What Became Of Ajax ’95 (Part 1)
Upon seeing Kanu’s name pop up on the videoprinter (do they still call it that!?) having scored in the 26th minute of Portsmouth’s game against Nottingham Forest in January it left me pondering what had happened to the rest of the famous Ajax team that defeated AC Milan in the final of The Champions League in 1995.
Many superlatives could be used as a prefix when describing this team due to the impressive array of individual talent on show. However, famous seems most apt taking into account the vast amount of silverware amassed by each player in their irrespective careers around Europe and beyond, breaking records and writing themselves into the folklore of the modern game in the process.
With Louis Van Gaal deploying his favoured 3-4-3 formation in the final, the first instalment of this three part series will focus on the back line, who between them accumulated 356 caps for the Dutch national side over the course of their international playing careers. Quite the foundation on which to build a successful side.
Edwin Van Der Sar: At 40 years of age Van Der Sar is still plying his trade between the sticks, now into his sixth year at Manchester United having added another Champions League winner’s medal to his impressive list of honours as recently as 2008. A fantastic career that will end at the close of the 2010/11 season following an announcement earlier this week, has also seen him don the gloves of Juventus and Fulham as well as gaining 130 caps for Holland (a national record having superseded Frank De Boer on 112 caps).
As well as numerous league titles and other domestic cup wins at Ajax and Manchester United individual plaudits have not been in short supply, named Best European Goalkeeper twice and Dutch Football Goalkeeper of the year on no fewer than four occasions to name just a few.
Danny Blind: Currently assistant coach at Ajax to none other than the next name on this list, Blind returned to the Amsterdam clubs backroom staff in 2008 following a brief hiatus as director of his first ever club Sparta Rotterdam. All of this after occupying the Ajax managerial hotseat between March ’05 and May ’06.
Captain of the winning side on the night, Blind was to complete his set of European club medals won with Ajax following the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and UEFA cup successes of ’87 and ’92 respectively. Capped 42 times for the Netherlands the defender finally retired with Ajax having also won five Dutch Eredivisie Championships, four Dutch Cups, the Intercontinental Cup and European Super Cup leading him to become the only Dutch player to have ever won all international club competitions recognised by both FIFA and UEFA.
Frank De Boer: Now aged 40 the younger of the De Boer twins currently holds the managerial reins at Ajax, he will hope to develop some of the talent he has nurtured during his time working with the Ajax youth setup. Still early on in his managerial career he has also worked as assistant manager to the Dutch national side (a role which he occupied at South Africa 2010 where Oranje were defeated by Spain in the final), he will hope to emulate the successes of his playing career.
De Boer left Ajax to join Barcelona in 1998 where he added a La Liga title to the five league titles he won whilst a player with the Amsterdammers. The player retired with Al-Ryann of Qatar in April 2006 following brief spells with Rangers and Galatasary.
Micheal Reiziger: Currently studying towards his coaching badges whilst residing in Spain where he spent seven years of his playing career with Catalan giants FC Barcelona.
During his time with Barcelona the defender added back to back league titles, a UEFA Super Cup and a Spanish Cup to his already burgeoning clutch of domestic and European honours gained whilst playing for Ajax. Stints in Italy and England with AC Milan and Middlesborough respectively sandwiched his time at Camp Nou. The right back returned to his homeland with PSV Eindhoven having been awarded 72 Oranje caps, it was here that he called it a day but not before adding two further domestic league titles to his medal collection.
Coming into the final of ’95 Ajax had not won The Champions League since 1973 when it was then known as The European Cup, progression to the final was due in no small part to a solid defensive lineup that helped the team win the tournament without losing a game, only conceding four goals in the process.
Seeing as these four players have had glittering playing careers working under some of the greatest managers and coaches the game has ever seen it seems fitting that they should continue in football in some form of coaching capacity. With De Boer and Blind instated as Ajax number 1 and 2 respectively, Reiziger coming to the end of his coaching badges and Sir Alex Ferguson leaving the door open for Van Der Sar to return to Old Trafford as a coach once he retires from playing it appears as though this will soon become reality.