Tag: Eriksen

What we learned about Oranje is not good…

Like you, I want the Dutch NT to shine. We all want the same thing here, I think, even though we don’t always look eye to eye in the how and the with whom side of the solution.

These past two matches – the Great System Reset by Louis van Gaal of the World Soccer Forum – should have given us some answers.

Lets see what we learned. I’m sure you will all be able to share your thoughts in the comments sector.

The biggest thing I learned is not a very good thing to have to learn…

Our team is not capable of 1) recognising a change in the opponent’s tactics and 2) adapting our own system in such a way that we can counter the opponent’s moves.

This for me is a key learning point and shocked me more than I would want to admit.

Hmmmmm classy….

I believe being able to “read games” and demonstrate leadership as a result by taking action used to be our strong suit. In the days of Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Jansen and Vd Kuylen, this was part and parcel of our teams.

Players like Jan Peters, Ruud Krol and Hugo Hovenkamp were able to do this too and the next generation of players with Jan Wouters, Arnold Muhren, Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman was also able to make autonomous decisions. In the 1998 team, we had players like Cocu and Frank de Boer who would be able to take control as Van Bommel and Sneijder were the ones doing it more recently.

Where are the football brains in this squad??

Surely, players with experience such as Virgil van Dijk, Daley Blind and Gini Wijnaldum should be able to see what the Danes were doing?? And even though Frenkie is still young, a player of his caliber? I can totally imagine that Malacia, De Ligt, Dumfries and Koopmeiners are still a bit timid maybe, but some of the others…

This is the sort of leadership we need

So, Denmark has one world class player (at least) in Eriksen. And we know him well. He played for Ajax and with Blind, and against Wijnaldum. I mean, everyone here knows where Eriksen plays and how.

But when the Danes bring him in, at the start of the first half, Van Gaal wants us to believe the team didn’t “get” what that meant and wasn’t able to respond?!?!? Really?

That Eriksen goal could have been stopped, should have been stopped.

And then it happened against Germany as well. We play with two midfielders (Malacia and Dumfries are wide, while Berghuis plays closer to the two forwards. Guess what: we’re outnumbered! And the team had to wait until the half time break to have Van Gaal explain this to them? So Frenkie didn’t say to Berghuis after 10 minutes: “Yo, Stevie, drop back into midfield ok, we’re being hammered!”. So the team needed the coach to make changes in the second half and then Oranje, and only after Van Gaal’s impressive coaching, was able to fight back?

Ludicrous. Where is Will Smith when you need him?

Van Gaal just found after the Denmark game that Eriksen is an attacking midfielder….

If this is all true, our biggest problem is on the table now: it’s a tactically ignorant squad who need the constant instructions from their master coach, to be told what to do.

This is Problem #1 for me.

What else did we learn?

That the system is a handy thing to have, and it offers a sort of safety net to use, a stronghold of some sort, but…the system doesn’t win you games. The execution of it does.

Whether we played 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 or 3-4-3, if we don’t execute it properly, we will be mince meat after playing a top 10 nation.

So you know, these countries are all going for the title: Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, England, Argentina, Brazil, Belgium… In order to win against these teams, we need the system – whichever – to work AND we need our key players to show up.

I personally do believe in this system, but you can only play it with success if you have either 1) trained it extensively and then you might need the constant coaching from the sideline, Tuchel/Conte/Simeone style or 2) mature players who can take charge during the match. I think De Vrij, Frenkie de Jong and maybe maybe Memphis are able to add this to the game. A bit limited.

Another leader on the pitch, with his finger pointing and his passing….

Lets look at the players…

The Goal Keeper situation is not great. Flekken couldn’t convince and he does deserve more time, of course, but he didn’t look like the guy who ruled the area. His passing is fine, but his main job is to stop balls from going in. He didn’t convince me. As long as Cillesen and Bijlow are fit, with Krul or Flekken, we’ll be ok.

The Central Defenders all play for top teams and we do have a couple more in Botman, Struijk, Timber, Schuur and Teze. Still, I would expect Virgil to be more adaptable and him struggling with the 5 at the back is a surprise. At Liverpool, he plays with a world class goalie behind him, a world class defensive mid in front of him ( Fabinho) and a good solid centre back next to him. He was a bit lost, against the Germans and against Denmark in the second half too. De Ligt was ok, I felt, and De Vrij will probably be Van Gaal’s first choice at the back.

As for the Wingbacks, Daley Blind is no wingback. He can play there but that will mean some adaptations on the left wing in front of him. Malacia or Wijndal or Vilhena will be better options. On the right, Dumfries for me, is not good enough. He is probably one of the best we have, but compared to his colleagues from Germany, Italy, France and England, he is weak. His positioning is weak, his first touch is 50-50, his timing is off at times and he gets lost in confined spaces. We need someone else there. Karsdorp gets my vote.

Another example of a playmaker with leadership skills

I would bring both Blind and Dumfries along to Qatar though…

Midfield positions should be covered with Frenkie, Teun, Donny, Ryan Gravenberch, Marten de Roon and hopefully Joey Veerman. In case of emergency, Daley Blind can play there as can Nathan Ake, or Davy Klaassen.

The attacking mid position needs work. Joey Veerman? Cody Gakpo? If Steven Berghuis is too lightweight, so will Veerman be. Klaassen and Wijnaldum can play there of course, but so can Noa Lang, Danjuma, Memphis and Bergwijn.

Upfront, I was not impressed with Donyell Malen, although I do like him a lot usually. He’s quick, he finds his team mates easily, but in the Germany game, it felt like he needed to do what Bergwijn did versus Denmark? I think Memphis will step up as per usual in the big games. Weghorst will be an ideal super sub.

