All three Dutch top clubs have a challenge to deal with. Feyenoord won the title, which resulted in a seismic eruption of elation, joy, relief and pride. It won the National Cup the season before and apprentice Gio became the Meistermacher or Champions maker, and with a cockiness befitting a champion he now has to go for his sophomore album. The season after. Ajax had a wonderful second season half with an unexpected Europa League finals and breathtaking football (at times). But the loss of Peter Bosz and the exit of Davy Klaassen and potential other players leaving (Dolberg? Sanchez?) makes next season a tough one. And remember, Ajax hasn’t won silverware two seasons in a row now, so… And PSV? Well, their season was a wet fart, really. No excitement, no results, no outstanding players or performances and no European continuation of the season before. Embarrassing almost.
PSV will have to renovate and will want to renovate. Marcel Brands, technical director, seems to cop the most blame for not allowing Cocu to field a team with all positions covered by specialists. Brands allowed Narsingh to leave without having any real alternative. Resulting in Luuk de Jong having to deal with two wingmen who weren’t wingmen. Ramselaar on the left wing? An insult to the dynamic midfielder. Locadio on the left wing? He’s a centre striker. Pereiro on the right wing? No speed, no explosivity. And always coming inside to find the shortest way to goal.
Luuk de Jong, the former talisman, skipper and leader of the team lost form in an incredible manner. I think he must have missed at least 15 opportunities which would have been surefire goals the season before. And that also a season in which Jetro Willems was outstanding and delivered many fantastic assists from the left. Without him this season, Luuk de Jong was harmless. Van Ginkel was brought in and so was Siem de Jong, but the midfield lacked pace, guile and class. Guardado, the leader and captain in midfield was less forcefully present than in previous seasons and Davey Propper dropped form from the moment Zenit St Petersburg knocked on the door.
Guardado will leave for Betis Sevilla. Jetro Willems is most likely on his way out to Turkey. Moreno, the central defender, is gone already. Davey Propper might leave for Zenit this summer. Cocu will want a sweet revenge on last season and he’ll need some fresh players in the squad. A loan deal for Vincent Janssen has been discussed with Spurs and if that happens, Luuk de Jong might even fear for his spot. Marco van Ginkel wants to stay at PSV and might take the role of Guardado, while Jorit Hendrix deserves his opportunity to play. Just like Ramselaar deserves a spot in midfield where he belongs. Two new wingers will be high on the list for Brands and Cocu, as will two full backs And full backs are in fashion this summer. Both Feyenoord and Ajax need a couple as well. With Jeroen Zoet being courted by Napoli, and Pasveer – the second goalie – already gone, PSV might also go shopping for goalies.
In Eindhoven, there are some envious looks going towards Amsterdam and Rotterdam. 27Mio for Klaassen, approx 30 mio for Kongolo/Karsdorp. Some loose change for Tete and Elia. While PSV was able to just get 6 mio for Moreno who’s off to Roma. PSV’s focus will also turn to the youth. And why not: they do have some pretty good striker talents coming through (thanks to the work of Luc Nilis and Ruud van Nistelrooy, among others) and Cocu has invited three youngsters to join the A-squad this summer.
Ajax endured the shock exit of Peter Bosz. Everyone understands that when a CL level club comes for a coach, in a country where the paycheck is substantially higher, he is not criticised if he takes the job. But Bosz also claims to have left because the relationships in the technical staff were toxic. Dennis Bergkamp: “That hurt me in my soul, you know? I just don’t buy it. He worked here all season, he never said anything about this to anyone, and a day before Dortmund calls he suddenly has differences with me and L’Ami? As if I am difficult to work with? Come on! And I don’t get it? Why not say “I’m going for my ambitions, the money, the challenge!”. We are proud at Ajax when a player we developed or a coach who had success here moves on to better pastures. We get that. But why did he need to use those reasons to justify his leaving? The emotions have settled with me now, but at the time I was furious.”
So there was no conflict between you and the backroom staff and him and Kruzen?
“Not as it was described. We had our differences and we had firm discussions about football, but that is part of the job! You need to have these. And it’s not like I would walk out and bang the door shut. He’s the main man, the head coach so he decides. I respect that. It was about pure football stuff, the training build up, the intensity… Technical stuff. Nothing political or personal. And always respectful. Like I also worked with De Boer. But we have Ajax DNA. We are direct, confrontational and speak our minds. Maybe that was part of the problem. Versleijen was Bosz’ guiding light re: intensity training and all that. We decided at Ajax to abandon his philosophy. Marcel Keizer will work according to the Ajax way and this is one of the advantages if you have not only players moving up through the system, but also coaches.”
You had to leave the bench and sit in the stands, was that a problem for you?
