In Rotterdam, the world is upside down. “Great Old” Sparta – Holland’s oldest professional football club – find themselves in the Eerste Divisie, the country’s second divison. Feyenoord, traditionally Rotterdam’s dominant force, are flirting with relegation and deeply ashamed after a 10-0 thrashing at the hands of PSV Eindhoven last weekend. Therefore, Excelsior, a small and modest club from the neighbourhood of Kralingen, are left along to defend Rotterdam’s honour in this season’s Eredivisie. And having beaten Feyenoord (3-2) and halted Ajax in their tracks (2-2) at the Woudestein, the Roodzwarten are making a good fist of it.
During the 1990s, Sparta Rotterdam found themselves in serious trouble, due to miserably poor management, causing the club to drop the the Ereste Divisie in 2002 for the first time in their history. Dutch pundits joked that “Sparta can never be relegated” and asked “Why not?” replied, “Because they can’t”. But then it happened and the club founded in 1888 tasted second tier football. Those same pundits who believed Sparta were simply too big to go down now find themselves choosing their words with more care when assessing Feyenoord. Sparta’s situation in 2002 and Feyenoord’s now looks dangerously similar.
Despite having won just three titles in the last 30 years, Feyenoord have always been considered a giant of the Dutch game. However, after lifting the Eredivisie in 1999 and then winning the 2002 UEFA Cup, the club’s situation has gone from bad to worse. Managerial mistakes, expensive flops and increasing financial difficulties have led Feyenoord to the edge of an abyss.
Since 2004, Feyenoord have had seven coaches (Ruud Gullit, Erwin Koeman, Bert
van Marwijk, Gertjan Verbeek and Mario Been, plus “caretakers” Leo Beenhakker
and Leon Vlemmings) along with four technical directors (Rob Baan, Mark Wotte,
Peter Bosz and Leo Beenhakker). 49 players have been bought, but only six have
made any sort of impact; Romeo Castelen (now of Hamburg), Henk Timmer, Roy
Makaay and Giovanni van Bronckhorst (all retired), Nuri Sahin (a one-year loan
from Borussia Dortmund) and John Dahl Tomasson (still at the club).
“In the last years Feyenoord have completely lacked a global vision”, said Henk van Stee, the former head of the club’s youth system. “A good project needs continuity. You cannot change the technical director, the coach and his staff almost every year. Every person has a different vision of the game and of the players who could be functional to his own ideas."
The different philosophies of Baan and Bosz illustrate Van Stee’s point to perfection. While Baan decided to pursue a more global approach to player recruitment, scouting and buying potential young starlets from across the world – like Brazilians Michel Bastos and Gerson Magrao, Australian Brett Emerton and Ivorian Bonaventure Kalou – Bosz thought experience the most important factor to improve Feyenoord’s performance. During Bosz spell as technical director, he moved for older players such as Kevin Hofland, Roy Makaay, Giovanni van Bronckhost, Danny Landzaat, Michael Mols and Tim de Cler.
A Sinking Ship
At the end of 2006, businessman Jorien van den Henrik stepped down as Feyenoord chairman, leaving the club under special guardianship due to their financial troubles. A new committee headed by Dick van Well was appointed and Feyenoord supporters could have been forgiven for hoping for a general improvement. However, over the last three years the financial situation at De Kuip has worsened and the Rotterdam side have debts of at least £31M. Fans who had strongly criticised Van den Herik are now partially changing their minds. The former chairman was a controversial figure, once saying “Martin Jol? He is too fat to become Feyenoord’s coach”. Yet despite leaving behind economic
difficulties at De Kuip, Van den Henrik also handed the club back its international status and made some important investments, such as the Feyenoord Fetteh Football Academy in Ghana. “Van den Henrik was a sort of figurehead who could steer the Feyenoord ship forward”, wrote Dutch weekly Voetbal International, adding: “After he left, the ship started to sink.”