Cocu, highly rated as a tactical brain in midfield by all his former team mates

I personally cannot see any new attacking players make their way into the squad. Brobbey might be a candidate, other than that I don’t see a lot of emerging Dutch talent up front.

I still think we can have a solid team for the World Cup. But we will need some key players to be fit and in form, particularly in the axis of the team: goalie, central defenders, playmaker, #10 and striker. Or: Bijlow, Van Dijk/De Vrij, Frenkie, Gakpo, Memphis (for instance).

I do fear that the intense approach by the modern coaches (Conte, Bielsa, Ten Hag, Tuchel, Van Gaal, Nagelsmann, etc) result in a sort of straightjacket approach and players are losing their initiative and the balls to take the game in their hands, despite what the coach says or wants.

Cruyff, Keizer, Jansen and Van Hanegem and co did this regularly, but they did make sure they won their games…

We need a player with balls to do this. I don’t think we have many of those. Frenkie is more an ideal son-in-law type (but what a player) so my hope is now on Lang and Danjuma to be those players.

On another note, Ziyech and Mazraoui are on the fringe of the Moroccan team now… How awesome would it be to have both these players wearing Orange in the future…. ;-).


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Applause for Oranje and Eriksen…

The first match of Oranje using Van Gaal’s new system was impressive at times. The coach subtle tricks have added more dynamics to the Dutch gameplay.

The Euros were disappointing for the Dutch and many people blamed Frank de Boer’s decision to move to a 5-3-2. Van Gaal and his current squad have demonstrated that it wasn’t the system as such ( 3 central defenders) but the execution there of that makes the difference.

Oranje played a good first half, scoring three goals but having at least 6 good opportunities to score and could have had a monster score after 45 minutes. Defensive frailty and a hesitating debut goalie resulted in the Danish goal.

Eriksen is back!

Van Gaal was not displeased but said he saw a lot of things that could be improved. In particular in the second half, the team didn’t respond well enough to Denmark’s tactical change, which encompassed the return of Christian Eriksen. The fans loved it, also the Dutch ones of course and even the players seemed keen on offering the former Ajax man a star turn by letting him enter the box unmarked to score the 3-2. Not much later, he had the best action of the game, turning away from two midfielders and curling the ball onto the frame of the goal. What a player!

Oranje lost their shape more and more in the second half, partly due to the Danes, partly due to fatigue, particularly with players who lack rhythm ( Depay after injuries and Ake and Bergwijn due to lack of playing time).

Smiling faces…

Van Gaal had three interesting and subtle variances in his tactics.

  1. Dynamic Build up Patterns

One of the negatives of “3 at the back” is the predictable build up patterns. When the three defenders stick to their back line, the opponent basically have a free man. Building up via the wings is also predictable and easy to defend as the wingback is usually alone on the flank and has the line behind him: limited options therefore.

Van Gaal has analysed the tactical solutions well, as he found the ideal way of building up using Chris Wilder’s innovation at Sheffield United. Sheffield let their wingbacks move into the half space and push one of the central backs wide to force the opponent to decide. Even football professor Marcelo Bielsa was surprised by this tactics. Wilder’s trick was followed by many coaches and is even part of the new version of Football Manager.

Strong performance by Teun Koopmeiners

Another team doing this, is Atalanta Bergamo. One of the three defenders will push to the flank, allowing space at the back for one of the holding mids, to drop back and start the build up. Teun Koopmeiners is obviously well up to speed with this dynamic build up pattern. He and Mathijs de Ligt had a key role on the right, in using this in key situations.

Koopmeiners playing right centre back, De Ligt hugging the line. Denmark confused.

Every time Oranje has withstand the first pressure, De Ligt goes to the far right of the pitch. It’s not his natural style of play, it seems Timber or Teze are more suited for that role, but it does offer tactical benefits. Remember the game we lost vs the Czechs? They pressed our three defenders with three  forwards, making our build up slow and predictable.

Space in midfield for the opening to the left.

In this case, the left winger needs to decide. Will he go with De Ligt? In that case Koopmeiners can drop into that space. Or does the midfielder of Denmark, marking the former AZ skipper, follow him? This will give Dumfries or Frenkie an option in the gap. These decisions will need confuse Denmark and create space for the Dutch. Our first goal is the perfect example.

De Ligt almost right winger, Dumfries coming inside, so Bergwijn has space and time

Opening to the left, Denmark loses Bergwijn

Before the 1-0, Oranje builds up in a 4-4-2. With De Ligt as right back, Dumfries as right winger and Blind as left back. Depay is playing like a left winger moving intside. This confuses Denmark. As a result of De Ligt’s and Dumfries’ positioning, Bergwijn becomes the free man. After a good take, he passes the ball to Berghuis who changes flanks and Blind’s perfect cross is bread and butter for Bergwijn, unmarked: 1-0.

In some instances, De Ligt and Koopmeiners can be seen gesticulating to one another. Their cooperation is still a bit rusty but one can see why this tactics can work well for Oranje, in particular with the likes of Teze and Timber available. This results in Dumfries being able to forget about defence and completely focus on stretching the game.

Ex Ajax striker Dolberg versus Blind

In the second half, the Danes make a tactical switch but Oranje scores the 4th goal from a similar situation. This time it’s Frenkie with space to turn in midfield and his burst of speed brings him in a position to launch Bergwijn, this time coming from the left. The Spurs man cuts inside and curls the ball past the Danish goalie, Schmeichel.

2. The Atalanta Trick

In the build up to the second goal, another attacking trick is used, also from Bergamo. Atalanta coach Gasperini wants to have four players around the ball on the flank, in a diamond shape. This creates a man more situation around the ball. If the opponent bites, there will be space in the centre of the pitch. If they don’t, Oranje can move up field using short combination play. Should Oranje lose possession, there are enough players around to hunt the ball like a pack of wolves.

