Balance after five years at Ajax

Balance after five years at Ajax

Christian Eriksen has more than 100 competition games to his name. The counter will hit 106 after the home game against sc Heerenveen. How high will the number go? Leading up to Ajax – Heerenveen, we speak to the Dane about his development and his future.

At the start of 2010, Maarten Jol brought a pale, skinny kid into Ajax’s selection. Seventeen year old Christian Eriksen had only been playing in the Amsterdam team’s academy for one year, but that was enough for him to convince friend and foe alike of his exceptional talent. Now, three years later, the Danish midfielder (21) is one of the key forces in a team heading for its third national championship in a row. Here is a conversation about his own development, and the Danish enclave in Amsterdam.

Have you changed much since signing your first contract five years ago, when you started with B1 midway through the 2008-2009 season?
“That was a very different person than the Christian Eriksen sitting here in front of you. I came here as a small, shy boy, who needed to get accustomed to a new environment, new people, a new language, a new style of playing, new everything, actually. When I look back to how I mastered all of that, I’m more than pleased – and sometimes proud, too. And if you look at the sports part: we’re on track to win our third championship in a row, and I’ve personally been able to play many matches in the past three and a half years, which is critical for my development.”
What has Christian Eriksen, the football player, leaned here in the past few years?
“It’s hard to concretely name things. I think that it’s mostly about what you experience. Consciously or not, you always take something away from each new situation you’re in, from each match that you play. And next time, you have a solution ready. The first time, you’ll probably need to stop and try to think about what the solution was. And the second time, it’s automatic; it becomes a kind of reflex. In a way, it’s also a matter of getting to know yourself. Which things can you do intuitively, and which things do you need to teach yourself?

Right now, are you playing your best season ever?
“I feel like I am, although last season wasn’t exactly bad, either. I think that things continue to get better, partly because you’re learning how to deal with the circumstances, with the press, with the pressure, whatever. And you gradually start to take on a different role within the group. Especially with a club like Ajax, that trains talents until they are at a high enough level to transition to a big club abroad.”
Looking at the statistics four matches before the end of the season, we see that you’ve scored more than last season, but have fewer assists. Can any conclusions be drawn from that?
“Maybe I’ve been going for my own success more. I can remember situations when I could have passed, but made a conscious decision to take a shot on goal. In a past I was often told that I needed to score more. But it hasn’t occurred to me to play more of a targeted game, it just comes naturally. And if a team mate is in a better position than me, then I still play the ball to him.”
Can Ajax win the championship without Christian Eriksen?
“I think we have a very strong, well balanced team. So I don’t see why not. But I’d rather play, obviously.”

You’ve been asked this question before: will you still be here next season?
“I’ve put all of that on stand-by for now. As long as Ajax is still in the championship race, that’s all I’m thinking about. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

Do you think you’re ready to take the next step?
“That depends on what you’re looking at. First, you need to look at yourself and where you are in your development. But you also need to look at the club that is showing interest. Would you fit in there, would you play there? You also need to listen to your gut feeling. That’s the most important thing.”
Can Ajax progress to a higher level, including in Europe, if the team loses its best player or players this summer?
“That’s tough. I think that it’s a question of staying the course. You need to take the time to build something, and stay true to your philosophy in the process. But I think that developing players and eventually selling them is a fundamental part of Ajax’s philosophy. You can’t lose that income. You need to find a balance. Fortunately, that’s not my area.”