Tag: Adriaanse

First Golden Boy: Rafael van der Vaart

Rafael van der Vaart retired from professional football immediately.

A small news item in the papers. Something some people thought had happened already… His last years were a disappointment. For him, for us, for his clubs. The 35 year old seemed done and dusted when he turned 32 already.

He was a mature and brightly talented starter when 17 years old. And he was worn out when he turned 32.

Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder became more important for Dutch football and even someone like Mark van Bommel gobbled up more trophies than the mercurial midfielder, but for the afficionados Rafa van der Vaart was the real super star.

It was the European Championship Under 17 where Rafael van der Vaart made his name internationally. In a team with Johnny Heitinga, Robin van Persie, Klaas Jan Huntelaar and Jhonny van de Beukering, Rafael was the big man. The Ajax A1 midfielder was voted Best Player of the Tournament, even if Oranje was ousted at the semi final stage.

The coach of that team was Arno Pijpers. He remembers the jury report, with former Denmark national team coach Moller Nielsen’s comments: :”The Dutch number 10 is a key player in the build up and in the final move of his team.”

Pijpers: “In Holland, we were spoiled with players like him, who could play in every position or line of midfield and attack. We had Cocu, Ronald de Boer, Seedorf and before that Vanenburg, Van ‘t Schip, Mario Been and even before them we had Van Hanegem, Van der Kuylen… playmakers who can play deep or enter into the box and score the winner. But based on those comments, I analysed all Under 17 teams that tournament and indeed… there were no others like Rafael. He was so versatile and so mature at that age.”

In his first season at Ajax 1, at 17, playing on the left side of midfield in Co Adriaanse’s Ajax, he was the best player for weeks on end. The teenager played seasoned Richard Witschge out of the starting eleven and was immediately the man to take the free kicks and corners. Adriaanse would keep track of the performances of his players and in the winter, Rafael was the best player of them all.

He came at Ajax when he was 10 years old. An Open Day. “I played with the Kennemers from Beverwijk and was selected by Ajax. I saw it as not so great news, because I was a PSV supporter. Or better, a Romario supporter. He was and actually still is my hero. People ask me about my fave football moment and for me it’s the Romario hat tricks against Steaua Bukarest. But, as a PSV fan I went to Ajax and the PSV-feeling dissipated quickly, also because Romario left for Spain.”

Jur Zandbergen was Rafa’s youth coach in Beverwijk. “He resembled Romario in his very young years. Where all these kids always scramble and go huddle around the ball, he was always positioned away from the traffic jam and in a good area where eventually, he’d pick up the ball and ran with it until he scored.” Zandbergen guided the youngster towards Ajax. “I told everyone at Ajax, this kid has it all to become a good player. His dexterity, his vision and skills… He looked like his dad. His fad Ramon was a smart and agile player who played 18 seasons as a striker in the first team of Beverwijk.”

John van’t Schip was Rafa’s coach in the Ajax B youth. It was clear that he would be a better player than his peers. “It was remarkable to see how easy you could play the ball into is feet, even when he was marked. He had that air of “gimme the ball and I’ll do something good with it”. And his team mates and opponents were all two years older at the time!”.

When Van ‘t Schip is asked how he formed Van der Vaart, he quickly shakes his head. “No no, a talent like him forms himself. When he came to Ajax, he was already pretty fully formed. We only had to fine tune, re-direct and make him aware of stuff. We worked on his weaker point, mainly. His right foot was not well developed and his starting speed wasn’t great. So in the morning he would work with Laszlo Jambor, the athletics trainer and I would have him in the afternoon to translate it all to his movement on the pitch.”

Hans Westerhof was the Director Youth Academy at the time. Westerhof took over temporarily from Jan Wouters as head coach and it was him who allowed Rafa his debut in Ajax 1. “If I look at Rafael, what stood out is his self criticism and high standards, coupled with a high sense of duty. He would be so precise in everything he did, that really stood out.”

Van’t Schip concurs. “Take the pass and shoot practices. Most players saw this as a bit of fun. And it’s almost unavoidable that balls flew all over the place and first touches were dreadful… Only with Rafael, I never had to tell him to take it serious. As long as I know him, every ball he touches or every pass he gives, he treats it as if it is the key pass in a European Cup finals. This attitude, to treat every pass, cross or shot as the most important one ever, can not be taught. It’s a drive you need to have. For Rafael, these practices were never a burden, he actually enjoyed it.”

