The 2022/23 Eredivisie season is showing lots of promise to be a wonderful campaign. Both of the top two sides swapped managers in the summer, handing third-placed Feyenoord a possible advantage as the Rotterdam side remain in Arne Slot’s talented hands. Will they be able to mount a serious challenge for the first time since winning the league back in 2017?

This is an article preview of each Eredivisie side. You can also listen to our podcast preview (previewing every Eredivisie team) with Mike Bell and Michael Statham by clicking here.

  • by Jan Willem Spaans
  • Follow Jan on Twitter @janwillemspaans

Title talk is far from the only thing to be of interest this term. How will FC Twente get on in their return to European football? Can AZ improve on an underwhelming showing? Will Vitesse be able to cope with the change of ownership? Is it finally time for FC Utrecht to live up to the high expectations set by their sugar daddy? Will last season’s new boys Cambuur, Go Ahead Eagles and NEC suffer from second season syndrome after comfortably securing survival last season? How will their successors FC Emmen, FC Volendam and Excelsior perform on the big stage? And, of course, the one thing that might stand out: has Fortuna Sittard’s sensational summer signing Burak Yilmaz still got it? Time to meet the teams!

Ajax

Current situation

They knew it was coming, but replacing a manager of Erik ten Hag’s calibre is a tall order, even for a club with the international presence that Ajax boast. In Alfred Schreuder they have at least found a successor who has worked at the club before and has proven himself capable of delivering success by leading Club Brugge to the Belgian crown last season. There certainly are question marks around the Amsterdam side ahead of their quest for a fourth successive league title. Is Brian Brobbey an adequate replacement for departed marksman Sebastien Haller? Will goalkeeper Remko Pasveer maintain his excellent performance level even now he’s turning 39? Can Lisandro Alvarez, Noussair Mazraoui and Ryan Gravenberch, three other notable outgoing transfers, be replaced? With Owen Wijndal, Calvin Bassey, Steven Bergwijn coming in alongside Brobbey for a total outlay of well over £70 million, anything else than the title would have to be considered a failure.

The manager

Alfred Schreuder was assistant to Ten Hag during the 2018-19 season at Ajax, when they won the double and were cruelly denied a spot in the Champions League final by Tottenham Hotspur. Following spells at Wolfsburg and Club Brugge, as well as a role as assistant at Barcelona, he was considered ready for the hottest seat in Dutch football after steering Brugge to a league despite being quite far behind early leaders Union SG for most of the season. His task in Amsterdam is a simple one: winning the league is the only thing that’ll do. And a run into the Champions League knock-out stages, thank you very much.

One to watch

There are so many diamonds in the Ajax squad that a jewellery shop would look on in envy. Choosing one is tough but Mohammed Kudus might deserve the nod here. Lots of promise surrounded the young Ghanese midfielder when he checked in at the Johan Cruijff ArenA two years ago, but it’s safe to say he hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential yet. Kudus has looked promising in pre-season however, and finished it off in style with a lovely taken goal in the Super Cup against PSV. Sadly fur Kudus, his exploits weren’t rewarded as PSV came out on top in a goal-fest that finished 5-3. His performance was one of the bright sparks for Schreuder on a day to forget.

AZ

Current situation

A one-sentence summary of AZ’s 2021-22 season? Awful, then good, then some more awful and finished off with a bit of good. A rotten start was majestically swept away with a stunning run of form in winter. Then spring came, league formed dipped and the Alkmaar side were knocked out of the Europa Conference League in a tie they should have won. They had to secure European football in the play-offs after losing out on fourth. AZ lost star man Owen Wijndal to Ajax and saw midfield orchestrator Fredrik Midtsjö depart to Galatasaray. At left-back, Mees de Wit was signed from relegated PEC Zwolle to replace Wijndal, with home-grown Tijjani Reijnders considered the man to fill Midtsjö’s boots, a bold move in keeping with the way AZ go about their business. The club haven’t shied away from setting the bar high for themselves, and this season they’ll target reaching the knock-out stages in the Europa Conference League and qualifying for Europe without play-offs. 

The manager

It’s safe to say Pascal Jansen is still to win over sections of the crowd. Jansen certainly showed promise in spells, but some of the AZ faithful bemoan the lack of consistency shown by their team, and blame that on the manager, whose last-ditch entry into Europe may well have swayed the board in their decision to grant him another season. Jansen would do well to avoid the sluggish start that shaped AZ’s fortunes in the previous two seasons. A safe route into the European group stages and a spot in the top third of the table would form a safe platform from which to start convincing the naysayers.