Focusing on the flank

The Atalanta trick. The player combine centrally to open up to the flank where a the goal is to eventually move back to the centre of the pitch. Inside out, to outside in. This tactics work as it fits the Atalanta skill set wonderfully. Where teams like Ajax or Man City have enough skilled players to find space in a crowded centre, Atalanta has players who are more of the physical, running type. It’s wiser to use the flanks as most teams will allow the opponent to use the flank freely. See Atletico Madrid, for instance. Van Gaal seems to want to take the liberty and use the flanks as “his” as well.

Finding space in the centre of the pitch and a run in behind by Berghuis

Before Ake’s goal, we have four Oranje players on the left flank. Frenkie, Bergwijn, Berghuis all squeeze to the left where Blind is hugging the touch line. Denmark brings their players to the flank and it’s a quick pass by De Jong to the more centrally moving Berghuis. This is a frequent occurrence also due to Memphis, who has a natural tendency to move to the left.

3. Circle Pressing

The third variant was already mentioned by the coach. “We don’t need to press every opponent on their box. At times it’s wiser to allow them to come forward and press around the mid circle. This gives us space to attack once we win the ball.” Oranje organises this in their 5-2-3 positioning with the three forwards pushing onto the Danish back three. Not unlike Chelsea’s tactics.

Circle press

De Jong and Koopmeiners push up, Virgil follows into midfield

Hunting in packs

The turn over follows and Denmark is at sea

The 3-1, penalty Memphis after challenge on Berghuis, is created out of that circle press situation. Koopmeiners and Frenkie de Jong both press forward, which opens up space behind them. Virgil van Dijk pushes forward and finds himself in midfield. Holland has a man more situation again and repossesses the ball. Denmark is puled apart and Berghuis and Bergwijn combine in the box: foul on Berghuis, penalty Memphis: 3-1.


The 4-2 can be shelved as not so relevant, as applies to the system debate. The 1-3-4-1-2 can be set up in such a variable manner that the differences to the 4-3-3 classic system are only subtle. This time, the players will come into a position where they’re harder to stop, as opposed to players already being in that position. The priciples of the Dutch School have been re-packaged by Van Gaal, with a hint of Sheffield United, a touch of Atalanta Bergamo and a pinch of Chelsea.

Van Gaal is happy with his team selection

Let’s hope we can see some other players in the match v Germany.

Flekken will definitely start. I hope we’ll see Malacia from the start, with Wijnaldum on the Berghuis spot, Danjuma for Memphis and Malen for Bergwijn, There is no Gravenberch, so maybe Clasie can come in for Frenkie or Teun as the Germany match progresses. I do think Louis will leave the back three and the two holders intact for the Germany game.

Your views?


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Ajax loses in Spain: Muhren turns around in his grave….

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).

gerrie ajax

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.

cocu de boer

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Dutch clubs in Europe

And it only takes a week for two of our young, cool clubs to be relieved of their European dreams. No CL for PSV, no EL for Feyenoord (or Vitesse, or Utrecht).

What a drama.  Feyenoord started well against the Russians in a steaming De Kuip but missing a penalty is never a good thing to do. Too many individual mistakes. Not enough forward thrust. Not enough killer instinct. End of story.

Ronald Koeman: “We lost against ourselves, really. We did everything right in the first half. We pressured forward, we scored and created 5 opportunities. But they came back due to personal mistakes and that second goal took the confidence out of the team. This was very unnecessary.” Apart from losing the game, Feyenoord also lost Clasie with a hamstring injury.

Feyenoord not good enough. Utrecht and Vitesse: not good enough. AZ might have a somewhat friendlier draw than Feyenoord but still…probably…not…good enough.

So, we need to make do with Ajax. In the CL. An Ajax WITHOUT Eriksen and most likely Alderweireld, who is linked to Atletico Madrid and Liverpool. Ajax is checking if Van Ginkel is available for a loan deal, what with Willian coming in, but for now, Chelsea said no.

Last season, they were facing the champions of England, Spain and Germany. “It can’t get that bad this year,” everyone said. So now they get Barca, Milan and Celtic. And sure, it’s not that bad. I do believe 6 points are a must against Celtic and maybe they can grab two against Milan. Who knows how they’ll finish up. They will at least bag the millions tv-money all by themselves now PSV is out.

cocu ac milan

PSV might not have gotten the victory (and the CL ticket), as was to be expected, really. But PSV definitely received and deservedly so, the compliments for trying hard.

The young team ( 23 years on average WITH Park and Schaars, 20 years without these two oldies) played with gusto, flair and panache in the San Siro. With the first chance even for Tim Matavz.

But it didn’t take long for Kevin Boateng to find space in the centre, with the former Portsmouth forward drifting between Wijnaldum and Rekik and pulling the trigger early. The PSV goalie Zoet was probably expected to block that but he simply wasn’t quick enough.

PSV kept on playing and Milan allowed PSV the ball. And slowly PSV gained some confidence, knowing that a 2-2 or a win would be enough. And there is enough football in PSV to go for a goal or two. Maher understood this in the 20st minute, taking a ball on the half volley and forcing a stop from Abbiati.

In the 31st minute, great chance for Milan, with a low pulled back cross from the left and an El Shaarawy hit on the bar.
The start of the second half was great for PSV with a 100% chance for Wijnaldum. Instead of being smart about it, the former Feyenoord man went for power and Abbiati blocked it nicely.

but it was Balotelli who found he net in the early stages of the 2nd half.

