AFC Ajax's planning for their third qualifying round tie against PAOK FC may not have been ideal but coach Martin Jol nevertheless insists that "exciting times await" the club.
Article top media content
First on Martin Jol's agenda may be Wednesday's UEFA Champions League third qualifying round first leg against PAOK FC, but the AFC Ajax coach also has his sights set on an exciting longer-term future for the Amsterdam outfit.
Jol guided Ajax to a second-place Eredivisie finish and Dutch Cup glory in his first season in charge. Such immediate success prompted interest from last term's UEFA Europa League finalists Fulham FC but for Jol, formerly of Tottenham Hotspur FC, there is unfinished business to attend to in his homeland. "I came here last summer to be successful, build a good team and have fun," he said. "Those three things are still important to me for this season. Our first priority is the match against PAOK, and then we want to reinforce. On and off the pitch exciting times await Ajax."
Preparations for the start of the four-time European Champion Clubs' Cup winners' latest continental campaign have been hampered by the FIFA World Cup, but PAOK have had a far from seamless pre-season themselves. The Greek Super League team ended Mario Beretta's one-month reign as coach on Friday and appointed former player Pavlos Dermitzakis in his place the following day.
"Their new coach will have his first match against us," said Jol. "We will have to wait and see if that is an advantage or a disadvantage for us. They are a good side who did extremely well last season and finished higher than some strong teams who are normally above them."
Maarten Stekelenburg, Gregory van der Wiel, Demy de Zeeuw, Nicolás Lodeiro, Eyong Enoh, Christian Eriksen and Luis Suárez were the late returners for Jol, who received a fillip with Friday's 3-1 friendly triumph over English champions Chelsea FC. "Preparation has been different than in other years because of players returning from the World Cup," added Jol. "When players come back later during pre-season there is always a bit more unrest and nervousness.
"You could see [against Chelsea] that we can play good football, although we did not have much power up front," continued the 54-year-old, who also confirmed he is looking to complete the signing of AZ Alkmaar striker Mounir El Hamdaoui in the coming days.