One to watch

This one unfortunately comes with a major asterisk, as Zinho Vanheusden’s body has let him down a lot over the past few years. If his knees are rather more cooperative from now on, there is little doubt that the Belgian youngster will return to the very high standards he reached when he first burst onto the scene at Standard Liège. Vanheusden announced himself to the world as a complete centre-back: strong, terrific in duels and gifted with a good pass as well. Those qualities earned him a move to Internazionale, who have now sent him out on loan to AZ, who also wave an option to buy him. If his bad luck finally ran out, they have a real player on their hands.

Cambuur

Current situation

It’ll be a season of goodbyes in Leeuwarden, as the blue and yellows are set to leave their atmospheric Cambuurstadion ground for a new stadium on the outskirts of town. It’s totally understandable that they want to move, their current home is situated on a square full of shops, making the necessary expansion nigh-on impossible. So if you are to go and see one Eredivisie club next season, Cambuur would be the wise choice, as their new surroundings surely won’t match their current stadium for atmosphere. You’ll see a team that surprised everyone during the first half of last season before manager Henk de Jong got the terrible diagnosis of a cyst in his head. That understandably rocked the boat a bit, but thankfully they had enough points on the board already to secure a stunning top-half finish. The task for this farewell year is a simple one: finish above at least other teams.

The manager

Dutch football was united in shock at the news of Henk de Jong’s illness. Thankfully, Cambuur’s highly-popular boss has recovered well and is back to his energetic best. The club will need him as well, as the second year in the top flight has signs of becoming a bit tougher than it was last time round. Some teams seem to have strengthened well, Cambuur on the other hand haven’t got an awful lot of new faces in the squad. There is a new goalkeeper however, Joao Virginia has arrived from Everton and it’ll be his job to ensure Cambuur will no longer have the league’s leakiest defence.

One to watch

Silvester van der Water probably chose adventure over his career when he opted to leave Heracles Almelo for the MLS 18 months ago. Living in Orlando must have been enough of a temptation to make up for the somewhat lower standard of the game in the land of soccer. With a bag full of experiences, the winger has now returned to his home country to play Eredivisie football once again. Cambuur will hope to see him recover from injury soon, as they aren’t particularly well-stocked in the department of creative players who can make things happen out wide.

FC Emmen

Current situation

Coming straight back up as champions isn’t something that happens a lot in Dutch football. FC Twente last did it in 2019, but then their relegation had seemed almost accidental for a club of their size. FC Emmen went down fighting in 2021, kept a cool head, managed to hold on to key players, signed a few good ones and romped the Eerste Divisie. Manager Dick Lukkien has stuck by his club and is now back for another crack at the Eredivisie. They’ve largely kept their squad together, adding Milwall’s Maikel Kieftenbeld as well as two unknown Peruvian players. Signing players from non-EU countries is a bold move for Dutch clubs at the lower end on the table, as they are legally required to earn about £400,000 annually. Emmen, however, have had excellent experiences buying in Peru and their supporters will have good hope that Gonalo Sanchez and Fernando Pacheco will add that bit of extra quality they’ll need to stay up.

The manager

Even when Emmen found themselves rock-bottom halfway through their 2020-21 season, few people – if any at all – entertained the thought of dismissing Dick Lukkien. In spite of an impressive turnaround after the winter break, Emmen still went down. The club continued to back their boss, who repaid that faith by sending them back up at the first time of asking and subsequently showing absolutely no interest to rumours linking him to other, bigger clubs. Lukkien, a man as down-to-earth as they come, couldn’t be more popular with the board, his players and the supporters. Whether or not Emmen survive, it seems incredibly unlikely that they will ever dismiss their boss.

One to watch

Richairo Zivkovic has served FC Groningen, Ajax, Willem II, FC Utrecht, KV Oostende, CC Yatai, Sheffield Unity, GZ City and Red Star Belgrade. After representing nine clubs in five countries across two continents, Zivkovic, miraculously, still is only 25 years old. On the back of a forgettable spell in Serbia, Zivkovic has decided it’s time to come home and join FC Emmen, the closest professional team to his birthplace Assen. Some patience might be required, as the striker hasn’t played much football in recent years. Time will tell whether or not his home surroundings inspire him to reach his best again.

