On Friday, Frank de Boer looked back with satisfaction on a flawless training week in De Lutte. With only two friendly matches left in store, the Ajax players will return to Amsterdam tired but satisfied.
Before the Ajax coach discussed football, he expressed sympathy towards all of the people who lost loved ones in Thursday’s airplane crash in the Ukraine. “On behalf of myself and the club, I want to wish strength and support to everyone in dealing with this loss”, said De Boer. “The flags at Ajax are flying at half-mast today. We’ll be wearing mourning bands for both friendly matches on Saturday.”
After that, all thoughts were once again focussed on football, and Ajax. Ajax had completed its last training earlier on the fields of SV De Lutte. The Ajax coach was pleased; the week has gone well. “Everybody did a very good job, everyone also adjusted well to the conditions”, continued De Boer. “I’m also happy with how the guys behaved. They formed a group, both on and off the field.”
The coach was pleased with more than just the executed trainings and team spirit. Ricardo van Rhijn’s contract extension also put him in a good mood. After Joel Veltman and Davy Klaassen had also extended earlier on, Van Rhijn’s contract extension was also seen positively. De Boer: “The guys want to develop themselves with Ajax first, that’s a positive sign. These guys have been trained by us and they know what’s required. Hopefully we can keep this core together for 1 to 2 years. Then we have a good core to make an impact nationally and internationally.”
World Cup player Veltman was given a pass on this training week in De Lutte. Together with his fellow Dutch internationals, Daley Blind and Jasper Cillessen, the Ijmuiden native will report to Ajax on August 4. De Boer expects that Blind will also remain loyal this season. “Daley obviously just had a fantastic year. But I think he can still take steps in terms of leadership. It would be great if he could take over Siem de Jong’s role. It would be great if Blind would stay for another year at least.”
In captain De Jong, Ajax lost a pillar earlier on in the pre-season. De Boer is considering that Kolbeinn Sigthórsson and maybe even Kenneth Vermeer may be leaving the club soon. “Kenneth and Kolbeinn don’t need to leave on my account”, emphasized De Boer. “But I think that they’re the ones who have the biggest chance of being transferred during this transfer period. If a club would come knocking, we wouldn’t lock the door. And if those two leave, there’s a big chance that we’ll get replacements. On the other hand, if nobody leaves, we won’t be looking for anyone.” But should Vermeer leave Ajax, then the club will certainly need one more experienced keeper. “Someone who has played many Eredivisie games.”
The Ajax coach admitted that he came very close to a transfer himself last season. “Tottenham Hotspur was very interested. But the way that goes is that a club sets its sights on several coaches. In the end, it was Pochettino. I’m very happy at Ajax. The past three years have gone very well, players have gotten better. I need to feel good about a potential new club, it really needs to add something. And I can count the clubs which give me a good feeling on the fingers of one hand.”
The training week in De Lutte will end on Saturday with friendly matches against Achilles (11:00 at SV De Lutte) and Real Sociedad (14:30 in Hardenberg). The duel against the Spaniards will be – on paper – the toughest measure for Ajax, who will play a maximum of 75 minutes this time. “Real Sociedad is a very good team”, says De Boer.