It’s probably a matter of time now, before Donny van de Beek (22) moves to a European top club. Real Madrid and Donny are in agreement already, but Real isn’t moving as yet. Man United is also on the radar for the midfielder.
Here are some statements for Donny to respond to, about his brother, about darts and being Dennis Bergkamp’s son-in-law.
After a bad game, I flee for Sjaak Swart! (Sjaak is Mr Ajax, the famous right winger from the 1970s is still always at the club, currently as player’ manager).
Donny, laughing: “Yes sometimes! He can get really emotional after matches.”
And is he always super critical to you?
“I think so. But we do think the same about things. He can be critical of the ref too. I have a super bond with Sjaak, he plays a big role in my career.”
How did that happen?
“Sjaak always watched our youth matches and he always knew exactly who was who. We got into contact this way, and as I live a bit away from Amsterdam he offered me a room in his home, in case I wanted to stay in Amsterdam. And I would do this and we would talk hours about football and his wife Andrea would make fresh orange juice and what not. I still see Sjaak a lot. I go out to dinner with him or I drop in to see him and his wife. That will never change.”
Sjaak Swart is 81 year old. Recently, Barry Hulshoff died, the football father of De Ligt. Other generation peers died, like Piet Keizer, Gerrie Muhren and Johan Cruyff too. Do you fear the future?
“Sjaak is definitely a bit afraid. Yes and me too. I spoke to Matthijs de Ligt after Barry’s passing and it was tough for him. His bond with Barry was similar to mine with Sjaak. Everyone gets older and everyone dies, but it is part of my thinking, you know. Back of the mind kinda thing? But he is top fit and still plays football. I really want him to be part of my life for as long as possible.”
It was a close call, or I would have gone to The Hague (seat of government) to protest with the farmers against the CO2-policy.
“No I wouldn’t have, but a lot of people from my village went.”
Your mother said that when asked about what little Donny wanted to become, you would say “chicken farmer or pro football player”. So you may have been plucking a chook right now?
“Hahaha, well my dad owns a chicken farm. I was always there to help after football training. I was cleaning or packing stuff, I wasn’t lazy. Loved helping. And yes, if I wasn’t a footballer now, I would probably be working in the family business. When I was small I always said I’d end up playing for Ajax, and I was always ridiculed for it, hahaha.”
Your dad was a decent player and played top level in the amateurs.
“He was a top striker at amateur level, yes, but a totally different player than me. He was a lazy cat. He had a nose for the goal. And he always taunts me with it. Whenever I miss a chance, he’ll tell me that he would have scored that. But he’s super proud of me. He’s always there with my grandparents, home and away games. Always. Only my kid brother Rody misses games, when he has had a heavy Saturday night, hahaha.”
Do you still wrap chicken breasts, at times?
“Oh yes, my dad asks me regularly. Sometimes I need to pick up stuff from restaurants on the way home from Amsterdam. Or I need to deliver a crate of chicken somewhere. Why not? It’s fun to see people respond like …” Huh? Oh… Van de Beek, ah you are that Van de Beek!?”…
I sometimes loathe playing football
“Football isn’t always fun. We sometimes play a dreadful game… for instance, I don’t think I ever want to play Getafe again, hahaha. A very annoying opponent. But hey, they progressed and we didn’t.”
How was this season compared to last season?
“We were doing ok. We were on the right track, but after the winter break we lost a number of key players. It didn’t go our way, so much.”
First it was David Neres, then Quincy Promes, Hakim Ziyech and Joël Veltman got injured and Daley with his situation. Where did all this come from?
“I thought about this a lot… I had a hamstring issue at the start of the season, but we don’t train differently. We do basically the same thing as last season. Maybe the summer break was too short?”
What are your thoughts before the kick off?
“That is always different. European nights are the best. When I walk onto the pitch in a full stadium I think about my youth. The games I watched in the stadium with my grandparents. We were all massive Ajax fans. And now I’m on the pitch and I look up to see my family on the stands. I will never get used to that.”
How big are the sacrifices you need to make, to get to the top?
“These are huge. But I don’t want it differently. This is my dream come true. But, I envy my brother Rody at times. I always go and watch him play. He plays with his mates, relaxed, and after the game they drink a couple of beers and have fun
Are you a party animal?
“In the summer I love going to places like Ibiza and party a bit. I also love singing along with songs in the pub but during the season I keep myself focused. No parties.”
Your bond with Rody, your brother, is special, right? He was very ill at one stage, with a tumor in his back. Did this affect you much?
“Rody is one of the most important people in my life. He knows me through and through and vice versa. Whenever something is going on, I call him first. And yes, his tumor, I have learned to appreciate life more, I think. I was 12 when he got sick and I was just starting at Ajax. I wanted to perform but I also had a lot of focus on my brother.”
There is a video about you two and when Rody talks about your bond, a tear rolls down his cheek. That is a famous video now…
“Yes, that got me emotional too. And everyone who saw the video had that. Men cry too you know. Rody loves seeing me build my career and I love sharing my success with him. I was able to give him a cool watch for his 20st birthday with his name in it. He loves it. Rody is always there for me. Whenever I had a bad match, he takes me under his wing and we go and play pool or something…”
Rody said in the video that you are a hand-full. And when you didn’t train, it’s even worse
“Yes, I think I’m annoying. I have too much energy. I will start pestering people and make jokes etc.”
