Van der Sar: ‘Then you sometimes think, what am I sacrificing everything for?’ † Football

The departure of director of football affairs Marc Overmars due to cross-border behavior had a major impact on Van der Sar. „We have known each other for a long time, as a teammate at Ajax and Orange and as a director at Ajax. And then you see how his behavior has made colleagues at Ajax sad. I don’t want to say too much more about it. We have picked up everything again at our club,” says Van der Sar. “Shortly after his departure I spoke to Marc regularly, not in the last month. He has also suffered a major blow from it.”

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Ajax was startled last July by a fatal traffic accident involving youth player Noah Gesser. “That also had a huge impact, especially in our youth academy,” Van der Sar knows. „And we close the season with the death of our former players Jody Lukoki and Henk Groot in one week. I knew Henk from Lucky Ajax and old images. What could that man think. Fortunately, we have made a financial arrangement with the family of Abdelhak Nouri this season. He will forever hold a special place in our club.”

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“Sportingly, the transfer of Steven Berghuis was spicy, but he quickly found his way on the field with goals and assists,” says Van der Sar. “Our matches in the group stage of the Champions League were great. We won all six. Before the winter break, we lost one or two too many times in the Eredivisie. The cup final against PSV unfortunately went wrong and the unpleasant taste of the elimination by Benfica in the eighth finals of the Champions League has not yet washed away. I think we were better, just like last year against AS Roma. But if you look at it in detail, we have more than achieved our sporting objectives.”

It says a lot about the growth of Ajax that the elimination by a club like Benfica in the eighth finals feels like a heavy defeat. “I do remember that it was a party here when we reached the group stage of the Champions League,” laughs Van der Sar. “But we have reconnected in Europe. In this way we want to continue to perform at a minimum.”


Van der Sar expects clarity soon about the successor of trainer Erik ten Hag who will leave for Manchester United. He does not want to respond to names, not even to those of Alfred Schreuder, who, according to several sources, has agreed in broad terms about a multi-year contract. The general manager does not rule out the possibility that Gerry Hamstra and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will continue to shape Ajax’s technical policy. “If you do it right, you often stop,” he says about the duo that has been working closely together since Overmars left.

The new trainer and technical people face a challenge. There is interest for many Ajax players. “That makes sense when you perform so well in Europe. But we also want to maintain our ambitions ourselves,” says Van der Sar, who has been active as a director of Ajax for ten years, the last six of which as general manager. “I will certainly not continue to do this until I am sixty,” says the 51-year-old former goalkeeper. “It is all very intensive, especially this year. I will not become the Sjaak Swart of the boardroom of Ajax”, he refers to the 83-year-old club icon who still visits his favorite association almost daily.

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

Klaas Jan Huntelaar

Satisfaction with Hamstra and Huntelaar

It could very well be that Gerry Hamstra and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar will continue to shape Ajax’s technical policy. “Ajax is a company that gives people opportunities,” says Van der Sar. “That often happens on the field with talented players. If they do well, they can often remain standing.”

Van der Sar is satisfied with how Hamstra and Huntelaar have been functioning in recent months, since Overmars left. Hamstra was appointed as technical manager of Ajax last year. He previously worked in that position at sc Heerenveen for five years and was previously head of the youth academy at Vitesse. He also held technical positions at FC Emmen and FC Groningen. Huntelaar returned to Ajax in a technical role two months ago. The former top scorer has been supporting Hamstra ever since.

The technical leadership of Ajax awaits a lot of work in the coming months. “We say goodbye to a goalkeeper and right back”, Van der Sar refers to André Onana and Noussair Mazraoui. “And we have a midfielder with a wish to leave,” he points to Ryan Gravenberch. “But when you play so well in the Champions League, there will naturally be interest in many players. That makes sense, but we also want to maintain our ambitions. We will continue to watch transfers carefully.”