The giant of Dutch football is in a major crisis. Comprehensive reform efforts began with the dismissal of Maurice Steijn, and the appointment of Hedwiges Maduro as head coach starting with the match against Brighton this Thursday, in the Europa League group stage.
Ajax Amsterdam has never gone through a period as bad as it is today. Let’s go back a bit about history, this team’s most recent crisis took place at the end of 2017 when they were eliminated from the Dutch Cup by Twente Enschede. For the four-time European Cup champions, it is unacceptable that hopes of a domestic double ended before Christmas.
Immediately after that loss, Erik ten Hag was appointed to replace Marcel Keizer as head coach with the goal of reviving the club’s spirit. With his talent and understanding of Ajax Amsterdam, he restored their winning DNA, leading the talented young team to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019, along with many titles in the domestic tournament.
Recalling the past to see that currently, the 36-time Dutch champion also needs a major surgery. For the first time since April 1999, Ajax has lost four consecutive matches in the Eredivisie. In addition, in all competitions, they have not known victory in the past 8 matches.
Starting with football director Sven Mislintat being fired. Most recently, coach Maurice Steijn also had to leave after only 11 matches in charge. Steijn moved to Ajax from Sparta Rotterdam – the tiny team that shocked the final 6th place last season.
Speaking about the decision, club chief executive Jan van Halst said: “We have worked together actively and professionally over the past few months. But the team is still having difficulty reaching success. That’s why we decided to sit together today. Maurice also expressed doubts about himself. Therefore, the two sides decided that it was best to part ways.”
Part of the reason why Ajax is playing its worst football since the 1960s is due to lack of experience.
Steijn inherited the youngest squad in the Eredivisie, but their talent pool has dried up recently. The attractiveness of invitations from big clubs across Europe has caused young stars to leave the team.
Up to now, the business model of Ajax (and other teams in the Netherlands) has always been to discover and train young players, let them try in domestic tournaments and then sell them at high prices when they succeed. has become a star. From Johan Cruyff to Marco van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp, Wesley Sneijder, Frenkie de Jong… and many other players, after proving their talent at the Amsterdam Arena, chose to leave.
If more examples are needed, we have Andre Onana, Antony and Lisandro Martinez reunited with Erik Ten Hag at Manchester United; Sebastien Haller joins Borussia Dortmund; Noussair Mazraoui departs for Bayern Munich with Ryan Gravenberch.
In a management position, Ajax also lost Edwin van der Sar – the club’s former goalkeeper, who left his position as CEO last summer.
Let’s take a look at a few prominent names to see how the giant of Dutch football has been experiencing a major talent bleeding problem in recent years. It will be difficult for them to maintain continued success if this problem is not improved. The team’s fans are fearing a return to the dark days of the late 1990s, when they only won two Eredivisie championships in 12 years.
However, things don’t stop here. Ajax Amsterdam is also having problems with the team’s fans.
In September, during the match against Feyenoord at De Klassieker – a classic match of Dutch football, a section of fans threw flares and bottles onto the field, causing the match to be stopped twice. Others then tried to break into the stadium before police brought the situation under control. Feyenoord players and staff were asked to remain in the dressing room until they were assured it was safe to leave the field.
Van Halst immediately criticized the aggressive fans who vandalized their home stadium. This is truly a black mark on the club.
However, the team’s leadership is also showing drastic actions to help the club escape the current situation as soon as possible. Starting from the appointment of young coach Hedwiges Maduro to the hot seat since the match against Brighton in the third match of Group B Europa League.
With available potential and a heroic history, as long as Ajax has determination and the leadership is on the right track, this club’s return to glory will not be far away.
Thinh Nguyen | 20:30 October 25, 2023