Jan Vertonghen spent seven seasons at Ajax before moving to Tottenham in 2012. During his time in Amsterdam, the 36-year-old defender won two Eredivisie titles, two KNVB Cups and the 2011-12 Eredivisie player of the year award. Now playing for Anderlecht in his home country, Vertonghen is one of the many onlookers watching the downfall of his beloved Ajax.
With 220 appearances to his name, Vertonghen is without a doubt an Ajax icon. In a conversation with Perform, the former Tottenham defender said ‘it hurts’ to see his side in this crisis. ‘Of course, they can’t become champions every year, but where they are now is not good. It was bad on all levels, sometimes you have to fall low to get back up again.’
Vertonghen saw that a lot went wrong with the appointment of the now-dismissed Sven Mislintat as technical director. ‘They gave a lot of power to one person who was not familiar with the club culture at Ajax. A lot of damage has been done in three or four months.’ However, Vertonghen feels that Ajax’s summer signings are not bad and a squad of this quality shouldn’t be at the bottom of the Eredivisie table. ‘Where they are now does not entirely correspond to the quality of the selection.’
Last week, Maurice Steijn was sacked as manager of Ajax after just four months in charge. The club had won just two of their eleven matches with Steijn in charge. Speaking about the manager’s dismissal, Jan Vertonghen said ‘It takes time if you bring in thirteen to fourteen new players and a new coach. At Ajax you don’t get that time. You have to perform, second place is not good enough.’
The Eredivisie title is realistically no longer possible for Ajax, especially as Peter Bosz’s PSV have experienced a 100% start to the campaign. Jan Vertonghen is hopeful that Ajax will at least finish the season in a relatively acceptable position under the leadership of the new manager, John Van ‘t Schip and with Louis van Gaal and Danny Blind behind the scenes. ‘They have brought back a number of people with an Ajax heart. It will take some time, but hopefully, we will be able to reach European football this season.’