“It’s just a shame that Ajax didn’t buy him earlier”

Steven Bergwijn is back at Ajax. The Amsterdammers take the attacker for 32.5 million euros from Tottenham Hotspur† Journalist Henk Spaan is happy that Stevie – as he affectionately calls Bergwijn – is back in the old nest, although he also indicates that Ajax has made some errors of judgment about the 24-year-old attacker.

Who the book Nouri, the promise has read, know that Spaan has long been an idol of Bergwijn. In the book, Spaan writes full of praise about the football player and person Bergwijn, who gets along particularly well with Abdelhak Nouri. “Bergwijn was very much part of Nouri, both on the field and as friends off it,” says Spaan in an interview with Ajax Showtime† ‘They got along very well without communicating verbally. Then Stevie went deep again, not infrequently Appie also went deep and Stevie dropped to number ten’, the writer recalls fond memories of the time when Bergwijn and Nouri shone as Ajax youth players.

According to Spaan, Bergwijn, who played mainly in the ashes until he was thirteen at Ajax, is therefore now playing so well in the Dutch national team. Things went wrong at Ajax when it clashed with then youth coach Orlando Trustfull. Spaan: ‘Trustfull wanted to put up such a big, heavy striker. They could then play it from the sides, but he sacrificed Bergwijn for that. Technically, that was a huge blunder. He alienated one of the greatest talents of Ajax’s training. You often see this with trainers. They think they are important themselves, but they are not. It’s about the players. He wanted to win and he thought his team would score more with such a bony striker. That way you risk a conflict with one of your best players.’

“Imagine if that hadn’t happened. Then you would have first earned money with the sale of Bergwijn’, says Spaan, who would not have thought it strange if Ajax could have earned thirty to perhaps forty million euros from Bergwijn in that case. ‘And then Ajax should not have bought him back for thirty million. Such a mistake costs just seventy million euros. You have to look at it that way, because Ajax is also a training institute. Ajax has to sell players to make ends meet.’

‘I do know that Olde Riekerink (former head of Ajax youth academy, ed.) regrets it. That Stevie was sent away, which is sometimes written, is not true at all. Trustfull and Olde Riekerink were far too emotional and when they proved irreconcilable, father Bergwijn said: ok, sign here, then you are rid of him† Then they let him run without a fight. That ultimately saved a training fee and the future for Ajax. Father Bergwijn played it smart then.’

Is Ajax paying too much for Bergwijn?

Now, eleven years after his departure from Ajax’s youth academy, Bergwijn returns to the Amsterdam club. He ended up at Tottenham Hotspur in 2020 via PSV. The English are now selling him to Ajax for 32.5 million euros. “That’s stupid too,” Spaan responds. ‘Ajax has been working on it for at least a year and a half. There were earlier moments to take over if Ajax had acted faster and more adequately. His goals against Leicester City and his good game in the Dutch national team are also waking up other clubs in the Premier League. The market value is determined there. That they now have to pay 32.5 million is a policy error. I think they were able to pick him up earlier for 24 million euros.’

Spaan explains that Ajax assumed that Bergwijn would be ‘cheap’, because he was redundant at Tottenham Hotspur. ‘That is a wrong starting point,’ says Spaan. ‘Levy (owner of Spurs, ed.) is not at all interested in a player’s position. He just watches the market. He is not interested in the football aspect.’

“If Bergwijn plays well, he can go double in the future”

Nevertheless, Spaan is happy that Ajax has been able to attract a player like Bergwijn. The columnist of Het Parool, among others, realizes that – despite the high transfer fee – it is a good investment. “If he plays well, he can go for double in the future, in two years. The investment itself is therefore reasonable. It’s just a shame they didn’t buy it sooner, because it was cheaper then.’

In addition, Bergwijn is a great asset to Ajax as a football player, according to Spaan. ‘I think he’s good, although Conte (Spurs manager, ed.) apparently didn’t think he was good enough. He brought Kulusevski to Spurs. Ten Hag, for example, really likes Bergwijn. It is also a matter of taste,” said Spaan, who does not think that Bergwijn has failed in England. “It is a great pity that Pochettino has left. He thought it was great in Bergwijn. Tottenham’s Italian technical director Fabio Paratici enjoys doing business with Italy. The two scouts who ran away did so because they no longer wanted to work with Conte and Paratici. Those scouts have followed Bergwijn for years at PSV and were completely satisfied.’

Enjoy Ajax attackers

Bergwijn will, certainly as a record purchase, play much more at Ajax than he did at the club from North London. Spaan sees it as an advantage that Bergwijn can be used in several positions. ‘He can play on the left, on the right, in the striker and also on ten. A vanguard with Tadic, Antony and Bergwijn would be great. I am not at all as fond of Haller as many other supporters, but in terms of football it is a bit better. Bergwijn does not play with his back to the goal, but goes more deeply. In that respect he is a very different player than Haller, when he comes to play in the ashes.”

The fact that Bergwijn will now play at Ajax also has to do with the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. Bergwijn just wants to play, he wants to go to Qatar. I think Van Gaal told him to make sure he plays. In that regard, Everton would have been an option as well, as they have sold Richarlison. But really, their interest has only driven up the price.’

For now, Spaan is especially looking forward to Bergwijn’s arrival at Ajax. ‘Ünüvar has re-signed, Ihattaren is developing like a spear and Bergwijn is joining us. These are good aspects for Ajax from an attacking point of view’, says Spaan, who finally warns the Ajax supporters. ‘Bergwijn is 24. It would be strange if he already thinks: Ajax is my final station. They all have ambition and all want to play football at the highest level. Two years at Ajax seems good to me.’

Bart Veenstra (Twitter: @Bart_Veenstra † email: b.veenstra@ajaxshowtime.com)