Westerhof: “I compared him with a Chinese ping pong pro, who would practice his shot for hours and hour to build that perfect ball feeling. And who is enjoying it. This joy combined with the ambition to be the best was key. If you don’t have that ambition day in, day out, you won’t make it.”

Even at 17 years old, everyone who worked with him will tell you he was as mature as a 25 year old. This was partly due to his stable family background. His family lived in a trailer camp in Holland. A warm nest. His dad traded in scales, his mum is Spanish and immigrated to Holland when she was 6 years old, with her parents. The parents worked for a long time in the steel factories in Holland and went back to Spain after retiring. Van der Vaart: “I see myself as purely Dutch. My grandparents live in Cadiz now. I don’t see a lot of Spanish in me, to be honest. My younger brother has that Spanish temperament. He is also lazy, hahaha.”

His grandfather is extremely proud of him. “He is my biggest promotor and Ajax’ fan in Spain. When Ajax beat Real Madrid in the Champions League, he decided to go into the city all week wearing an Ajax jersey, hahaha. Typical my gramps. The Spanish think only they can play football and my grandfather needed to tell everyone they are wrong.”

Ajax came out of a dark period when Rafael made his way into the first team. Westerhof: “All players we saw coming through in those days, and most were tremendous talents, but all of them had social issues and needed a lot of support. Kids who would have not made it in society without Ajax. Lads who were 15 years old, whose mothers had left. For months.  Parents who are drug addicts. Or parents who “sold” kids to the first players agents they met for money.”

Co Adriaanse looks back: “We had two players who were exceptions to the rule. Both Rafael van der Vaart and Cedric van der Gun were talents who also had enough baggage as human beings to deal with the wealth, the media attention, sponsor contracts etc. You have the Frank Rijkaards and the Zinedine Zidanes who were massive football stars and always remained normal. Very nice people. The fame didn’t affect them. But these are exceptions. Rafael never made issues. He would play with Ajax 1 vs Feyenoord and if we asked him to play on Thursday evening with A1 under Danny Blind, he would never moan or complain. He would happily play a top match for the team and inspire the team.”

John van ‘t Schip main issues with Van der Vaart was to make sure the youngster wouldn’t get a football overdose too early. “I wanted him to be a normal 17 year old as well, you know. I forced him to take a day off. We gave Aron Winter one day off per week. He was at the end of his career. We called it old fart day. We gave Rafa one too.”

Another remarkable thing, most of his age group colleagues would try and dazzle with some tricks or a cross behind the standing leg. Not Van der Vaart. “I try and use my technique in a functional way. In a way, I am a controlling midfielder. I will always keep in mind, as a midfielder, that it’s about managing the game. And I know when I can be frivolous and when not. I will never be that players, scoring a 9,5 one match and a 4 the other match. Even if my form dips, I will have value for the team.”

In those days, Co Adriaanse says that Rafael is his “a man before his time”. “He is now 17 years old but plays like a 21 year old… Both mentally and physically.” Which might explain why he had to quit early…

Van der Vaart was happy to play for Ajax. Although he had one other club he felt he would one day represent. “I think I am a typical Barca player. I can play on many positions, I have flair. I think I can fit in that Barca culture.”

That would never happen of course. The young Ajax talent made a decision that had a lot of people frowning. Not Chelsea. Not Barcelona. Not AC Milan. But Hamburger SV signed him. Where he played a tremendous high level. So much so that Bayern Munich tried to sign him until he made his way to Real Madrid where he was presented to the fans by Alfredo Di Stefano, flanked by his proud grand father. After Madrid, he played two seasons for Tottenham Hotspur, the best two years of his footbal career, the retired Oranje star believes.

