It came as a surprise to many. Peter Bosz to leave Ajax after only 1 season! The man who brought creative football back to Amsterdam, who was ballsy enough to renovate the whole team and who brought Ajax back to the European top. How could Ajax let this happen?
Ajax followers and insiders knew what was happening behind closed doors. Throughout the season, the marriage Bosz-Kruzen and Ajax was a marriage of convenience.
Ajax needed to get a coach in with a football vision close to Cruyff’s and preferably a Dutch one. There weren’t many candidates. John van de Brom was weighed but felt too light. Jaap Stam had just gone on his own adventure. John van ‘t Schip took a sabbatical to be with his dying father.
Peter Bosz: “Who? Tiju/Emanuel? Where did he play?”
Bosz needed Ajax to fulfil his own ambitions: reach the European top. As Vitesse coach, you don’t reach the shortlists of top European clubs. No matter how well you perform. His stint in Israel gave him at least a chance to get to Champions League level. Otherwise, the door to his beloved Feyenoord was closed with Gio firmly at the helm and Bosz’ history as less than successful technical director fresh in people’s memory.
Bosz was never cheered like Frank de Boer or say, Ronald Koeman in Amsterdam. Peter Bosz was an important Feyenoord midfielder and per definition suspect in the Arena.
And while the world outside of Ajax showered him with compliments for the second season half and the European campaign, the Ajax management had plenty to complain about with Bosz.
Ironically, Borussia Dortmund called Ajax for permission to negotiate with Bosz in between to evaluation sessions, Ajax was going through with Bosz and Kruzen.
Hennie Spijkerman: “Dortmund is thata way!”
And it didn’t go well. Yes, Ajax was happy and proud of the European performances and the upward trend in performance domestically.
But the Ajax management (Van der Sar and Bergkamp in particular) had some serious questions about certain aspects of Bosz’ management.
On the other end of the ledger, Ajax criticised Bosz for not winning a trophy. Sure, the finals in the EL was great, but that would be a one off. Why didn’t Ajax perform better in the National Cup (early exit vs Willem II). And clearly Ajax had one draw too many to crown itself champions. Points lost in the first months of the season, months inwhich the headstrong Bosz ignored the notes of Frank de Boer. The success coach – 4 titles! – had advised Ajax to move on from Bazoer and El Ghazi, who were “difficult to coach”. Bosz ignored the advice and used the two in the start of the season. Ajax was keen to sign Hakim Ziyech but the new coach said he didn’t need him. “We have enough good midfielders”. But when Bosz lost the CL qualification game with a suicide tactics and thereby lost out on millions for the club, he quickly accepted the signing of Ziyech, who joined Ajax when they’d already had a 6 point gap with Feyenoord.
And in the first months, Bosz played Ziyech as right winger and criticised the playmaker at every opportunity. Publically.
As has been recounted here a couple of times, Bosz finally did find the balance he wanted, with Schone on #6 and Veltman as right back and young upstart Dolberg as #9 (after Traore failed on that spot), but it was a bit too late. By then Ajax had a massive mountain to climb.
Bergkamp: “Daley, don’t listen to what Bosz says….”
The Ajax management praised Bosz’ home performances vs Schalke and Lyon but also criticised the performances vs Kopenhagen and the away games vs Schalke and Lyon, claiming that tactical choices made by Bosz exposed Ajax to an potential exit. Sheer luck determined Ajax’ march to the finals. Both Schalke and Lyon could have scored twice early in their home games and lucky bounces resulted in Ajax pulling through.
On top of that, one of the key criticisms was Bosz’ people management with the backroom staff. Dennis Bergkamp does have an awkward role within Ajax. He wears three hats: he’s assistant coach, he’s part of the management team and he has the mystical job of Culture Guardian. And Bergkamp and Bosz did not have a warm working relationship, to say the least. Dennis the Menace sat next to De Boer on the bench during Ajax matches, but Bosz relegated the Arsenal legend to the stands on game day. This pissed Bergkamp off so much, that he wouldn’t travel to away games anymore.
Carlo L’Ami and Henny Spijkerman can be considered true blue Ajax coaches. They have been around for a spell and are considered highly valuable within Ajax. Bosz and Kruzen did not have a good relationship with them either.
So much so, that Bosz in the winter break already announced that in the next season, he wanted to change the organisation structure. He wanted Spijkerman and L’Ami in a different role and bring more of his own people in.
This appeared to be the straw for Edwin van der Sar. He put his foot down and declared that the coach needs to coach. He can bring in one assistant coach and that’s it. Bosz was adamant that his way should be The Way. Did I mention he’s not unlike Johan Cruyff?
So when Ajax was evaluation the season and Dortmund called, Van der Sar gave Dortmund permission to talk to Bosz. The former Oranje international saw this as a sign that the support for him and Kruzen was lingering and it would be better to go for the exit.
Dortmund ended up paying a 5mio euro fee for Ajax to release Bosz and it appears all parties were relieved for this situation to occur.
It became quite clear that the new man for the job was already found. Yes, the names of Ten Cate, Roger Schmidt, Erik ten Hag (FC Utrecht) and Jaap Stam (Reading) popped up, but Ten Cate immediately announced he wasn’t in the market. Schmidt accepted a lot of yuan from China and Stam was keen to finish the job at Reading.
Marcel Keizer was the dream candidate for Ajax from the start of this process.
In keeping with that amazing tradition at Ajax, that youth coaches move up when the top job becomes available. Like Cruyff was also able to bring into Barcelona in recent years (not always). Guardiola, Vilanova, Luis Enrique as examples. At Ajax, the illustrious Beenhakker, De Mos, Van Gaal, Wouters, De Boer…they all came from a stint at Jong Ajax to take the reigns and most of them were incredibly successful.
Marcel Keizer – no nonsense
Marcel Keizer is exactly the right guy to step into that role. He has Ajax in his DNA (his uncle was Piet Keizer, Marcel played for Ajax up until the senior team, together with Bergkamp and the De Boer bros). Keizer even has a Feyenoord-Ajax on his resume but didn’t play more than four matches in Ajax 1. Most of his career he played for Cambuur Leeuwarden. But as a youth coach, he impressed. His Jong Ajax finished second in the Jupiler League and he successfully integrated talents like Nouri and De Jong into his team and prepared them for bigger things.
He knows the Ajax housestyle, he’s well liked in the club, he is direct and loathes politics. And on top of that, he’s a close friend of Dennis Bergkamp.
He will need to guide Ajax through the next phase, in which players like Schone and Viergever will have to make way, where Klaassen, Traore and possibly Dolberg and Sanchez will move on. Where Keizer will be able to integrate some of his young talents into the Ajax 1 team (Van de Beek, De Jong, Nouri).
I wish Peter Bosz all the best at Dortmund. It’s exciting to have a Dutch coach back at CL level. I think he’ll fit nicely in Germany and he knows the Bundesliga and the German culture well.
I wish Keizer all the best with Ajax. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has the ability to remain at Ajax for many years, in close cooperation with Bergkamp. I wish to see more talents come through, and I like to see Tete, Riedewald, De Ligt, Nouri, Van de Beek and De Jong make it to the Dutch National Team.
I wish them the National Cup every season, as long as Feyenoord wins the title…