“Not at all. My role changed. Under Frank I was assistant coach. Now I am training players individually and I coordinate the bridge between youth academy and the professional squad. Henny and Hendrie were the real assistant coaches, so Peter needed them. Henny Spijkerman is a genius in reading a game. He is the first one to spot where things don’t flow and he’s the one with the quickest solution. He was needed. Carlo L’Ami is the man for dead ball situations. Organisation. Like many ex-keepers they see the shape and have a good insight into who marks who, and all that. But Henny was not so happy with the way he could work under Bosz, but that was addressed. Henny would go to Young Ajax this coming season.”
But Bosz did want to make changes in the staff and you didn’t allow this?
“Not me. Nothing to do with me, Dennis Bergkamp. It’s Ajax! When Peter had his evaluation with Edwin van der Sar, I wasn’t even present. But Ajax, by voice of Edwin and Overmars, will not allow a coach, a passerby, to determine the structure of Ajax. We work like we do, with reason. The new coach can bring in his own assistant, and that’s it. That was not a conflict. It was a suggestion from Bosz and Ajax said NO. Next subject, you know?”
And now, Marcel Keizer…
“A great choice and you will like this: we already knew that Marcel would succeed Bosz. We just didn’t think he had to do it this soon. We signed Bosz for three seasons, so Marcel had some more time. But taking everything into account, we knew he was the one. The Ajax DNA I mentioned before is key. And we know how he trains, how he works, communicates. It was a no brainer really. The only thing is: how will he handle the pressure of the platform… But then again, he will have to start at some stage. Now, in 3 years… Cocu, Gio, Pep, Ronald Koeman, they all had to have their go at some stage.”
Sadly, it seems Appie Nouri will not be playing too much top football the coming weeks as he sadly was hospitalized as a result of heart rhythm issues during the practice camp in Austria. The young and highly talented midfielder was treated on the pitch for 20 minutes or so before he was choppered to the hospital. He’s not in life threatening danger, Ajax stated. If that is the best they can share, you know it’s a serious matter. Riedewald, in the meantime, has discussed his exit with Marcel Keizer. The young talent is being courted by several clubs. “I was really happy to stay at Ajax and go for my chances, but there is some serious interest out there and am open for it. Big clubs from big competitions. I explained this to Ajax and they won’t make it hard for me. Mind you, this has nothing to do with coach Keizer. I think he is the ideal choice for the club and I support him 100%.”
An emotional Marcel Keizer waiting for news on Nouri
The Eredivisie champions and CL qualifiers have lost more players than expected, but they also lost someone else. General Manager Eric Gudde has resigned and will leave the club in November. The man who took the job almost 10 years ago, when Feyenoord was close to bankruptcy. Who had to take some harsh decision and take risky offers from investors to keep the club alive. Who had to put top talents like Wijnaldum and Fer in the shop window to survive. Both players going to direct rivals. He made his decision the day after the title was won. Feyenoord is more alive than ever! The biggest club in the country, when determined by followers (Ajax is the biggest in trophies). And financially healthy. But only just.
Gio van Bronckhorst and Martin van Geel knew that Elia wanted to move on. One more big step up. They knew Berghuis was going to have to go back to Watford. Dirk Kuyt was a question mark but he retired from football. If he wouldn’t have, his role would have been diminished anyway. Elia resulted in a smallish transfer fee (2 mio euros). But Rick Karsdorp has suitors as well, mention even of the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. “When I win the title with Feyenoord, I will move on” he said in an interview before last season. And now he won it and AS Roma came knocking with a checkbook. And Feyenoord welcomed the 14 mio+ for the full back. Van Geel was quick to find a successor, even with Nieuwkoop in the squad, and got Kevin Diks on a loan deal in. Fairly unexpected, Feyenoord got to cash in another 15 mio euro cheque, this time for Terence Kongolo. The 23 year old will play his football at AS Monaco next season. Quite a big move for the talented defender. So, approximately 30 mio coming in and with Diks, the return of the lost son JP Boetius and the young Amrabat Feyenoord will prepare for next season. AZ full back Haps will get on the short list for sure, and Steven Berghuis might well return to the Kuip as well. Among all of that, the name of Robin van Persie also floats around in Rotterdam.
Gio van Bronckhorst is confident.
“I went on a holiday right after winning the title to clear my head. I did take some of the Title Celebration books with me and the DVD. Really enjoyed processing the season and had a good time resting. When I went back to Rotterdam, I literally closed the books on the title. That is in the past. And it doesn’t count anymore. Now, we want to win the title again and do well in the Champions League. That is the journey of the pro. Improving and raising the bar again and again.”
New signings Diks and Boetius with Kenneth Vermeer