Rafael van der Vaart, the first Golden Boy of Europe

Annual top 3 Golden Boy Award
Year Winner Runner Up 2 Number 3
2003 RAFAEL VAN DER VAART Wayne Rooney (Eng) Cristiano Ronaldo (Por)
2004 Wayne Rooney (Eng) Cristiano Ronaldo (Por) Fernando Torres (Spa)
2005 Lionel Messi (Arg) Wayne Rooney (Eng) Lukas Podolski (Dui)
2006 Cesc Fabregàs (Spa) Lionel Messi (Arg) Anderson (Bra)
2007 Sergio Agüero (Arg) Lionel Messi (Arg) Cesc Fabregàs (Spa)
2008 Anderson (Bra) Theo Walcott (Eng) Sergio Agüero (Arg)
2009 Alexandre Pato (Bra) Stevan Jovetic (Mon) Bojan Krkic (Spa)
2010 Mario Balotelli (Ita) Jack Wilshere (Eng) David De Gea (Spa)
2011 Mario Götze (Dui) Thiago Alcántara (Spa) Eden Hazard (Bel)
2012 Isco (Spa) Stephan El Shaarawy (Ita) Thibaut Courtois (Bel)
2013 Paul Pogba (Fra) Romelu Lukaku (Bel) Julian Draxler (Dui)
2014 Raheem Sterling (Eng) Divock Origi (Bel) Marquinhos (Bra)
2015 Anthony Martial (Fra) Kingsley Coman (Fra) Héctor Bellerín (Spa)
2016 Renato Sanches (Por) Marcus Rashford (Eng) Kingsley Coman (Fra)
2017 Kylian Mbappé (Fra) Ousmane Dembélé (Fra) Marcus Rashford (Eng)


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Sex drugs and R&R: Andy van der Meyde

In the end of the 1990s, a group of young players was developed under the management of youth director Co Adriaanse and his right hand man, Jan Olde Riekerink.

Two players made their name, relatively quick: Cedric van der Gun and Andy van der Meyde. The first, a mercurial prolifically scoring midfielder and the latter a typical winger in the style of John van ‘t Schip and Robbie de Wit.

Not much later, another “Van der” made his way into the squad: Rafael van der Vaart, with his buddy Wesley Sneijder on his heels.

But where Cedric van der Gun saw his career impeded by a very serious knee injury (he’s back playing pro football for FC Utrecht under Jan Wouters), Andy van der Meyde’s career went stellar (Inter Milan), only to crash and burn via Everton and PSV. Here’s a look at his life, based on sex, drugs and rock & roll…

The former Ajax winger published his biography this week. The 33 year old ex Oranje winger lost control over his life in 2005, when he left Milan to go and play for Everton in Liverpool. “I made good money in Milan but Everton offered me 37,000 euros per week. Double what I made in Italy.”

Andy at Inter

Van der Meyde thought he was in paradise. “I immediately bought a Ferrari and went to celebrate at the News Bar, a popular spot in Liverpool. After a couple of hours, with too much alcohol in my blood I drove to a strip club. Getting drunk in a strip club in the center of Liverpool is not smart. But, I had a strong desire to find naked girls. I saw this brunette and wanted only one thing: sex. And after I had sex with Lisa I was addicted. She was wild, crazy and horny like horse.”

The affair cost him his marriage. His wife hired a private eye who photographed the player with his stripper girl. “There are some pics and movies of me having sex with her. My wife asked me if she was good in bed. A day later, I had to say farewell to my daughters. What an idiot I was….”

The winger, who only played 10 games in three seasons at Everton discovered cocaine, apart from women and hard liquar.

Andy at Everton with Moyes who was on Van der Meyde’s case

“I hung out with Lisa a lot and in her world, cocaine was normal. When she turned 26 year old, we had a little party. Suddenly I got sick. I only had two beers by then but I had to vomit and gave up blood and I lost consciousness. I woke up in hospital. They probably gave me shit drugs…”

At Everton, coach David Moyes tried to get him disciplined. He once got a 30,000 pound fine for being in a bar two days before a game. Some days later, Moyes and Van der Meyde almost ended up in a fistfight. “Moyes grabbed me by the throat and yelled at me: at now you will start practising.”

From that moment on his life was on a highway to hell. “I was once partying in Manchester. I had downed a full bottle of rum. I got in my car and went straight to practice. I wasn’t able to keep the liquor in. Strangely enough, my tests were all fine in those days…”

Andy in Oranje

His constant battles with his girlfriend Lisa and the illness of his daughter, he got insomnia. “I drank bottles of wine and rum on a day and never got tired. I started to take sleeping pills to sleep. I couldn’t sleep without them. I was addicted. And they were pretty strong. You needed a prescription for them and I simply stole them from the club doctor’s office. For two years.”

“My friends had the solution: cocaine. I took coke and alcohol and partied seven days a week. I couldn’t concentrate on football or anything else for that matter. Partying was what my life was about. Liverpool is dangerous if you don’t now how to control yourself. I realised Liverpool would kill me. I needed to leave.”

This was in 2009. But his move to PSV in 2010 was not a success. He didn’t play one single game. Van der Meyde is back in Holland for a couple of years now and totally clean. He hopes to return to football soon as a coach.