The sleepy Feyenoord Committee is now well and truly under fire; and Leo Beenhakker too. The 68-year-old technical director, considered overpaid by large sections of the club’s support, added only free transfers last summer. Beenhakker complains that it is impossible to go shopping without money; however, many doubts remain over Feyenoord’s scouting system, and as Dutch coach Co Adriaanse – who turned down the club twice – remarked: “The Polish goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton is currently one of the best keepers in the Eredivisie. I wonder why he plays with Roda? Beenhakker coached Poland for two years. Why do his Feyenoord play with a 41-year-old keeper instead of a talented young player like Tyton?” Beenhakker’s most expensive buy thus far has been former Roda striker Sekou Cisse, who cost around £3M and is widely considered another failure. Cisse was only afforded through help from an outside investor, and the club’s debts continue to grow.
A lack of vision has gone a long way towards helping Feyenoord lose money over the last few years; many players who failed to impress at De Kuip are now regulars elsewhere. Johan Elmander (Bolton Wanderers), Michel Bastos (Lyon), Dwight Tiendalli (FC Twente), Glenn Loovens (Celtic), Gerson Magrao (Dynamo Kyiv), Danko Lazovic (Zenit), Patrick Mtilga (Malaga) and Jacob Lensky (Utrecht) are just some of those who have gone on from unimpressive spells at Feyenoord to turning out in the Premier League, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Champions League. Fans understandably ask: “What kind of strange Malaise has spread around De Kuip?”
But perhaps Mounir El Hamdaoui and Jonathan de Guzman best represent Feyenoord’s mistakes in the transfer market. The former, a Moroccan striker, grew up at Excelsior, Feyenoord’s satellite club, but was never given the chance to prove his worth at De Kuip. Despite their first option on El Hamdaoui, Feyenoord passed on the player. Fast forward to 2009, and the Moroccan ended the season as Eredivisie top scorer and title winner with AZ. Today, the 26-year-old turns out for Ajax in the Champions League.
Dutch-Canadian midfielder De Guzman was another product of Feyenoord’s first class youth system. In the past, selling talent developed at De Kuip, such as Robin van Persie and Royston Drenthe, could be counted upon to bring in millions in extra income. De Guzman looked for all the world to see like Feyenoord’s next big sale; the Dutch giants were unable though to set-up a deal with a number of Spanish and English clubs linked with the player, and last summer, De Guzman signed a contract with Real Mallorca, moving to Spain on a free transfer; no money for Feyenoord, despite 12 years spent developing the midfielder.
The Rotterdam side must now avoid another De Guzman style case, yet currently find themselves with five players whose contracts expire on 1st July, 2011, and another 14 who could leave on a free transfer in 2012. Young talents like Leroy Fer, Georginio Wijnaldum, Diego Biseswar, Kamohelo Mokotjo and key players Ron Vlaar and Andre Bahia need to be offered contract extensions. Most though, will ask for guarantees that things will get better at De Kuip before signing on the dotted line. Midfielder Fer has been targeted by Manchester United and Newcastle United, but would stay if the situation improved. “Leroy could sign a new contract with Feyenoord only if he saw real prospects for his future at the club”, said the player’s agent Rob Jansen.
It may not be all doom and gloom at the Rotterdam giants though and much faith is placed in coach Mario Been. Despite a terrible start to the current season – only Pim Verbeek in 1989 and Gertjan Verbeek in 2008 have endured worse – Been has the ability to raise the team from their current swamp. The 46-year-old has always done a good job with young and inexperienced teams; Been earned promotion to the Eredivisie with Excelsior, then led NEC Nijmegen to the Round of 16 in the UEFA Cup.
“Feyenoord and Mario Been need only tranquillity to start again after the Philips Stadion [defeat to PSV] disaster”, said Johan Cruyff. A comfortable 3-0 win over VVV-Venlo helped Feyenoord bounce back a little from that 10-0 mauling and showed the club is not quite in complete disarray. However, black clouds still linger over De Kuip and until the board and directors stop speaking about Feyenoord’s European and title ambitions at the start of every season, the situation will not drastically change. After all, the first step needed to reverse a decline is to be aware that it is real and happening.
Fonte: Inside Futbol