Excelsior

Current situation

Bonkers. Excelsior secured promotion to the top flight in a way not too dissimilar to Liverpool’s Champions League triumph back in 2005. The Rotterdam side found themselves 3-0 down away to ADO Den Haag in the decisive match, only to complete a terrific comeback to 3-3 and emerge victorious on penalties. It was the last game of the 2021-22 season, and without a shadow of a doubt it was the best game too. Excelsior had been the Eerste Divisie’s great entertainers, scoring for fun but blowing automatic promotion due to a leaky backline. The bad news: the main instigators of Excelsior’s spectacular football have departed the club’s cosy Woudestein stadium. Thijs Dallinga joined Ligue 1 new boys Toulouse, Reuven Niemeijer is now at Brescia and Mats Wieffer moved across town to join Feyenoord. Excelsior’s excellent scouting department have ensured they’ve spent lots of time punching above their weight. Trust them to get it right again.

The manager

Marinus Dijkhuizen is a manager who seems to only perform well at Excelsior. His first spell at the club also saw them promoted. After keeping them up, Dijkhuizen departed for other challenges, but spells in charge of NAC Breda, Brentford and Cambuur had disappointment as the common denominator. So he went back to his happy place, and turned it a happier place indeed by lifting the club out of Eerste Divisie anonymity. Due to traditionally being on a low budget – Excelsior’s former chairman would go around the neighbourhood collecting used paper to earn the club a few quid – nothing is expected of Dijkhuizen and his side. It’s up to them to surprise us.

One to watch

Excelsior have become known for always having a young squad, the best of which either came on loan from Feyenoord or were sold to Feyenoord at the end of the season. They’ve welcomed another former Feyenoord man at the club this summer, but this time it’s more of a finished article than a hot prospect. Yassin Ayoub used to be a formidable midfield stalwart in Erik ten Hag’s successful FC Utrecht side. After a spell with Feyenoord and Greek giants Panathinaikos, Ayoub surprisingly signed for Excelsior, still aged only 28. That’s not something many people would have predicted four years ago.

Feyenoord

Current situation

The Tirana references from the Feyenoord supporters were firmly tongue-in-cheek. No sane person would have put a penny on them reaching a European final after watching them ride their luck scraping past a frankly dreadful Drita side. Hoewever, Arne Slot’s astute coaching saw the team reach remarkable heights on the European stage, cumulating in actually reaching the showdown in the Albanian capital where AS Roma’s game management proved just too much. Despite another year without a crack at the title and the departure of several key players (Luis Sinisterra, Cyriel Dessers, Guus Til and Tyrell Malacia all left), it’s all smiles around their iconic De Kuip stadium. Slot has signed a new deal with the club and there seems a real confidence around the place that he is the man to bridge the gap to Ajax and PSV. They’ve brought in a number of promising players who look set to excel under Slot’s stewardship.

The manager

Arne Slot was voted Manager of the Year by his colleagues, and it’s hard to argue against that, particularly based on a formidable European run. His team simultaneously delivered the best league campaign since winning the Eredivisie five years ago. Some of the main men from last year have left, providing the club coffers with some much-needed cash. Their replacements are mainly young players with a point to prove. Looking at some of the unknowns who turned stars during last seasons, this summer’s arrivals may have a good chance of performing very well indeed.

One to watch

For obvious reasons, Sebastian Szymanski was all too keen on leaving Dynamo Moscow, at least temporarily. The 23-year old midfielder is an important player for the Polish national team and under normal circumstances it would have been very tough to imagine him joining a club outside of the Champions League. Feyenoord have got themselves a player who is supposed to be brilliant. If that turns out to be the case, the even better news for them is that they have a buy option to execute.

Fortuna Sittard

Current situation

Burak Yilmaz mania! The legendary Turkish goal machine’s arrival in Sittard has truly put the club on the map. Fortuna have struggled to sell out their stadium in recent years, but with Yilmaz on board, there are hardly any season tickets left. There’s lots of people of Turkish descent living in Sittard and nearby areas, many of them will be lured to the ground to see their childhood hero in the flesh. So in terms of money and PR, the deal has already proven to be a success. Time will tell of the 37-year old, who didn’t score a league goal in the second half of last Ligue 1 season, will be a good addition on the pitch as well. In any case, Fortuna welcomed a few more high-profile faces so they shouldn’t have to go through a nail-biting final day again to stay up this time.

