Welcome to my latest post at Ajax, no guessing what the highlight of the season as been (I think the title gives that away) on Sunday evening 20.00hrs UK time I sat in front of my computer screen to kick off the Champions League Final against Antonio Conte and his Chelsea side and approximately 90 minutes later I was celebrating my Ajax side becoming Champions Of Europe in just our 2nd season and not only that we had done the quintuple, yes we had won 5 trophies this season adding to the 3 we had won in season 1. The average age of our starting line up for the final was 21.7 years the youngest side to have won a European trophy. On the night I decided to live tweet updates on my twitter feed of the final which provoked a barrage of interesting interaction with my phone pinging direct messages constantly throughout the evening which made it a very enjoyable experience which I would like to thank all who messaged me and interacted with the live updates, I think I just about managed to reply to everyone.
Our Champions League run started with a group consisting of Manchester City, Zenit St Petersburg and Rapid Wien. In my opinion a reasonable draw that gave us a chance of qualifying. We started the campaign at home to Rapid Wien and ran out easy winners, winning 4-0 with goals from Cerny, Dolberg, Younes and Nouri. A good start with our next game away in Russia against Zenit were we managed to come away with a valuable point after Richairo Zivkovic scored an 80th minute equaliser to draw the game 1-1. Now next up we travelled to England to take on Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side in the battle billed by myself as ‘the battle for ball retention’ has both myself and my Spanish counterpart like to have the ball. On the night we won the battle for the ball however we lost the game 1-2 with our goal consolation goal coming in injury time at the end of the game courtesy of Donny Van de Beek. With 4 points from our opening 3 games and the return against Manchester City being our next fixture I felt we needed to get something out of the game to give ourselves a chance to qualify to the knockout rounds. We played well but found ourselves 0-1 down until Zeca equalised in the 72nd minute after good work from Nouri on the left. The game fizzled out ending in a 1-1 draw. Next up was the away game at Rapid Wien and we started the game well and led 1-0 at the break through a Davy Klaassen strike. We added two more goals in the second half via de Ligt and Nouri meaning a point from our last game at home to Zenit would be enough to take us through to the knockout rounds. We went one better than that and raced in to a 2-0 lead in the first half thanks to our front 2 Sierhus and Dolberg, Zenit knew it was not to be their day when they scored an own goal in the 2nd period that gave us a convincing 3-0 win and sent us through to the knockouts in 2nd place behind City.
The draw in Zurich paired us with one of the favourites and a club who we have a special relationship with thanks to Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff who connected the two clubs together in the 70’s. That club FC Barcelona have gone on to be one of the best club sides in the World. The first was in Amsterdam and despite conceding an away goal we won the game 2-1 with goals from Sierhus and de Ligt but would it be enough going back to the Camp Nou? The answer to that was yes it was enough with us getting a 2-2 draw after a superb away performance in one of the most difficult of theatre’s in the game, our goals came by the way of Dolberg and Sierhus who are developing a cracking partnership. The draw for the last 8 sent us back to Spain to play Diego Simone’s Atlético Madrid side who my dear friend Saadiq Bey told me that our performance against Simone’s side would have to be flawless. We arrived in Spain with a plan, we would look to play narrow against Cholo’s 442 in an attempt to get our full backs pushing in to the wide areas to put pressure on Atlético out wide hoping that they would struggle against the trickery of Zeca and Tete. It went to plan however we struggled defensively so both sides went goal crazy with us winning by the odd goal in a 7 goal thriller. We were anything but flawless in our 4-3 win in which Nouri 2 and Sierhus 2 got on the scoresheet. 4 away goals could come in handy though. The home leg was a much more solid performance from us with us running out 4-0 winners with goals from Dolberg and Sierhus which Mr Bey would approve of. So our 2nd leg performance set up a Semi Final clash against Napoli who had done exceptionally well to reach the last 4 knocking out Tottenham in the last 8. The first leg in Amsterdam was a tight game Napoli were well organised under SarrI and this proved to be our most difficult opponent in the competition to date. The game ended all square at 1-1 with Klaassen getting our goal. The away leg in Naples was a mirror image of the 1st leg but we got a lucky break when Pepe Reina scored an own goal just after the half hour mark and then Kasper Dolberg got a second for us just before half time. We took control in the second period and booked ourselves a Final spot with a 2-1 win to set up a final against Conte’s Chelsea. I live tweeted the final against Chelsea and it was a very entertaining game with both sides having chances in a goallessfirst half, I say goalless because Diego Costa had a goal ruled out for offside which was a good decision that Antonio Conte agreed to after the game, Ten minutes in to the 2nd half Kaj Sierhus broke the deadlock and put us 1-0 up which kick started Chelsea in to creating a handful of chances which we survived before captain Davy Klaassen wrapped the game up 2-0. We were crowned Champions of Europe.
The goals that won the big eared trophy
We celebrated winning back to back Eredivisie titles after a near faultless campaign that seen us only lose 1 game away at PEC Zwolle.
Kasper Dolberg led the scoring charts with 25 goals and 15 assists but it was Kaj Sierhus who stood with his 20 goals and 15 assists in his debut season in the first team. Abdelhak Nouri had a fantastic season his best yet at the club with 19 goals and 8 assists. Kenny Tete was named player of the year.
I have taken the decision to leave the club after winning the Champions League, something that I said I would do in one of my earlier posts. I have had offers from a number of clubs including Valencia and West Ham but I turned both down straight away however I attended two interviews at both FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund. Now most people know there is a special bond between Ajax and Barcelona courtesy of the Michels and Cruyff link plus a good few other players who have represented both clubs so attending the interview was a no brained for me however it was the Borussia Dortmund vacancy that intrigued me the most so I turned the job offer from Barcelona down and spoke to Dortmund. The interview went well and I was offered the position and asked if I wanted to make any backroom changes to the staff which I was happy at retaining the current Dortmund staff but I wanted to add two of my Ajax coaches to my staff so both Dennis Bergkamp and Walter Ribonetto will join me in Dortmund has I signed a 3 year contract with Ajax receiving a compensation payment of £2.6m.
So the save continues but next time the post will be from Dortmund were I will be looking to build my squad for the season ahead.
I am pleased to have been given the opportunity to manage this great club, I have had 2 fantastic years at Ajax culminating in winning the Champions League something that I would like to replicate here in Dortmund. At a first glance at the squad there seems to be a blend of older and younger players, I will be looking to move some of the older players on but not all at once has I want to evaluate the whole squad before I make any decision on who goes and stays. What I do know is that I will be giving the youngsters at the club a chance in the 1st team. My intension is to stay at the club for two or three seasons before moving on to my next club whoever that may be. Saadiq Bey knows that Milan holds a special place in my heart and thinks it’s long overdue me taking them on however I will go were the save takes me but for the next few seasons Dortmund will be my priority. I am glad that two of my Ajax backroom staff are joining me in Dennis Bergkamp and Walter Ribonetto. I will also keep an eye on how Ajax progress under new management and you never know I may pop up again in Amsterdam in the future.
The Story So Far:
Borussia Dortmund 2018-
17-18 Eredivisie Winners Champions League Winners Uefa Super Cup Winners Dutch Cup Winners Johan Cruijff Schaal Winners
16-17 Eredivisie Winners Europa Lge Winners Dutch Cup Winners