And it has to be said…. AC Milan looked more lethal, more mature and superior, but they did allow PSV the ball a lot and the youngsters from Eindhoven tried to take the game to them. The final pass or the final cross failed them though. And it has to be said, some players failed to step up.

Specifically Adam Maher and Memphis Depay, in my book, should have brought more. Maher had some great moments, but he needs to be more dominating, in my book. He does drift in and out. Depay however seems to light at this level. Physically and in terms of decision making. He is a great talent, for sure. But his time has not come yet. Park and Matavz played decent. So did Wijnaldum. Schaars worked his arse off but simply does not have the class of a Sneijder or Clasie. It’s a bit too predictable.

The most impressive players for me where – despite the goals conceded – Rekik, Bruma, Willems. Fearless. Focused. And sure, playing those top forwards (Boateng. Balotelli, El Shaarawy) you do make mistakes and you will give chances away. But I was impressed with these guys.

Jeroen Zoet? I am not convinced. Talented for sure. But not the man to win games for you (yet). A bit too…..sweet? (Zoet is Dutch for sweet, hahaha). I can’t see how Tyton is not better at the moment.


Nigel de Jong was nice to his fellow countryman. The best Dutch player on the pitch: “I really need to compliment PSV. They play with heart and soul. And they’re talented. But it’s too early for them. If they can keep the lads together for a bit, their time will come.” Asked about his future in Oranje, he said: “Sure! I’d love to wear the jersey again. But for now, after this long injury, I need to focus on my club. If I do well for Milan, the rest will probably follow.”

Stijn Schaars: “We are too light for this. Milan showed us that. We just didn’t have enough. With 1-0 down, there was nothing really troubling us, as we had to score anyway. We had the 1-1 opportunity and we missed. The game would have been different as a result.  They got one 10 minutes later, and score. Almost from the same spot. That is the story, I guess.

This game and this opponent came to early for PSV. Sadly or maybe not sadly, the can now concentrate on the domestic league.

And in Amsterdam they secretly cheer, as all the CL tv income will now go to Ajax….

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Dutch Transfers…

Here is my update on transfers. I will not even try to be “complete” in my analysis as I am a bit far removed from the actions and people like DRB and Alex and others will have much more insights than me.

So, I will start this thread and you guys can add to it, ok?

In general, the transfer market is a bit timid at the moment. It’s still early days, as the actions will go onto September 1 and some clubs will pounce late in the process.

New coaches usually bring new names. We have seen some action already by some high profile coaches, like Mourinho, Moyes, Cocu and Blanc. Cavani’s move to PSG and Neymar’s move to Barca are the biggest headlines. Barca is eager to sign Brazilian PSG defender Silva, but the PSG chairman said that if Barca approaches the player, they (PSG) will make an offer for Lionel Messi… And pay the 250 Mio euros which is in the contract.

The economic downturn will most likely have its impact. Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs, Man City, Man United, Liverpool…they are all doing some business but major signings have not yet been done. ManU might sign Fabregas and Chelsea might sign Rooney, and once these things start to happen, the co-called caroussel will really kick into gear.

It always starts at the top. Napoli is spending their money and PSV is another big spender, what with the exit of Strootman, Mertens, Lens, Pieters and Toivonen.

The actions is limited in Holland though. PSV is changing tactics and is an exception to the rule. Most of you know I don’t have anything with PSV, but I have always been a big fan of Cocu and I think he might well be the real deal as a coach, like Frank de Boer. PSV got it wrong a number of times in the past and their sterile and elitist profile has always put me off. But their current actions on the transfer market are inspired (by Cocu no doubt). Signing Advocaat as coach last year was a coward’s act. Placing Cocu at the helm is more like it.


rekik psvKarim Rekik gets playing time as a loanie at PSV

And as PSV will allow young talents to shine (most likely) and support the Dutch cause, I am happy to give them the benefit of the doubt. Players like Wijnaldum, Depay, Jozefzoon, Narsignh, Maher and Schaars are always good value to watch.

PSV is also keen to score Jens Toornstra of Utrecht. The dynamic midfielder recently got his first Oranje cap in Asia. But Jan Wouters does not want to sell the midfielder so PSV will have to wait a bit.

Ajax is remarkably silent on the transfer market. Both in selling and in signing. Marc Overmars said it early on in this transfer period: we will not join in this madness (referring to the Maher option). Frank de Boer agrees: as long as no one leaves, we will not buy new names.
Siem de Jong gave a huge signal when he announced to want to stay in Amsterdam. His chances for the Oranje Brazil squad are obviously a factor. Frank de Boer hopes this will motivate Eriksen and Alderweireld to stay to. When Babel left, De Boer opted for Krkic and De Boer picked up Utrecht defender van Hoorn to cover for Alderweireld’s potential move. But as it stands, Alderweireld and Eriksen remain in Amsterdam. Eriksen could sign a massive deal with Leverkusen, but he aims high. And if the Barcelona’s or Man Uniteds do not bite, he will stay in Amsterdam. Should Eriksen leave Ajax, it seems Duarte will be his successor. De Boer and co popped the champagne when expensive Sulejmani left for Benfica, creating some space in the salary-budget.

Ajax does need to fear for Liverpool, as the Reds have followed both Eriksen and Alderweireld extensively. Brendan Rogers is only allowed to spend money when Suarez is sold, though, who is on the list of Real Madrid and Arsenal. De Boer wants to go for an internal option if Eriksen goes. Victor Fischer, Davy Klaassen or Lasse Schone can play in that role. Lerin Duarte of Heracles is an option too, although Ajax has some competition here from PSV.