The manager

Sjors Ultee is by far the youngest boss in the top flight, but he deserves credit for keeping his side up again when the odds looked stacked against them a few games from the end. It would have been the worst possible time for relegation as well, with the Turkish owners of the club intending to invest a large sum of money in the summer. The money has indeed arrived and even if key figure Zian Flemming has left the club for Millwall, Ultee should feel he has a stronger squad this term. Maybe we’ll see what the manager is really capable of now.

One to watch

We could obviously go for Yilmaz, but it’s all about him anyway and there’s every chance that the ageing striker might not live up to the hype. Definitely look out for Iñigo Córdoba, if you haven’t already. The Basque winger arrived at Go Ahead Eagles at last year’s transfer deadline day and was a joy to watch from day one. The Deventer side don’t have the financial pull required to make his loan stay permanent after parent club Athletic Bilbao let him go, but from a league perspective it’s brilliant news to see him stay in the division.

Go Ahead Eagles

Current situation

Euphoria following a brilliant return to the Eredivisie has been tempered a bit. Memories of two derby wins over bitter, relegated rivals PEC Zwolle, a famous victory over Ajax and a scintillating cup run are in the past now. Manager Kees van Wonderen left, as did many key players. What can the crowd at De Adelaarshorst, considered the league’s best stadium for atmosphere by many people inside and outside of its home city of Deventer, expect? It’s tough to tell, really. Forward Finn Stokkers is a well-known name for Eredivisie enthusiasts and has had a good pre-season, but other players have arrived from the FC Twente bench, Belarus, Norway, the Belgian second tier and the Eerste Divisie. It’ll probably take some time for all the newcomers to gel and for the team to play as well as they did in spells last year. Backed by a vociferous home crowd, they should have enough to keep their heads above the water. Just.

The manager

René Hake wasn’t the first name on Go Ahead Eagles’ wish list after Van Wonderen announced he’d not be signing a new deal in Deventer. He wasn’t free at the time anyway, as he spent most of last season at FC Utrecht before getting sacked there in March. Clubs have come in for Hake, who hasn’t had the best of luck in his managerial career, with a 2. Bundesliga team particularly interested in his services. He opted for Go Ahead Eagles, where maintaining the club’s hard-fought top-flight status would mean success and anything on top would be a bonus.

One to watch

Bobby Adekanye could either be one of the best or the worst deals of the season. You’d struggle find someone having a more impressive footballing CV by the age of 23. Bobby Adekanye, a winger, must obviously be very good at football, there’s no other way to explain that Ajax, PSV, Liverpool, FC Barcelona and Lazio all decided to get him in at some point. The other side is that all five clubs eventually let Adekanye go on a free transfer, which won’t be without reason either. He’s arrived in Deventer full of ambition: he’s aiming to reach double figures for both goals and assists. If he does so, he may well be on his way to add another European powerhouse to his CV.

FC Groningen

Current situation

Careful optimism reigns following Frank Wormuth’s arrival as the club’s new manager. The main talking point is whether or not the German gaffer will be able to use Jörgen Strand Larsen’s services. The Norwegian striker has been source of intense transfer speculation, but with millions already banked for local boy Björn Meijer’s transfer to Club Brugge, Groningen don’t have to sell him and have reportedly raised their price to an eight-figure sum. If Strand Larsen stays and continues to improve, they are in with a chance to finally do something else than dwindling around mid-table obscurity, which has started to grow on the Groningen faithful. This seems to be a key season in terms of where Groningen are in the Dutch football landscape. They’re obviously not relegation material, so thrills will have to come from either a push for European football through the league or a successful cup run like when they won the trophy in 2015.

The manager

Frank Wormuth’s four seasons in charge of Heracles Almelo ended in the worst possible way. The affable German was relieved of his duties by panicking board members when they ended up in the relegation play-offs against all expectation. It didn’t help much either, as Heracles were numbed by the way the season had unfolded and stood no chance over two games against Excelsior. That’s all in the past now for Wormuth, who arrives in Groningen with his reputation still largely intact. If he guides the club back into Europe after a seven-year absence, he’ll be the toast of the town.

One to watch

No goals and four assists doesn’t seem a return to shout about for Ragnar Oratmangoen in his first campaign in the Eredivisie, but there certainly is a reason why Groningen moved quickly to secure his services. Oratmangoen was a very exciting player to watch at Go Ahead Eagles and was near the top of the league in terms of dribbles attempted, which is no mean feat at a club that spent most of its games doing much more defending than attacking. It’ll be interesting to see Oratmangoen, a fearless winger, play in a side that should see more of the ball.