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Van Gaal revisited?

So, apparently all the other candidates said no. Hiddink was number 1, supposedly and with Cruyff public plea for Rijkaard, one has to expect him to be in the top of the wishlist too. Co Adriaanse was never a real candidate, apparently, and Ruud Gullit was most likely never seen as a serious option.

Louis van Gaal has all the right ticks behind his name, according to some. Experience…? Check. Success as coach? Check. Understands Dutch school football? Check. Dutch nationality? Check!

What the experts at the KNVB overlooked, unfortunately, is Louis’ track record as national coach… No results. Not really effective as figure head. And although the players never speak negatively about him as a club coach, he definitely pissed off the media and the supporters.

His “experience” also shows that he hardly ever leaves a club the normal way. Sure, Ajax 1995 and AZ 2010 were two situations where the expectation levels were low. He was the underdog. But every time he was presented with fanfare and champagne, every time we actually expected him to perform: he imploded. He can’t handle criticism, he can’t handle a board or management looking over his shoulder and he doesn’t know how to look in the mirror.

Louis’ ego has always been the problem.

So while our Oranje team seems to buckle under the pressure of players’ egos, the KNVB decided to put some extra weight on.

Did we forget the two Portugal games, in the 2002 qualifications? Wasn’t it Louis’ ego that helped the Portuguese snatch the key points against us?

And wasn’t it his sensational ego that prompted him to organise a press conference to blame the media about his disastrous results?

And the current KNVB management feels it’s time to give Louis a second chance?


Why not give him the U21s first?

Back in the day: Rinus Michels, Hans Kraay sr and a young but grumpy Van Gaal

“The Dutch team manager needs to be an ambassador for Dutch football.” Apparently the KNVB has reasons to believe Van Gaal has learned from his many mistakes in the past. Based on what exactly?

When Van Gaal got the job in August 2000, he actually promised the nation the World Cup. In those days, he also was the technical director at the KNVB. He basically fired himself? Or he gave himself a resignation letter…

KNVB manager Henk Kesler said: “We know who we put in power,” back then. His successor Bert van Oostveen says something similar now. “A tremendous amount of experience, very dedicated, very driven…” But, this time not a 6 year deal but merely a two year contract, until the 2014 World Cup.

With Van Gaal, we have the return of the last team manager who failed to qualify for a World Cup. Leo Beenhakker was his predecessor.

Holland played 14 internationals under Van Gaal, of which 10 in the World Cup qualification. Right after the Euro2000, Holland drew against Ireland, 2-2, and lost at home in De Kuip against Portugal, as a result of two incidents. One, the infamous line up change, with right back Reiziger as left full back. “He can do that,” Van Gaal said, who missed all his left backs as a result of injuries. Reiziger made a crucial mistake, offering the Portuguese the 0-1. When some idiot blew a whistle, some time later, Davids stopped playing, allowing Figo to steal the ball and prepare the 0-2.

Holland was able to take revenge in Portugal and was 0-2 up when Van Gaal decided to bring more attackers, with only 10 minutes to go. This lack of balance in the team resulted in Portugal equalising. A play off against Ireland was supposed to get us our ticket, but despite big opportunities for Kluivert and Zenden, Ireland won it: 1-0.

Holland didn’t qualify and Louis resigned. Louis played 14, won 8, lost 2 and drew four times.

Van Gaal forgets to win in Portugal: 2-2. The end is nigh…

Danny Blind will be Louis’ assistant. The former Ajax and Oranje libero worked with Van Gaal at Ajax and shares his football vision. When Blind supported Van Gaal’s return to Ajax, Cruyff and Co decided Blind had to leave Ajax.

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Renovate the Oranje team!!!!

Not really… :-).

I’m not for that. I don’t believe in forced things. It doesn’t work. It’s all emotion! Sneijder out! Vaart out! Van Persie out! Heitinga out!

It’s all based on our disappointment. We feel betrayed.

Well, I’m sure the lads are not sleeping well either.

These are the same guys that almost got the big one two years ago.

I am also not about “age”. And that is partly because I’m “getting old”.

But what is age? Good enough is young/old enough. If Willems and Maher are mentioned, that surely Kuyt and Mathijsen are still welcome too. As long as they are GOOD ENOUGH!

Apologies for yelling.

But let’s get serious people.

We are not in trouble.