SIEM stays

The Ajax skipper stays in Amsterdam

AC Milan is another club to follow Eriksen. They have offered the Dane 2mio Euros nett per season and are preparing a 16 mio Euro deal for Ajax.

The Oranje Selection for Brazil is also what keeps the Feyenoord talent in Rotterdam. Martins Indi and Clasie were both rumoured to move to London (Arsenal) but it appears that interest was not solid. Both players (and add Janmaat and de Vrij to that list) can count on a role in Brazil provided they will keep their starting berth. Italian striker Graziano Pelle might well leave. Italian, English and Russian clubs are on the prowl and if a good offer comes, I’m sure Feyenoord will let him go. One John Guidetti might well be his successor. Feyenoord does not have the funds to go berserk and Koeman will have to wait until a player leaves before he can move in. With Boetius, the left winger injured, Koeman does want to add Assaidi (not longer needed in Liverpool) to his squad and for now, that’s about it.

Darryl Janmaat frequents many lists in Europe, with Inter being keen to make a move. Feyenoord hopes that his Oranje ambitions will keep him for one more year in Rotterdam, and Feyenoord is preparing a new deal for the right full back, to extort a higher transfer fee, in case the player has a great World Cup campaign.

AZ and Heerenveen are the most active on the market, of the sub top. AZ has lost quite some good players over the last years and this summer prolific goal scorer Altidore (Sunderland) left, while playmaker Maher wears the colours of PSV. Verbeek is known to be a good picker of talent and with Jeffrey Gouweleeuw in Alkmaar and Nemanja Gudelj from NAC and Wuytens from Utrecht, Verbeek is creating his new team nicely.

At FC Twente, they refuse to play along in the game of expensive transfers. Top players Chadli and Tadic are still in Enschede, although the French media report that the Belgian winger might join his fellow countrymen Vertonghen and Dembele at Spurs. Central defender Douglas left for Russia, while Fer got his EPL transfer. The biggest signing is ex Feyenoord talent Ebicilio, who came on a free transfer from Arsenal.

kyle twente

Another young Dutch talent to be watched in the Eredivisie

Some remarkable news… With Royston Drenthe in the Championship to help Reading return to the EPL, we also see Quincy resurfacing after a Russian and Greek adverture. The former Arsenal youngster was one of the hot players in the Under20 Oranje squad in 2005.

Anderlecht is seriously eyeing Hedwiges Maduro. The former Ajax and Valencia player knows Anderlecht coach John van den Brom from his Ajax days.

The biggest “deals” till now is Kevin Strootman’s move to Italy and Van Ginkel to Chelsea.

His name was linked to Man United and Tottenham Hotspur for a while, but there was no offer coming from Albion so Roma picked him up.

Strootman: “I was always keen to move to England and I simply don’t know the Italian competition that well. But Mark van Bommel had a wonderful time in Milan and he told me a lot about the serie A and life and work in Italy. I kinda like the passion in Italian football and I think the lifestyle and playing style suits me.”

The midfielder doesn’t fear his spot in Oranje with this move. “Roma is a very strong team and the Serie A is a strong competition. I was really ready to move and I discussed it with Mr Van Gaal.”

Man City full back Maicon, deadly unhappy in England, will become Strootman’s colleague. Strootman was heralded as the new hero when he arrived at Roma Airport and if he ever returns to Sparta, he will be given a similar welcome as his transfer will add some much needed euros to the war chest of Sparta as well.

Marco van Ginkel to Chelsea is also a transfer that got people’s interest up. Who the hell is Van Ginkel and who the hell is Vitesse? In England, it’s only Ajax, PSV and maybe Feyenoord that have solid names. Although Twente and AZ have done well to establish their names. But Vitesse is like a branch or subsidiary of Chelsea these days. Vitesse puts players not longer wanted by Chelsea in the shopwindow and allows young talents to play regular games. So it’s quite simple for Chelsea to “scout” in Arnhem.


Marco van Ginkel clearly still in shock

Bony, the prolific striker, apparently wasn’t interesting enough for Chelsea (who have Lukaku already) but box-to-box midfielder Van Ginkel was high up on the Blues’ wishlist.

And why not? A diamond in the raw, the young midfielder. Tremendous athlete, in the Michael Ballack / Steve Gerrard mould. Good mentality, all round in skills. The only thing Van Ginkel needs to learn is tactics. He can be a bit rambunctious. Picking the right moment is key. Knowing when to take the pace out. Knowing when to go and when to stay (he should listen to the Clash).

With this season leading up to the World Cup in Brazil (excited already???), it’s key for our lads to have a solid spot in their teams. I prefer Sneijder to be a starter at Gala, than a benchwarmer at Chelsea, for instance. I believe Wes will have a cracker of a season, as will Rafa at Hamburg.

Van Persie, Robben, Vorm, Krul, De Guzman… I can’t see any problems there. Just as De Vrij, Maher, Janmaat, BMI, Blind, Vermeer, Huntelaar will have secured their spots at their respective clubs.

It will be less certain for Lens, Strootman, Elia, Fer and Van Ginkel, to name a few, but Lens and Strootman should be doing well.

We will be following the lads as per usual in the coming months but before the season starts, we will look just one more time at the 1988 Victory. After that, an indepth analysis of Oranje TODAY is in the planning and after that, we’ll see what pops up…

largestAssaidiDespite some promising performances it didn’t work out for Assaidi at Liverpool. Feyenoord wants the former Heerenveen winger








Anyway, I am really excited for next season.

And I am grateful to PSV and Twente among others for being able to keep or attract talent back to the home soil or keep them in Holland. Really keen to see Rekik, Ebecilio, Krkic, Maher and hopefully Assaidi perform….

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Congrats and Thanks, Ajax!