Fame, interviews, photo-shoots, talk about transfers, talk about the Ballon d’Or… you are not impressed?
“I think it’s the manner of the village I am from. Do normal. And that is me too. Yes, there is a lot happening in my life, but I will always have my feet planted firmly. And if I wouldn’t, my parents or brother will remind me, hahaha. I would enjoy going to these Ballon d’Or galas, just to experience it, but I would love to go home afterwards too, to leave all the humbug behind.”
For the football future of Holland, it is important that you and Estelle Bergkamp create the new Messi
“Oh yes hahaha, I get that comment a lot lately. If the good Lord wants us to become parents, there will be some pressure on the kid, if he is a boy. Or even a girl, actually! We can’t deny our genes, hahaha.”
How did you meet and does she get football?
“We met at Ajax and then we also met a couple of times outside of Ajax and it just grew a tad… I went out to lunch with her a couple of times and our bond became stronger. It did take a while before we were a thing. She gets football a lot! But that is normal with a dad like Dennis. She loves watching it and she can really analyse the game well. But she is more intrigued with how placid I can be outside of football and how worked up I can get on the pitch, hahahaha.”
Will she come with you to Madrid? Or Manchester?
“Should I go somewhere, she’ll come with yes. We are not officially living together but I basically live with her in Amsterdam.”
“Oh definitely! It’s home. I know everyone there, my mates live there and I go watch Veensche Boys regularly. Rody plays on Saturday mornings, and Mo Nouri, Appie’s brother, plays in it too. Mo quit football, because of Appie and the care he needs. He was feeling guilty too, playing football, and I told him that Abdelhak would totally want Mo to play football and enjoy himself. So now he’s playing with Rody in my village. He’s a great player, from the top of the amateur level. And the warmth of the village immediately pulled him in. Rody and I have contact with Mo Nouri every day.”
What is with the speculations of you going to Real Madrid?
“I haven’t signed anything. It’s all open. I know what I have here, I am valued and I love Ajax. I won’t go to just any other club. It needs to be the right picture. What are their plans. Am I signed for the future or do I get playing time? I’d love to play in a country with better weather, but I haven’t started Spanish lessons as yet.”
Do you talk about transfers with team mates?
“Sure, yes we do talk about it and I talk to the lads at Oranje about how things go with other clubs and in other countries, and all this. That is always interesting to hear.”
After I’m 30, I will return to Ajax, with Frenkie and Matthijs de Ligt.
“That would be fun. Ajax is my club and it will always be, wherever I end up. Ajax made me. But you never know how things go. There are many examples of players who said they would but never did. Or players who did come back but ended up playing in the second team… But, it would be nice, the thought you know. Returning here.”
It seems like Ajax is allowing players to leave, hoping they return one day?
“I don’t know. I don’t interfere with contract or transfer stuff. I think it’s normal and logical that Ajax wants to get a good amount for me. But I also think it is good to part ways amicably. There are many great examples.”
Do you speak to Frenkie and Matthijs a lot?
“Not a lot. Every now and then. During the season, we’re all super busy but we do app. And we see each other at Oranje and we take the time to chew the fat. These are all good lads, we share that bond. We’ve had such a great year, that will always bind us I think.”
The guys abroad are all playing in a glass house. Everything is magnified.
“True, but both are strong personalities and great players. I think they’ll manage. And you what, things like that, you get used to it. And I don’t think either one of them will lose sleep over what people write about them.”
So how do you call him? Dad? Mr? Or Dennis?
“I used to call him trainer, now I call him Dennis.”
So he didn’t say”Donny, I am Mr Bergkamp for you!”
“That would have been a good joke! But I know Dennis so long already and we always had a good bond. It was strange after he left Ajax, and I hadn’t seen him for a while…”
As Ajax youth coach, I remember him saying: “Watch that Van de Beek kid!”
“I was in my second year at Ajax and they didn’t put me in D1 but in D2. Luckily, he was my coach in the D2. I made a big leap under him. He was the most important coach for me actually, and he was important for me as assistant coach too.”
So did he ever say: “I have a nice daughter!” ?
“Never! Maybe he even thought: you, I rather not see outside of football, hahaha. And it was a coincidence that we met outside of Ajax. He enjoys us being together and I enjoy spending time with them.”
How did you enjoy Dennis as a player?
“I was a bit young when he played, but I have seen many videos, I mean… everyone knows what a magician he was.”
With me, Oranje has the best midfield in Europe.
“Well, I can only do my utmost to get in the team but we have so many good midfielders at the moment… And not just us, I mean…Belgium, France, Germany, Spain….so many good players….”
Do you get agitated when you see Marten de Roon’s name on the team sheet?
“Not at all! He did a great job and so do the other lads. The coach decides and I have to accept it. I know I am giving all I have. I can’t do more. And yes, I want to play, but every midfielder has his own qualities. Koeman will need to decide what he needs. I talk to him about that a lot, and he is open about his decisions and thoughts and all this. Koeman is a tremendous coach. He brought us to a big tournament and we’re really a team again. I am proud to be part of it and I want to help the team achieve something wonderful.”