. Via Ipswich and Manchester United, Arnold did make it big for Ajax later, when he was in his 30s. He was the man with the assist on Van Basten in the 1988 Euro finals of course.
But Gerrie was the real deal. A natural lefty, but two-footed. And extremely skilled with the ball.
Gerrie Muhren doing his trickery with the ball in the Bernabeu against Real Madrid is probably one of the most iconic images of Dutch football (along with Coen Moulijn being tackled by a Real Madrid player and all of Feyenoord’s players chasing this one particular Spanish defender, hahahaha).
Muhren was special. He didn’t look the part. He was small (think Modric, Xavi, Iniesta), thin and uncool. Johan Cruyff, Ruud Krol, John Rep….they all looked as if they were part of The Beatles or acted in a Fellini movie. Muhren looked like he worked for the Volendam fish markets. And he most likely did.
But boy could he play. Once he wore his football shoes and his kit, he wouldn’t walk or run on the pitch, he’d glide. He wouldn’t kick the ball, he caressed it. He famously broke all keepitup records and hit the ball in the top corner of the goal at will from any angle. A true talent.
He didn’t make it to be 68 years of age. The older Muhren brother died last week. He suffered from MDS, a bone marrow disease. Gerrie played for Ajax from 1968 to 1976. He played almost 300 official games and scored 72 goals. He won the European Cup thrice and won the World Cup with Ajax. He played for Betis Sevilla in Spain, his own Volendam, MVV in Maastricht and for Seiko in Japan. About his trickery against Real Madrid, with which he silenced 100,000 socios, he said: “This was our signal to Real Madrid: we are better than you.” Ajax won that game 1-0.
His ball skills and technique were hailed by many. His biggest rival for Oranje, Willem van Hanegem, was a fan. “Gerrie can kick the laces out of your boots with a ball.” Muhren only played 10 international games for Oranje. When he moved to Sevilla, he won the “Best Player of the Spanish competition” award. Muhren cherised that award more than anything. “In those days, there were many great players in Spain, just like today. In my day, it was Cruyff and Nees at Barca and Kempes was a big star there too.”
By the way, Muhren scored the goal against Madrid too. People tend to forget this.
Murhen organised football clinics after his active career and was scout for Ajax.
It was highly ironic that in the week of the death of the Madrid slayer, Ajax was slaughtered by Barcelona in the first CL game.
Although, in all fairness, Ajax didn’t do that badly initially.
From what I’ve seen, Barca was the more dominant team, but if Van Rhijn and Duarte would have been a bit more clinical, Ajax could have taken charge of the game. With 1-2 for Ajax, I doubt it if Barca would have overrun the Sons of Gods like they ended up doing….
It’s not strange that Barca beats Ajax. I don’t think the Ajax players need to blame themselves. Ajax without Eriksen is simply a fairly average team. Frank de Boer gets a top performance out of them due to his man management and tactics, but with Eriksen (and Alderweireld) gone, the real class has left. I believe Schone, Fischer, Sigthursson and Blind have what it takes, I believe Duarte can grow a lot and Denswil is a true talent but players like Sana, Poulsen and Krkic would never have made it in Ajax 1 under Michels/Cruyff/Van Gaal….
This year, reaching 3rd place in the CL is doable and should be the objective. A freak 2nd spot is always a possibility but a big future in the CL will only be feasible (for Ajax, PSV and/or Feyenoord) if the clubs can hold on to their top players for a longer period… Which probably is wishful thinking…
This weekend, it’s Ajax – PSV. The two coaches of these teams (Frank de Boer and Cocu) are good mates off the pitch and as per normal, they agree on many things. Cocu: “Ajax is the favorite. They are one step in front of us, as we had to create a new team this season. Frank has been going with his squad for a bit and he won the title three times in a row.”
Although Ajax lost 4-0 in Spain, PSV’s loss against Ludogorets in the EL at home was a bigger shock. Cocu: “We have a young team, and we have had some changes too… These things happen. We need to work hard to prevent this from happening.” Cocu might not be able to use Willems against Ajax, while Rekik and Wijnaldum are definitely out.
De Boer will most likely use Krkic as central striker and have Icelandic goal scorer Sigthursson on the right wing. Fischer will most likely start on the left.
Soon, a post on Ajax playing style and the criticism.