Ajax won their 32nd title in the Dutch Eredivisie and with a record number of trophies and winning it for the third time in a row (Frank de Boer joins Michels and Van Gaal in an illustrious little group of success coaches, he only needs to win the Champions League now), Ajax establishes itself as Holland’s best club.

Quite a feat and a warm congrats from the blogsphere :-).

Ajax deserved it (as any club deserves to win it, after 30+ games in a competition). PSV should have won it, in my humble opinion, what with their investments in a strong squad but despite the presence of Mertens, Wijnaldum, Strootman, Lens, Van Bommel, Toivonen and Matavz, PSV never looked like they could really bother Ajax.

This will put even more pressure on the Eindhoven club towards next season, although it is quite likely that a number of big names will leave PSV (Mertens, Lens, Strootman, Toivonen). Feyenoord seemed to be a contender but in the last stage of the competition, they choked, spilling points vs Heerenveen, RKC and now ADO Den Haag. A young, bright and talented bunch, in Rotterdam, but simply not ready yet. And with the financial issues the club still has, they might sell a number of remarkable players this summer (Pelle, Clasie, Martins Indi, De Vrij), which will further erode their potential.

And with Vitesse and now even FC Utrecht making their way up, we might be looking forward to an increasingly interesting domestic competition.

Ajax is doing a lot of things well. I personally believe Feyenoord have eclipsed them in youth development, as Ajax is the Manchester City of youth players. They might keep the wallet closed for older players but at the youth level, Ajax is one of the big spenders.

But hey, they are not as good in development maybe as they used to be, they still know how to scout. With players like Eriksen, Fischer, Moisander and Boilesen, it’s clear that the Ajax scouts still now the way in Scandinavia. And now, Ajax is even scouting further afield, and China is full on the radar in Amsterdam!

With the JC revolution still going (more like an evolution) in the background, it is Frank de Boer and his staff who have been working diligently and without too much fuss on furthering the Ajax cause. Frank is a true manager. He says what he does and he does what he says. He is clear in his vision, he treats the players like adults and he is 100% himself. We all know that Dennis Bergkamp is not much different, so the leadership positions in Amsterdam are filled up very well.

De Boer lets Ajax play recognisable football and isn’t afraid to experiment a bit with his tactics (as Roberto Mancini must have noticed in the CL group games). He has also been able to lift question-mark players like Ken Vermeer, Daley Blind, Derk Boerrigter and Lasse Schone to a higher level. The first three even made their Oranje debut under De Boer.

Ajax did what it needed to do domestically and actually impressed in the European league.

The key thing for Ajax will be to hold on to Christian Eriksen and Siem de Jong. With those two players in the squad, and a fit Ryan Babel and a further matured Victor Fischer, Ajax could definitely try and survive the group stages in the CL. This year, they had to face the Spanish, English and Germany champs and they didn’t do too shabby. With a bit more luck in the draw, Ajax could start its renewed ascent under De Boer, allowing him to enter that somewhat bigger group of coaches who won a European Cup with the Sons of Gods.

So it’s congrats, and thanks… As Ajax will further stimulate the competition with the likes of PSV (ashamed) and Feyenoord ( wannabees) while Vitesse, Utrecht, Heerenveen, AZ and Twente will be looking up with jealousy. Offering us even more exciting games to come!

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Ajax dominates, PSV and Feyenoord choke….

The Eredivisie has been called the Mickey Mouse competition since before Walt Disney got the inspiration to draw the black mouse, it seems… But the so-called Big Leagues have lost some of its glory this season for me.

Bayern Munich, Man United and Barca were surefire champions on Boxing Day already, it seemed. While two weeks ago, five clubs in Holland were still battling for the title.

Sadly, however, Ajax has shown it’s men against boys in Holland. In the last weeks of the competition, the business end, Ajax demonstrates it wants it. Badly. While Feyenoord succumbed under pressure (physically and mentally) while PSV disgracefully disappoints. So much so that Mark van Bommel considers throwing in the towel and retiring.

What is going well in Amsterdam can clearly be summarized in three words: Frank de Boer. Sure, his assistants Dennis Bergkamp and Hennie Spijkerman (and Carlo L’Ami) will have an impact, just like Overmars and Van der Sar do great things in their suits and the Ajax scouting is able to find the talent, etc etc.

But to take all these great ingredients and to mix it all up into a winning team for three seasons in a row is quite a feat. And all that in non-matching clothes to boot! All Ajax staff wears the formal Ajax costume, bar head coach Frank de Boer who has his own personal fashion sponsor…. Something for Dick Advocaat to consider. He was still wearing his Russia National Team jacket in the PSV dug out….

Back to the field.

PSV – Ajax was a match between a team that really wanted it and a team that felt it merely deserved it.

PSV has spent millions on attacking talent in the last seasons. Matavz, Mertens, Narsingh, Lens, Wijnaldum and with Strootman and Van Bommel in midfield it seemed PSV would have all the ingredients to start winning titles again.

But someone in Eindhoven forgot you do need good defenders too. Scoring a lot is not a problem for the PSV team. But conceding a lot is doing them in.

Seasoned coach Dick Advocaat couldn’t find the right tone with his team. Where Ajax, Feyenoord and Vitesse are working with a coach that can relate to the 20 year olds, PSV decided to go for the veteran coach who is renowned for his “gun for hire” mentality. In a recent interview, he said “don’t expect me to go and check out a PSV youth team. Can’t be bothered…”. No wonder the spark was gone after a while.

Some old PSV icons, who are still involved at the club formally or informally (like Hans van Breukelen, Wim Kieft and others) are moving towards a coup in Eindhoven. Maybe not JC style so much, but the ex-players believe general manager Tiny Sanders is to blame.

