AFC Ajax coach Frank de Boer knows what it takes to win the UEFA Champions League having done so in 1995 after coming through the ranks at the Amsterdam club. Now, as he bids to reach the round of 16 as coach, the former Dutch international speaks to Champions Matchday about the importance of the famous Ajax academy and his side's Group D campaign.
When you won the UEFA Champions League with Ajax in 1995, most of those players had come through the youth academy. What is the secret of its success?
The education. We invest a lot in the youth academy. More and more, in this time of crisis, we have come to realise that this is the essence of Ajax. It has been going well for many years, but it can always be better.
How important is the academy now?
Johan Cruyff, in the past two years, has been on top of it. He made it very clear that the philosophy that Ajax have always had, needs to stay intact – for the club and for the image of the club all over the world.
What made the 1995 team so special?
The team. That was the key. We had top players, even though they were not so well-known at that point. We were a very united team and knew each other very well. Our players were not taken away after two years, so we could really build a team and coach Louis van Gaal was really good at that.
Is it possible to compare this current team with one of the sides you played in?
We used to play with a No10. Jari Litmanen, Dennis Bergkamp – they used to be real No10s. But now we play with two attacking midfielders and one holding player. But the philosophy is the same: create triangles on the pitch, engineer a numerical advantage in midfield, and create danger from that.
Are there any young players you expect to make an impact in this season's competition?
Winger Tobias Sana, who came from Sweden, has surprised us. Forward Derk Boerrigter is still young but has made a good impression. Right-back Ricardo van Rhijn looks like he is experienced, but he has just made it to the first team and is already part of the Dutch national side.
What went wrong in the 4-1 home defeat by Real Madrid CF?
We did not have a lot of luck against Madrid or Borussia Dortmund. We had most of the possession but failed to take the lead. You cannot afford to miss chances against that kind of team because they present you with the bill at the end.
What did you make of your win against Manchester City FC?
We played good football, in certain phases, against a top team. We showed what we want to do. I get tired of people saying it was because of our opponents playing badly. Our players were dominating. City had no answer.
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