Monday, April 4, 2011

Cruyff aims to turn Ajax into powerhouse again

With the resignation of the club's board and supervisory board on Wednesday evening, club icon Johan Cruyff came one step closer to restructuring his beloved Ajax. The Amsterdam-born Cruyff is without doubt the Godenzonen's most illustrious player ever, yet the 63-year-old has had precious little to do with Ajax since leaving the position of head coach in 1988.

Of course, Cruyff was always there in the background, but he never picked up a role as advisor at the club, let alone an official position in the club's board or technical staff. Instead, Cruyff spent his time in Barcelona and played an important role in the Blaugrana's rise to prominence in the past 20 years. First as the head coach of the Barca team that was labelled 'the dream team' in the early 1990s, later as the man behind the scenes who set up the current structure at the club.

The Netherlands legend has now had enough of the mismanagement in Amsterdam though [Ajax haven't won the Eredivisie title since 2003-04, while they haven't reached the quarter-finals of a European competition since 2002-03] and is determined to turn the club where it all started for him into a European powerhouse again.

It's not the first time that Cruyff has been looking to leave his mark on Ajax in the 21st century as he previously tried to start a revolution at the Eredivisie giants in 2008. The legendary No. 14 then pulled out of plans to revamp Ajax as those who should execute his plans didn't share his vision.

A similar situation arose when Cruyff presented his plans to turn Ajax into a force to be reckoned with again only shortly after joining a sounding board for the previous Board of Directors back in February, but with one crucial difference. Whereas Cruyff wasn't willing to start a major uproar back in 2008 because he didn't want to damage then coach and good friend Marco van Basten, the Barcelona legend had no problem attacking those who tried to frustrate his plans to restructure the club this time around.

Cruyff | determined to turn Ajax into a European giant again

Even though the person Johan Cruyff might be a rather complicated character, his plans to get Ajax back on track aren't too complex. The former World Cup finalist stated that the club needs to go back to basics, starting with the club's youth academy. The Ajax youth system is perhaps one of the best in the world and a large part of the current Ajax squad came through the ranks of the club's academy. It's not quantity that Cruyff is looking for though as he wants to see quality instead.

Ajax have produced world-class attacking players such as Cruyff, Van Basten, Dennis Bergkamp and Patrick Kluivert in the past, but the Amsterdam side's fans haven't seen any extraordinary talents coming through since Rafael van der Vaart and Wesley Sneijder early in the last decade, much to the dismay of Cruyff. Therefore, the former European Footballer of the Year has called for changes.

Cruyff wants the club's coaches to focus on turning individuals into better players again. Winning league titles with the club's youth teams is not important in his vision as it's all about preparing players for the first team. To do this, he wants to say farewell to all the so-called 'advanced technology' and alternative training methods such as judo practice, and Cruyff has clear thoughts on who should be in charge of the restructuring of the Ajax academy.

Several members of the current staff will have to go, with Danny Blind and Jan Olde Riekerink the most notable victims. Cruyff wants former players such as Wim Jonk and Bergkamp to play an important role in the new structure at the club as Bergkamp would be the director of the Ajax academy, while Jonk would lead the club's scouting activities.

There's obviously little reason to protest against Cruyff's goal to help the club back to the top, but the way in which the Ajax icon was trying to get his way didn't go down too well with the club's board. Chief executive Rik van den Boog refused to bin highly rated employees such as Blind and Olde Riekerink just like that and told Cruyff that he wouldn't execute "el Salvador's" plans.

Name: Hendrik Johannes Cruyff
Date of Birth: April 25, 1947 (63)
Place of Birth: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Clubs: Ajax, Barcelona, LA Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Ajax, Feyenoord
Cruyff wasn't impressed though as he knew current head coach and Cruyff protege Frank de Boer is in favour of the plans to restructure the club. Knowing that he would eventually come out victorious because the public opinion is behind him, Cruyff decided to go to war, resulting in Wednesday's chaotic situation in the Amsterdam ArenA and the eventual resignation of the board and supervisory board.

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