Most pundits expect a different PSV next season anyway. Dries Mertens, Kevin Strootman, Ola Toivonen and Jermaine Lens will have moved on, while new coach Phillip Cocu will most likely replace a number of average players wearing the PSV jersey ( Hutchinson, De Rijck).

That will most likely improve the situation in PSV a bit, as the vibe in the dressing room has deteriorated. As Willem van Hanegem said in his column, he had heard from well-informed sources that most players were busy checking the American NBA results after their defeat against Ajax. He also heard that Mark van Bommel was most keen to put his studs not in an Ajax leg, but in Hutchinson’s for his continuous mistakes.

And Advocaat was heard muttering about Pieters’ mistake till late in the night. “What can I do, if an international defender like Pieters allows Boerrigter an open road to goal like this???”.

Van Hanegem went on to criticise Feyenoord too. He did not see a Feyenoord fighting for its last chance, against RKC. “Where is club love?” he muttered. “Should these guys fight till they can’t get up anymore, even if just for the fans who pay their high salaries?”. A often heard complaint by the Feyenoord legend. Ronald Koeman could only agree. “I still get tears in my eyes when I think how Duits was allowed to steam up into our defence. No one responded!”

The Feyenoord coach believes the selection of some of his youngsters this season for Oranje has not helped his quest.

All in all, Ajax is simply the best (again) this season.

Frank de Boer must be complimented for his work and Ajax fans will lose sleep this summer, as many European clubs will vie for his services, without a doubt. De Boer said “no” to Liverpool last season but what will he say if AC Milan, Barcelona or Manchester City comes to chat?

He earlier on said, he’d want an Alex Ferguson career at Ajax, so maybe it will all be well after all.

The man who helped Vermeer, Siem de Jong and Blind into Oranje and has made Christian Eriksen into one of Europe’s hottest midfielders will most likely see Dennis Bergkamp move to Arsenal. His successor is known already, what with Jaap Stam coming to the Arena, while Fons Groenendijk is also a highly respected coach in Amsterdam.

Ajax Godfather Johan Cruyff was pleased to see Ajax’ progress. “The performance can still be improved. It wasn’t great all the time. But the mentality was great. And Ajax has moved from “it’s nice to play good” to “we have to play good”. Frank de Boer is the right coach for Ajax. He made three changes and all three changes were aimed at winning the game. He didn’t make them because of PSV’s actions. It was not reactive, but pro-active. Things are looking up. Financially, the club is doing ok and winning the title this year again will help tremendously.”

Frank de Boer is one of the few players of a golden generation who is capable of transcending his passion as a player into his coaching. It took Jan Wouters a long while to find his mojo, while Rijkaard, Van Basten and Koeman had a hot-cold career so far.

It’s officially too early to congratulate the Sons of Gods, but their demonstration of will in the PSV-Ajax game clearly makes them the only club deserving of the title this season. And with a bit more luck in the draw next season (and Adam Maher for Christian Eriksen who will most likely move away from Amsterdam), the Champions League might prove to be a good platform for Ajax anyway…

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Meanwhile, in the Eredivisie

The Eredivisie is exciting again!

Ajax is still in the race for a spot in the CL after the winter. The Sons of Gods play Borussia Dortmund this coming CL matchday and it could go anywhere. Ajax could end up last (when they lose against the Germans and Man City beats Madrid). And with a last game at the Bernabeu, it might mean Ajax finishes empty handed. But Ajax could also end this match day in the second spot.

Exciting stuff. Ryan Babel is the big absentee this time around. The Ajax striker played a great game in Dortmund (and missing a huge chance to score, like Eriksen) but will be missing. Alderweireld and Ken Vermeer however, are back from being absent and Frank de Boer can use his full squad.

PSV is the ultimate fave for the title this season. Dick Advocaat, Mark van Bommel, Kevin Strootman, Jeremain Lens, Dries Mertens… The Eindhoven team does show their class regularly but lacks consistency. Wijnaldum, Matavz, Mertens, they all felt the thorn of Advocaat already. If they can overcome their lacklustreness for a spell they should be able to win this.

FC Twente is doing well and collects the points, but seems to lack the width to make it to the end. With Leroy Fer sidelined for a bit, it was clear Twente does not have players to replace him. When Chadli, Tadic and/or Douglas go AWOL for whatever reason, Twente is too vulnerable.

Ajax, like Feyenoord, seems a bit too young, playfull and inconsistent this season and lacks real top quality. Whenever players like Siem de Jong, Eriksen or Van Rhijn are not performing, Ajax becomes mediocre. Same with Feyenoord, with Jordy Clasie, Daryl Janmaat and Graziano Pelle at Feyenoord.

The contenders might have a shot this year. AZ has serious difficulties replacing Martens (injured), Moisander (sold), Rasmus Elm (sold) and Aussie Brett Holman ( sold). FC Utrecht does very well this season under Jan Wouters but will most likely lack stamina. Vitesse might be the club most likely to challenge PSV.
With Fred Rutten at the helm, Theo Janssen and Marco van Ginkel in midfield and Bony scoring the goals, they keep on winning.

With Daryl Janmaat, one of the relevations of this season is mentioned. Last season an anonymous right back at Heerenveen, this season one of the most impressive Oranje players against Germany.

This is actually his second term at Feyenoord. The young back played in Feyenoord’s youth academy until the C youth group. He had a great time in the youth system. ” I never was a great talent. Was a defender or midfielder in those days, but probably one of the least “exciting” players.”

He actually started as a often scoring striker in the F youth. He was topscorer of his first season and scored from literally all angles and positions.