Heerenveen

Current situation

After years of steady decline, Heerenveen seem to have found the right trail again. They ended last season on a real high, creeping into the European play-offs when relegation had been a genuine worry in March. The Frisian side prized Kees van Wonderen and his highly-rated assistant Paul Simons away from Go Ahead Eagles, which means they are now led by one of last season’s outstanding managers in the Eredivisie. They finally have a prolific striker once again. Amin Sarr seems set to follow into the footsteps of many goalscorers to have represented club’s the blue and white jersey. Another positive sign of things to come is Sydney van Hooijdonk’s return on loan from Bologna, the two of them could form one of the better strike forces in the division. Couple that with Van Wonderen’s notable ability to organise a solid backline, and their chances of another top-half finish seem better than they have been for quite a long time.

The manager

Kees van Wonderen waited until his fifties before trying his hand at managing a club side. Following two exceptional seasons with Go Ahead Eagles, the boss thought the time was right for the next step. His composed appearance, hardly changed from his playing days in the Feyenoord side that famously won the 2002 UEFA Cup, has earned him many plaudits. Expectations in Heerenveen will be a bit different though, it’ll be interesting how Van Wonderen gets on now he’s in charge of a side that will not be underdogs going into every game.

One to watch

Goalkeeper Andries Noppert’s sudden emergence was one of the small stories spicing up last season’s Eredivisie. Signed as understudy at Go Ahead Eagles, he got his chance once Van Wonderen decided to drop his first-choice shot-stopper and boy, did he take it. Noppert quickly became a cult figure due to his media appearances: he was full of amusing stories and fun soundbites. More importantly, some of his saves bordered on the remarkable. Because his contract ran out, it was a no-brainer for him to join Van Wonderen at Heerenveen, his boyhood club,

NEC

Current situation

The mood in Nijmegen is significantly different than it was in a similar situation in 2016. Six years ago, you could feel second season syndrome lingering over the club, and they were relegated indeed after a fine first season back with the big boys. Most people seem to think that a relatively unchanged team (only Rodrigo Guth’s departure will really be felt) under the same manager should perform about the same as they did last season and finish somewhere between ninth and twelfth, aided by the return of home-grown goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen, a stunning bit of business for the club. The one thing they have lost over summer is a bit of experience in outfield positions. Manager Rogier Meijer, still in his first years as a head coach, will hope his seasoned midfield lynchpin Lasse Schöne goes through the campaign without serious injury problems, as his team looks a little green without the wily Dane amongst them.

The manager

Football fans, on a whole, tend to be a bit of a miserable bunch worldwide. There’s not many sets of supporters taking as much pride in negativity as those in Nijmegen. They’ve invented a special word for complaining: ‘nuilen’. There is plenty of ‘nuilen’ involved when it comes to whoever manages the local football team. News of his contract extension wasn’t quite greeted with universal delight, yet his record speaks volumes: promotion in his first season, a trouble-free campaign in his second, resulting in a creditable 11th-place finish. He might not have the credit in the bank that he’d deserve for those results.

One to watch

Jasper Cillessen is a ground-breaking transfer for the club. The goalkeeper might not have played as much football as he would have hoped for when he moved to Spain six years ago, but he’s definitely still in the reckoning to be the first choice goalkeeper at the World Cup later this year. It’s a real coup for NEC to bring him back to the Goffertstadion, where it all began for Cillessen about eleven years ago. There weren’t many worried faces around the club, but with such a high-level player secured at such a crucial position, nobody will think of them as a team that could go down.

PSV

Current situation

Roger Schmidt got a lot of bad press in the Netherlands, but it’s not without reason that his services were looked after by multiple prestigious Bundesliga sides before the German coach eventually joined European heavyweights Benfica. PSV want to win the title every year, but the Eindhoven side simply didn’t have the defence to do it. It might well be to Schmidt’s credit that they mounted a credible challenge. With a new manager, a set of promising defenders and, crucially, a new goalkeeper who is supposed to be very good, the club hope to improve on last season. One place they’ve managed to improve for sure is the centre-forward spot. The return of club icon Luuk de Jong is a smart piece of business. And if the club manage to navigate a tricky route into the Champions League group stages, it’s a piece of business that will have paid off before the end of August.

