Frank de Boer is a popular name in European football. He was part of what could be described as a golden era for Dutch football, being a member of the Ajax team who won the European Cup in 1995 and then finding success with Barcelona and the Netherlands national team.
De Boer’s appointment as manager of Ajax back in 2010 has proven to be a turning point for the club. Not only had they not tasted title success for the seven seasons prior to his arrival, but there were questions being asked of the brand of football on display at the Amsterdam Arena. Fans no longer identified with the product on the pitch.
De Boer immediately brought success back to the capital as well as the style of football that is so regularly associated with that part of the world. The club have competed in the Champions League in back-to-back seasons, beating Barcelona this season and finding themselves desperately unlucky not to qualify out of a group that featured a distinctly poor Milan side.
But is he the right choice for Tottenham, who are in the market for a replacement for Andre Villas-Boas? De Boer is like Jurgen Klopp – immediately a favourite any time a decent-to-good job becomes available. From the off, the Dutchman looks to be the right candidate for Spurs; he adheres to the type of football fans want to see at White Hart Lane. But it’s never as simple as that.
Managers like de Boer, Klopp and even Villas-Boas are about the long term. Yes, Ajax have won the Eredivisie title three seasons in a row now, but de Boer has made it absolutely clear that his work at the club is far from over. Conversely, managers like Guus Hiddink and Louis van Gaal, the older heads in European football, are much more capable of bringing instant results, something which Daniel Levy evidently wants to see after Tottenham’s most recent summer.
There is an expectancy about managers like de Boer; they’re the hipsters’ favourite, characters who can be described as advocating forward-thinking football. Fundamentally, it’s about matching up with or at least running on the same track as some of the leading clubs on the continent.
But Tottenham’s pursuit of de Boer seems futile and unrealistic. He’s already turned down Liverpool and Inter Milan in the recent past. He has a connection with Ajax obviously, but he also has a responsibility to the club. Why would he, such an important name in European football, leave his post midway through a season, especially for a club who will offer him no guarantees for long-term stability?
Tottenham don’t need another project, otherwise they would have kept faith with Villas-Boas. Daniel Levy should be pursuing a manager who can come in a right the ship with immediate effect. Ironically, someone like Harry Redknapp.
The other important point to make about de Boer is his connection with Barcelona. Tata Martino isn’t having the most comfortable of spells in Catalonia, despite topping the La Liga table and emerging from their Champions League group as winners. There is a good chance Martino will be moved on at the end of the season, regardless of trophies, and de Boer may just decide to hold out for that job. But even with a possible opportunity to end up at the Camp Nou, we can infer from de Boer that he intends to stay at Ajax for the long haul.