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Netherlands: Fresh grapes from Amsterdam

Since the Dutch football in training from the once revered offensive style of play has adopted, he brings back talents.
 A bit of time, says Ajax-Amsterdam coach Erik ten Hag, will still need the national team to return to the top European level.
 The young Frenkie de Jong already reminds some of Frank Rijkaard, others of Johan Cruyff.

            
        

    

                        
    
    Erik ten Hag was three months old when all chances for a great career as a national player were already destroyed. He was three months old when Ronald de Boer was born in mid-May 1970, and his twin brother Frank ten minutes later. 20 (Frank) and 23 (Ronald) years later, the two were appointed to the Dutch national team, in the positions in which ten Hag was gifted, in central defense (Frank) and in defensive midfield (Ronald). In addition, players such as Frank Rijkaard or Edgar Davids were called in these years. So it was not called: Erik ten Hag.

    
    
        
        
    

                        
    
    The Netherlands, says ten Hag, 48, the coach of Ajax Amsterdam, has always produced great generations of footballers, during his active years, even a decade ago, when he started his coaching career; At that time Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder or Robin van Persie started their time. There have always been these great generations – except in the recent past. The vintages following Robben, Sneijder and van Persie, ten Hag say, were "a bit mediocre". They were years when ten Hag might have become national players, but he does not say that, he's too cautious about that.

    
    
        
        
    

    
    
    Ajax coach ten Hag currently ranks the Netherlands "in the midfield of Europe"

    
    
        
        
    

                        
    
    When the Netherlands meets Germany on Saturday in Amsterdam, ten Hag is a duel that is not as sonorous as in previous decades. "The Dutch national team is currently a bit disoriented," says ten Hag, "she does not know exactly where she stands." The Ajax coach at least believes it knows: "She must be classified in the midfield of Europe."

    
    
        
        
    

                        
    
    This decline from ten Hag's point of view caused several reasons. It started with the fact that the outstanding talents were missing. "With footballing talents it's like the grape harvest: sometimes you have good grapes, sometimes there are bad ones." The few good talents are then partly too early from the domestic Eredivisie fled. "But the league also has its share in that," says ten Hag. In some stadiums is played on artificial turf, whereby the entire league has lost attractiveness.

    
    
                    
        
        
    

                        
    
    For ten Hag, however, it is much more serious that Dutch football temporarily neglected what it had always been admired for throughout the world: education. "That has always been our strength, but we gave away a few years because we believed too strongly in our static 4-3-3 system," says ten Hag, who himself never cares too much about this 4-3-3 system. 3 believed. "So the style of play could not develop with international standards," he says. At Ajax, the coach has been working since the beginning of the year to teach the country's most important club team, and thereby a whole football nation, that the beauty of a football game is not just in offensive action, but also in organizing a stable defensive.

    
    
        
        
    

                        
    
    A bit of time, says ten Hag, will still need the Dutch national team to get back to the top European level. That she will succeed, but he is sure. The selection of coach Ronald Koeman includes two Liverpool regulars, captain Virgil van Dijk and Georginio Wijnaldum, as well as Memphis Depay of Olympique Lyon. The oldest is the former Hoffenheim Ryan Babel, 31; Almost half of the squad is just beginning 20. Among them are also two grapes, the ten Hag especially appreciates: his Ajax player Matthijs de Ligt, 19, and Frenkie de Jong, 21.

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Some compare Ajax player Frenkie de Jong with Rijkaard

    
    
        
        
    

                        
    
    "Matthijs is physically strong, game-intelligent and strong in the fight – there is hardly any opponent who can get past that," enthuses ten Hag. As Ajax played in the Champions League last week in the Champions League 1: 1 at Bayern, de Ligt was so ubiquitous that an attacker like Robert Lewandowski disappeared in his shadow. Former center-back ten Hag is so enthusiastic about his center-back that he named him captain, even though Ajax's veterans include Daley Blind and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. At first, there were discussions about it, remembers ten Hag, but he has become accustomed to discussions as Ajax coach with a willingness to reform anyway: "Matthijs is a great personality, and as such, he must be encouraged." In addition, ten Hag wanted as a captain, a man of whom he feels content, "and with Matthijs you can talk well about tactics."

    
    
        
        
    

                        
    
    As a former defensive midfielder, ten Hag also sees skills in Frenkie de Jong that would attract attention in every generation: "He's a playmaker who comes from behind, he's incredibly dribbling, but he also has a good understanding of the game and a very good one spatial perception, so he always sees solutions, and if he does not see any, then he dribbles and finds one. " Some compare de Jong already with Rijkaard, others even with Johann Cruyff. In the summer, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona should have already inquired what de Jong's other career plans were – still Ajax could reject all requests, as well as de Ligt. "I trust both of them to have a great international career," says ten Hag, "but as an Ajax coach, I hope they stay with us for a few more years." So selfish he is already that he does not want to subordinate everything to the construction work of Dutch football.

A trainer for the professional audience
                
                
                
                    
                        The highly acclaimed Dutchman Erik ten Hag once coached the U23 at Bayern – now he is in the Champions League with Amsterdam in Munich and is already under pressure after a defeat in the league.
                    
                
                
                    By Benedikt Warmbrunn
                
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