Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughDe Boer destined for top job - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough De Boer destined for top job - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

De Boer destined for top job

The volatile nature of football in which competition moves on like no other, reared its head in dramatic fashion again this week as the latest cycle of European footballing dominance, Pep Guardiola’s Harlem-Globetrotter-esque band of technical wizardry at Barcelona, began to come crumbling down around the imposing structure of the Camp Nou. Like Fabio Capello’s AC Milan and the Galacticos of Real Madrid before it, rivalry caught up with their all-encompassing idea and the notion that what nearly everybody argued to be the greatest club side to grace the European stage was suddenly seen to be fallible.


Guardiola had achieved a zenith of footballing brilliance in Catalonia and many had fallen in the journey to topple it. Alex Ferguson failed twice with Manchester United, Arsene Wenger with Arsenal while Jose Mourinho, by consensus the embodiment of modern managerial genius, compromised his reputation time and time again to get the better of Barcelona’s passing carrousel of the generation-defining group of Lionel Messi and co. he found the answer once with Inter Milan in 2010, a performance of dogged defensive discipline in the second-leg summoned accusations of anti-football against Mourinho, claims he has had to face since joining Real Madrid when up against his nemesis, the puppet-mastery of Guardiola.


Since arriving in 2010, Mourinho has won one meeting with Guardiola, a 1-0 Copa Del Rey triumph last April, whilst Guardiola had won out in five of the ten meetings, including a 5-0 humiliation in the Nou Camp in Mourinho’s first Clasico, that was up until last Saturday, when Madrid won 1-2 in Catalonia to move seven points clear with four games later. The power had shifted, the La Liga title was moving across the country and occurring four days after questions were asked of Dani Alves, Xavi’s declining midfield influence and Lionel Messi’s over-exhaustion as they came unstuck in a Champions League semi-final first leg at Chelsea, it was clear all was not well on the sporting plateau that Guardiola had constructed himself over recent years. Coasting at 2-0 up and with Chelsea a man down in the second leg, it looked as though the blip had been eradicated in true Barcelona fashion, but Chelsea battled back heroically and they crashed out of a second competition, another they had locked in their glistening trophy cabinet, with the new phenomenon laid bare; Barcelona were beatable and their cycle at the pinnacle of European club football had duly ended.


In the aftermath of shock that took probably a couple of days to submerge given the outlandish nature of Chelsea’s aggregate win, Guardiola, forever operating on short-term contracts, took the calculated decision to step down from his post. Rumours were abound of his feelings on Thursday and many were quick to nominate a successor, Marcelo Bielsa, the charismatic coach of Europa League wonders Atletic Bilbao, Luis Enrique, the ex-Barcelona star in charge at Roma, Rafael Benitez, Andre Villas Boas and Ernesto Valverde, the Greek league winning manager of Olympiakos, were all mentioned, but on Friday when the 41 year old manager confirmed his intentions to quit, it was a completely different candidate who got the role. Tito Vilanova, Guardiola’s assistant and student of La Masia, with his recent experience being immersed in the methods of Guardiola from day-to-day, was handed the role in a move that encapsulated logic; it was the nearest thing to keeping Guardiola and just like his partner, he is to be promoted from within the club.


All punditry lists and speculation would be quickly tossed away and consigned to the ether, but on many lists, bizarrely, saw a name omitted that would have a better case than many about taking the role at the Catalan club. On the verge of winning a second successive Dutch league title with Ajax as they lead by six points, Frank De Boer sits in a position often marginalised by more illustrious clubs throughout Europe as Ajax’s decline from mid-90’s European Cup winners saw them hit the down-trodden backwaters of the Europa League, but De Boer’s philosophy, at a club so heavily influenced by the spectacularly innovative hand of Johann Cruyff is impossible to resist.


A fluent tactical shape derived from the basic 4-3-3, driven by a prodigious young talent in an attacking role, the 20 year old Dane Christian Eriksen in this case, does indeed sound familiar when it is considered he has been in constant contact with Pep Guardiola and is a keen student of the methods used across the continent in Catalonia. They have stormed through the EreDivisie this season, hitting 86 goals and only conceding 34 in the process, with goals flowing from right across the team; there are nine players with at least six goals for I lancieri this year. They have been in devilish form since January, winning eleven straight games on a run that sees them a game away from landing De Boer’s second league title and they have done it conceding just 1 goal in their past seven matches, including a 6-0 thrashing of Heracles, that De Boer envisaged as being the marker for what he wanted his Ajax team to be.


The similarities to Guardiola are prescient; both were Barcelona legends, both were promoted from within their respective clubs’ reserve system and they both preach a philosophy of the most attacking, free-flowing nature. Both are advocates of youth promotion too, taking advantage of a gold-mine of talent produced from underneath the club. Guardiola had the never-ending conveyor belt of La Masia from which to pluck his next generation of players, whilst De Boer’s twin brother Ronald oversees the emergence of the under 19 Ajax team, that reached the final of the inaugural Next Gen series to lose on penalties to Inter Milan. Results along the way included a 6-0 hammering of Liverpool and a 3-0 win over, of all clubs, Barcelona. Davy Klaassen, the captain of the under 19 team, has been given Champions League experience already this season and played a role in the full-team’s narrow Europa League defeat to Manchester United. The lucrative resource of Ajax’s youth are being tapped into, following on from an illustrious list of Clarence Seedorf, Aaron Winter, Edgar Davids, Patrick Kluivert and Cruyff himself, and De Boer, like Guardiola at Barcelona, will reap full benefit in the future.


This may not be the time for the ex-Barcelona left-back to take over from the anchoring-midfielder at the Nou Camp; this is the time of Vilanova, coming from the relative unknown to take the job. At the moment, so does De Boer as he achieves success under the radar. One may predict he may not go unnoticed for much longer if he continues in this vain.


Adam Gray

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