But, he had to go back a line every season. “I stopped scoring at a certain age. There probably were better defenders and also better strikers than me. So I ended up in the position that naturally fits me best: right full back.”

“I do believe not being the biggest talents helped me. I developed a strong mentality. Physically I wasn’t the best either, so I had to train really hard and leave a lot of fun out of my life, to make sure I would make it. It sort of came naturally.”

Janmaat is very confident in his first season in De Kuip. “I know some players are a bit overwhelmed with the atmosphere here. I love it. Totally. We all feel indestructable.”

Feyenoord isn’t beaten at home for a year. The last time Feyenoord had a series like this was in 1996.”In De Kuip, we are invincible,” Janmaat says. “It’s the venue, the pitch and most importantly, the fans!”

The support from the Legion works like dope. The right back, who came transfer free from Heerenveen, gets wings from the buzz from the stands.”

The gung ho defender feels like he is in seventh heaven anyway. His position in the team is without question and now he is also becoming a stayer in the Oranje squad. And not just him, Bruno Martins Indi, Stefan de Vrij, Joris Mathijsen, Ruben Schaken, Jordy Clasie are all on LVG’s list.

The discussion re: De Kuip and the planned demolition (and building of a “New Kuip”) is fueled by statements like the ones made by Janmaat…. The team feels powerful at home. The fans adore the venue. And the ex players lament the destruction of the historic grounds.

But, De Kuip is no longer a model venue in Europe, like it was in the 1950s all the way to the 1980s… Slowly but surely, other venues got renovated or clubs built totally new, modern stadiums. The Amsterdam Arena is often criticised for being like a theatre but from personal experience, I can say that visiting the toilet in the Arena is like going to the loo in the Sydney Opera House while trying to go to the toilet in De Kuip is like visiting a slaughterhouse.

The security protocols can’t be met in De Kuip. It’s becoming a dangerous venue.

One can only hope that the powers that be in Rotterdam make the right decision when moving to a new venue. So Janmaat and Co can feel invincible for many a season…

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Wonderful week for Ajax with balls! ( Pt 1?)

On the day before the biggest Classic in the country (Feyenoord-Ajax), we can look back at a great week for Ajax.

And typically for Ajax, it has everything to do with balls. Big balls.

The difference between Ajax and Feyenoord, PSV, Twente and all the other teams in Holland is basically that. Bravado. Balls. Arrogance. Self-consciousness. This is what made/makes Ajax extraordinary.

Yes, good football. Yes, results. Yes, a good venue. Yes a good jersey. Yes, a strong supporters following. All of that. But it’s Ajax gogme ( jiddish word for street smartness) that sets them apart.

And it was demonstrated by Frank de Boer ( and his staff) in the tactics against Manchester City.

The Oranje1974/Barca style of playing with a loose striker ( ™ Carlos) worked wonders. Roberto Mancini didn’t get it. Lescot and Kompany didn’t have a clue. Ajax ruled the game.

And it was demonstrated by Cristian Eriksen, Siem de Jong, Ricardo van Rhijn, Daley Blind and even Paulsen. On the pitch. In amongst big name players like Toure, Nasri, Aguero, Barry, Milner.

Ajax deserved the lead in the first half already, but over enthusiasm by the team (and Van Rhijn) allowed Nasri to score (was Vermeer indeed pulling his hand?). But Man of the Match Siem de Jong set up the equaliser in brilliant style, after a one-two combination with Van Rhijn.

In the second half, Ajax put the foot firmer on the pedal and won the game highly justified with 3-1.

Dennis having a good time while Roberto is not happy….

And sadly, one wonders…what would have happened if the lot would have found their cojones earlier on in the competition? Sure, they played well against Dortmund in Germany, but forgot to kill the game. The home game against Real Madrid (with yours truly in the stands) gave us another Ajax, however. Frank de Boer said “It was as if I was watching Martin Jol’s Ajax…”…

But he got them to play exciting, adventurous and ballsy again. According to the Dutch school, but arguably in a 4-4-2 formation. So what?

So, there are many different scenarios out there, but in my book, Ajax needs to win away against City (Boerrigter and Babel up front, no Sana and 4 men in midfield) and at home against Dortmund and Real will do the rest :-). If Ajax goes up to the second spot, Dortmund and Man City will go after spot 3 and Man City will definitely win a game (after they get their arse whooped by Ajax again 🙂 ).

Former Ajax chair and FFP advocate Michael van Praag

So, there you go people: Ajax to go through.

Also, on another level, in the board room, former Ajax executives Michael van Praag and Maarten Fonteijn have pushed for (and received) agreements on Financial Fair Play. To be introduced next season ( 2013-2014)!

Like Frank de Boer on the bench, Michael van Praag does not take prisoners. Asked if he would have the cojones to have a go at Manchester City and Real Madrid, he said (with a smile): “You betcha!”.

So clubs like Ajax will have a real chance to win the CL again.

Van Praag: “If Real Madrid doesn’t want to play according to the new rules, they are out. Simple as that.”

Any club competing in a European competition will have to have his financial household in order by running the operation break even. Making a loss is not on.

“The revenue streams will have to come from ticket sale, sponsoring, tv rights and merchandising. It is not longer an option for the owner of Man City to say “what do we need to balance the books? 100 million? Here you go…”.”

Debt needs to be repaid in three years. In the first year, 45 mio is allowed, but in year three only 5 mio. After that, it is zero! The only investments that are allowed is the youth academy. The only option left for them is to sell shares in the clubs. But they won’t…”

Fascinating developments in Amsterdam.

Sadly for them, they’re now on their way to Rotterdam where Feyenoord will put their feet firmly back onto the ground :-).

Man of the Match

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