13 coaches in 13 years. Sitting on the bench at Ajax has been akin to being a dead man walking. Since Louis van Gaal left the Amsterdam giants in 1997, coach after coach have come, and then exited the club. Most recently, Martin Jol decided to call time on his spell at the Amsterdam ArenA; and so the cycle continues. Inside Futbol take a look back over the recent history of Ajax managers:
Morten Olsen – July 1997 to December 1998
Danish coach Olsen showed no fear in taking the job after Van Gaal’s exploits, and at once imposed a style of out and out attack at the Dutch side, which swiftly led to a league and cup double. The Amsterdam side won the Eredivisie by 17 points, with PSV Eindhoven trailing in second place; they even scored 112 goals, Shota Arveladze top scoring with 25. The following season however, Olsen encountered problems with the De Boer (Frank and Ronald) brothers, with the duo wanting to head to Barcelona, and the coach determined to keep them. Supporters grew restless and Olsen was sacked before Christmas.
Jan Wouters – December 1998 to March 2000
Wouters is widely remembered in Amsterdam as the coach who shamed the club’s centenary year. On 18th March, 2000, the club’s centenary celebrations ended in tragedy as FC Twente defeated Ajax in Amsterdam. The fomer Holland midfielder was undoubtedly a good tactician, but lacked the charisma needed to guide a turbulent Ajax side. He was immediately fired after the side’s defeat.
Hans Westerhof – March 2000 to June 2000
Two days after the centenary disaster, the then-young Ajax coach Westerhof was drafted in to replace Wouters. Ajax stumbled along with their deeply disappointing season and finished fifth. Attacking midfielder Richard Knopper ended as the team’s top scorer with 15 goals. His career went on to embody that season’s Ajax side: great expectations, disappointing results.
Co Adriaanse – July 2000 to November 2001
Adriaanse, who rules his sides with an iron fist, shocked the Ajax faithful by deploying a 5-4-1 formation in a Champions League meeting with Celtic. But this was not the only controversy in the coach’s reign. Adriaanse also denied Marco van Basten the opportunity to join his staff, proclaiming: “A good horse does not make a good rider”; he also spent his time in charge appearing to pick fights with the press and rival sides. On the pitch, however, Adriaanse could not recreate the stylish and attractive football he had produced when in charge of Willem II, having led that club to second place in the 1998/99 campaign and their first ever Champions League spot. After finishing third, Adriaanse was sacked the next season before Christmas. His successor went on to win the double.
Ronald Koeman – December 2001 to February 2005
The club’s most successful coach since Louis van Gaal, Koeman captured two titles and a Dutch cup. Ajax also went on, under the former international defender’s guidance, to excel in the Champions League, reaching the quarter final in 2002/03, and losing out only to a late Jon Dahl Tomasson goal for AC Milan. Under Koeman, Ajax produced a thrilling season, with Rafael van der Vaart (18 goals in 2002/03) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (13 goals a year later). In his third year, the former Barcelona star, who had clashed on several occasions with technical director Louis van Gaal, saw the ex-boss bite the bullet, resigning mid-season. Koeman didn’t last much longer, being sacked in February 2005 after a UEFA Cup defeat to Auxerre.
Ruud Krol and Tonny Bruins Slot – 25th February 2005 to 16th March 2005
A caretaker duo, Koeman’s two former assistants could have led Ajax until the end of the season, but the club opted to make their reign a very short one.
Danny Blind – March 2005 to June 2006
Club icon Blind – the defender was captain of the golden Ajax side of the 1990s – started his reign with two consecutive defeats, against PSV Eindhoven and Heerenveen. However, Ajax finished second that season and the club’s board kept faith with Blind for the next campaign. In the 2005/06 campaign, Blind led Ajax to the Dutch Cup and the Supercup, reached the last eight in the Champions League – Inter were too strong – but could not do better than fourth place in the Eredivisie. A lack of consistency was the real reason Blind was shown the door.
Henk Ten Cate – July 2006 to October 2007
Frank Rijkaard’s former assistant at Barcelona – together they won the Champions League – Ten Cate won three cups (two Supercups and one Dutch Cup) in 12 months. However, the Dutchman was also the coach who led Ajax to two consecutive early Champions League exits, dropping out in the preliminary round – in 2007 to FC Copenhagen and 2008 to Slavia Prague. In his first season at Ajax, Ten Cate only lost out on the title to PSV Eindhoven by virtue of goal difference. The coach played a vital role in the development of Wesley Sneijder, however when he left on 8th October 2008 to join Chelsea, there were no regrets from most Ajax fans.
Adrie Koster – October 2007 to June 2008
The goal-machine Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (33 goals in 2007/08’s Eredivisie) was not enough to help Koster bring the title back to Amsterdam. Ajax ended three points behind PSV Eindhoven, then lost their Champions League playoff to Twente to compound the misery. Defender John Heitinga being awarded best Eredivisie player of the season was the only consolation for the Amsterdam club.
Marco van Basten – June 2008 to May 2009
Van Basten’s spell at Ajax was marked with the constant chopping and changing of tactical systems and players’ positions right across the pitch – midfielder Siem de Jong saw himself played up front, while forward Miralem Sulejmani was handed the role of playmaker. Ajax were in a state of deep and (dis)organised chaos while their coach became more restless week by week. The former Holland striker resigned just one week before the end of the Eredivisie season following a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Sparta Rotterdam.
John van’t Schip – May 2009
Van Basten’s former assistant, Van’t Schip led Ajax for just a single match, the last of the 2008/09 season. The Amsterdam club beat Twente 1-0 and finished third, behind AZ and the Enschede side.
Martin Jol – June 2009 to December 2010
Under Jol, Ajax played the best football seen by their fans in years. With an impressive second half of the 2009/10 campaign, the Dutch giants remained in the title race right until the final match (Twente won the trophy by a single point). Jol’s side scored more than 100 goals – 106 to be precise – of which 35 were netted by Luis Suarez. The Amsterdam ArenA outfit also lifted the Dutch Cup. This season however, Ajax’s performances were disappointing, especially against side’s expected to fall to their might; clubs like Excelsior, Utrecht and ADO Den Haag all troubled Jol’s men – Utrecht and ADO Den Haag both won at the ArenA. The former Tottenham Hotspur manager’s position was further weakened by criticism from Johan Cruyff, who commented on what he saw as the side’s poor menality, especially in the Champions League. A home draw against NEC was the final straw for Jol and he resigned after the game.
Frank de Boer – December 2010 to present
A former Ajax youth team coach and current Holland boss Bert van Marwijk’s assistant, De Boer was appointed as caretaker coach until January. Already however, influential voices are calling for the former Ajax and Barcelona star to stay in post longer. After a -meaningless – win over AC Milan at the San Siro (Milan had already qualified for the knockout phase along with Real Madrid), De Boer marked his league debut with victory in Arnhem against Vitesse.
Fonte: Inside Futbol