We have great goalies. Stekelenburg is 29 years old. He has 6 good years in him. That is two World Cups and one Euro to go. And behind him: Vorm, Krul, Cillesen, Mulder and God knows who shows up in the next 6 years. Period.

Central Defenders. Maybe we are not too strong here. Maybe. We have Ryan Donk in Belgium doing well. We have Viergever, Bruma, Gouweleeuw and De Vrij making their way up. Rekik is only 18 years old now but he’s made his debut for Man City and he will certainly improve. Heitinga is certainly not spent. Daley Blind will focus on the center back role at Ajax and with a strong marker next to him, he can be the same kind of players as dad. Relatively good defensively, but very strong in build up. The point is we need to practice. Test people. Develop them. And then there is that man Douglas! Most likely playing for us in Brazil in two years. I am not concerned. And if it was me as team manager, I’d try out Strootman as sweeper.

Looking through an orange pair of glasses…

Full backs. A spot of concern. As full backs in the 1970s and 1980s were usually the worst players in the team, these days they need to be really strong. Fast, strong defensively, good vision, good headers and being able to cross a ball in.
Jetro Willems is a man for the future on the left. Erik Pieters will get back. Buttner will further improve and hopefully Emanuelson will too. And then there is that man Drenthe?! He is so sensationally talented! But needs a coach who can “touch” him. Instead of criticising him for being late at practice. Surely, if Balotelli is allowed to step on faces and burning down houses, someone should be able to motivate Royston?? I’m sure Feyenoord will produce some prospects for that spot too. At Ajax we saw Koppers playing really strong there for a spell and Patrick van Aanholt is a candidate too by then. I’d say, we should be fine.
The right back spot might be Van der Wiel’s now, but Kelvin Leerdam will be breathing in his neck and so will Ronnie Stam hopefully. And Ricardo van Rhijn will show himself too.

In midfield, I’m hoping we will play with only one holding mid. And we have a number to choose from. Nigel de Jong is still going strong. Strootman is too. Stijn Schaars is a candidate, while youngsters like Jordy Clasie and Leroy Fer will knock on the door with full force. Vernon Anita was close already and Ibi Afellay and Adam Maher can play the part too.

Creative midfielders galore, normally. The playmakers. Van der Vaart and Sneijder will not throw the towel as yet. Van Ginkel at Vitesse is catching everyone’s eye, as is Adam Maher at AZ. Georginio Wijnaldum was close already this time around. I personally don’t see it in Siem de Jong, but hey…add him to the mix. We have some exciting youngsters coming through at Feyenoord and I’m sure at Ajax, PSV, Vitesse, Sparta and AZ too… But with the number of strikers on hand, we should consider Mr Van Persie as a creative midfielder too.

Central strikers, no problemo. Hunter, Luuk de Jong, Bram Dost, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Luc Castaignos, Zeefuik, Nacer Barazite, etc etc…

On the wings, Arjen Robben will be around for a bit. At least I hope so. I think he is great. But please please, on the left wing, so we’ll see some crosses come in. If we play with a Hunter like striker, that is actually handy… We have Ola John on the left too and he has shown tremendous skill in crossing the ball in. And then there’s Derk Boerrigter on the left too. Narsingh on the right is a good classic winger too. Wijnaldum can play on the right wing and we know that if necessary Afellay can play there too.

And with youngsters like Memphis Depay (PSV winger), Stefano Denswil and Mitchell Dijks ( Ajax defenders) and Tonny Trindade de Vilhena (Feyenoord midfielder) even in the mix ( all around 20 years old in 2014), our future does look bright.

So, in summary, what do we have:

1. A very talented and skilful group of players, in a nice age mix
2. A football culture and style to rely on
3. Tactical smarts ( if we pick the right coach)
4. A strong need/urge/desire to take revenge on ourselves for this Euro debacle

The only thing we need to create is time to try out new players and test game play. Whenever the A-team gets together for a game, get the second tier lads together for practice. In the 2013 summer, don’t fall for the money trap to take the team to Japan, China or Argentina, but get the boys together for a practice period in Holland. Test young defenders, organise practice games against Ajax 2 or Katwijk.

Don’t let money be the guide and new coach, don’t do things “because that is how we always do them” but invest in re-visiting the Dutch playing style and drill it in. Forward pressure, high paced passing, wing play and pass&move.

There is no need to consider the 2014 World Cup as lost. We can be ready with a strong squad IF the KNVB has the balls to make the right choice.

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