Steijn latest in a long line of Ajax signings with a Sparta past


Ajax has a new manager: Maurice Steijn. The 49-year-old coach has signed a three-season contract. He arrives by way of Rotterdam club Sparta. And Ajax goes back a long way with the club from Rotterdam. Following the arrival of this new manager, originally from The Hague, we take a look at a few well-known players and managers who can chalk up past associations with both Ajax and Sparta on their CV.


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Cornelis Swarttouw Jr.
For one of the earliest records of a connection between Ajax and Sparta, we need to travel back in time more than a hundred years. Swarttouw Jr. started playing for Ajax in the 1913/1914 season. He arrived straight from Sparta. Whether he was the very first Ajax player to come over from Sparta is not one hundred percent clear. Teun den Hartigh also wore the red and white Ajax strip in the 1913/1914 season, having come over from Sparta, but when exactly he made the move is not clear. Den Hartigh didn't get to see old age. He died in a car accident in Rotterdam at just 45.

The name Wim Vermeer also came up, being the first Ajax player coming over from Sparta. Just like with Den Hartigh, the exact information concerning this ‘transfer’ did not survive the wheel of time. For it is unclear if he came over from Sparta or AVV.

Danny Blind
Following the pre-war transfers involving Swartrope Jr. and Den Hartigh, among others, links between the two clubs turn a little vague. It was not until the late 1970s that Ray Clarke brought the links between the two clubs back to life, with his move from Rotterdam to Amsterdam.

The 'biggest' transfer from that era follows in 1986. Danny Blind, originally from Zeeland, signs for Amsterdam. It is Johan Cruyff who, as technical director in Amsterdam, sees something in the down-to-earth Zeelander. It turns out to be a master stroke. Right from the first season, Blind makes 25 appearances a year. The tally eventually reached 493 official matches. With that many, Blind ranks third in the 100 Club; only Sjaak Swart (603) and Wim Suurbier (509) have made more appearances for Ajax.

Blind wins everything there is to win while at Ajax. He wins the national league five times, wins the UEFA Champions League, Intercontinental Cup, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Cup Winner's Cup, Dutch Cup and Dutch Super Cup (later the Johan Cruyff Shield). Following a hectic football career, he went on to be technical director at Ajax, first team manager, head of the youth academy, manager of the flagship team, assistant manager and member of the Supervisory Board.

Louis van Gaal
At Sparta, Danny Blind plays alongside Louis van Gaal, later to become his main manager. The successful manager was already playing for the Ajax second team when he finally got his breakthrough as a professional football player with Royal Antwerp. He ends up via Telstar at Sparta in the late 1970s. He wins the Silver Shoe there in 1984, so he and Blind are teammates.

In 1988 Van Gaal returns to Ajax. He has since retired from playing, going on to hold the posts of youth and second team manager before becoming assistant manager under Leo Beenhakker. When he leaves in 1991, Van Gaal takes over the reins. And with great success. Ajax wins the national league three times under this tough manager, and in 1995 they win the UEFA Champions League for the fourth time in the club's history. In 1997 he earns a transfer to FC Barcelona as manager. Between 2003 and 2004 he does briefly return to Amsterdam as technical director. Fun fact: once again he takes over from Beenhakker.

Winston Bogarde
Bogarde arrives in the summer of 1994 from Sparta (nickname Kasteelbewoners, or the castlemen). Although he often appears on the bench in his debut season, he has been a permanent fixture under coach Louis Van Gaal since 1995. In the 1995/1996 season Ajax wins the league again, and the Ajax team reaches the final of the Champions League. Bogarde still has to watch the 1995 final from the bench. One year later, and he is in the opening line-up. Van Gaal's team eventually lose on penalties. Bogarde leaves Amsterdam in 1997.

In 2015, Bogarde returns to Amsterdam to work at the youth academy. After a stint as youth academy manager, Bogarde is promoted to assistant manager for Ajax U23 and the Ajax first team.

Henk ten Cate
He never played in the first team for Sparta or Ajax, but as manager he had both clubs under his wing: Henk ten Cate. Originally from Amsterdam, in 1995 he was offered the opportunity to take ultimate charge at Spangen. Just like Steijn, Ten Cate comes sixth in the Eredivisie with Sparta. He also gets as far as the cup final with the team from Rotterdam. In 2006, Ten Cate signs for Amsterdam following a successful stint at FC Barcelona. There, he was assistant manager alongside former Ajax player Frank Rijkaard, who at one point was also manager at Sparta. The pair win the UEFA Champions League with the leading Spanish club.

Ultimately, the marriage between Ajax and Ten Cate turns out not to last very long. The manager fails to win the league in 2007 and Ajax lose out by one goal. He does win the Johan Cruijff Shield twice while with Ajax and the cup in 2007 after penalties against AZ Alkmaar. Ten Cate steps down from Ajax shortly after the start of the 2007/2008 season to become assistant manager at Chelsea.

Jorrel Hato
One of the most recent Ajax players with a past at Sparta is Jorrel Hato. Winner of the Abdelhak Nouri Trophy, he plays at Sparta's youth academy until 2018. He leaves for Amsterdam together with some other players, including Meteja Milovanovic, Diyae Jermoumi, Ar'Jany Martha and Olivier Aertssen. Hato's progress is a whirlwind. In November 2022, the then sixteen-year-old defender makes his professional debut for Ajax U23. His first appearance for the main squad follows just two months later. He comes on in the cup match against FC Den Bosch: 2-0. Marking his progress, he is awarded the trophy for greatest talent at the Ajax youth academy at the beginning of June.

Other players who wore both the Ajax and Sparta strip include: Ruud Geels, Wim Suurbier, Aron Winter, Yannis Anastasiou, Anwar el Ghazi and Nick Viergever.

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