The manager

Ruud van Nistelrooy impressed managing the PSV U21’s in the Eerste Divisie. Throwing him in at the deep end is a gamble nonetheless, no matter how you look at it. There aren’t many examples of managers succeeding when their first senior job is at one of the biggest clubs in the country. What speaks for Van Nistelrooy is that he knows the club well, that he seems to have a clear idea of how his teams should play and that he is a keen student of the game, who has had plenty of time to learn from some of the greatest managers in world football.

One to watch

Unless you’re 1970s Brazil, you’ll struggle to win major trophies without a solid goalkeeper. A reliable presence between the sticks might have tilted last season’s title race in PSV’s favour. Joël Drommel and Yvon Mvogo took turns in goal, but neither really managed to convince. Walter Benitez’ arrival is incredibly promising. The Argentine is experienced at 29, spent several terms in goal at Nice, where he led the meanest defence in Ligue 1 last season. His arrival, on a free transfer, is an incredibly good piece of business on paper.

RKC Waalwijk

Current situation

Finishing in the top 10 was a pleasant throwback to RKC’s Martin Jol era. The yellow and blue outfit have a small ground which still isn’t always sold out, and their youth recruitment is a struggle with many bigger clubs being around them. The only thing they can do to give themselves a chance in the Eredivisie, is getting the recruitment absolutely spot-on. And fair enough, they did so again. Getting Jens Odgaard on loan was a sensational piece of business, and evergreen Michiel Kramer might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but he’s certainly come up with the goods when it was needed most. How do they look this time around? Worryingly thin, it has to be said. They have a bit of cash, thankfully, to bolster a backline that looks a bit light to cope with all the demands of a full Eredivisie season. An extra midfielder wouldn’t go amiss either.

The manager

Not many people knew Joseph Oosting as a manager. He arrived from Vitesse last summer, where he had been assistant for a few years. Unanimously, pundits placed his RKC Waalwijk team in the bottom three. They didn’t spend a single day there and Oosting ended op nominated for the Manager of the Year award. He has a different squad to work with in the coming months, particularly when you look at the average age: a few of the more seasoned pros are gone, most of the new guys are still quite young. Things might get tougher now.

One to watch

Or they might not, if Julen Lobete is everything he promises to be. A forward playing for Spain U21’s, Lobete is your dream Football Manager signing. He’s on loan in Waalwijk this season, following a season with Real Sociedad’s first team in which he scored at the Camp Nou. Plenty of promise for the young man at a lower level. He’ll have to find the motivation to step down from Barcelona’s sacred stadium to the Mandemakers Stadion, a venue so small that RKC fans affectionally branded it ‘The Bike Shed’.

Sparta

Current situation

They looked destined for the drop when manager Henk Fraser packed his bags near the end of a season full of bad results on the pitch and infighting off it. Maurice Steijn, who had agreed to replace Fraser at Rotterdam’s original football club following the season, took over a few weeks early and steered the ship into a safe haven. They have reacted by signing a wonderful mix of forgotten-about Eredivisie players and foreigners that nobody on these shores has ever heard of. Steijn and the board have agreed on aiming for a position somewhere near the top of the bottom half. We’ll have to trust them when it comes to how realistic that target is, as only they are truly capable of saying how good the new boys are. The best new arrival at the club’s iconic old ground, however, isn’t a player but a new grass pitch after the club waved goodbye to the much-maligned plastic turf.

The manager

Maurice Steijn took a blow after he was involved in an ugly situation at NAC Breda where everyone seemed to be fighting anyone, yet his credentials as a manager remain intact after good work at ADO Den Haag, VVV-Venlo and most recently a sublime relegation escape effort with his new club. The first impressions is that this is an improved Sparta side. They lost their star goalkeeper Maduka Okoye to Watford, but Steijn got Nick Olij in from his former club NAC and he looks a steady replacement. It might be solid foundation for a season of peace and quiet for Steijn and Sparta. They could both do with one.

One to watch

Wait, Jonathan de Guzman still plays football? Most Dutch football fans had the same reaction when the Canada-born midfielder suddenly popped up at Sparta, twelve years after departing the city as a Feyenoord player. During those years, De Guzman became the first Dutchman to have played in all of Europe’s four biggest leagues and won a bronze medal at the 2014 World Cup, before embarking on a sunny spell as a footballer in Crete. Seemingly out of the blue, he was announced as Sparta’s latest reinforcement. Early signs indicate that the old warrior may well have quite a bit left in his tank.

FC Twente

Current situation

Joyous scenes in Enschede as FC Twente celebrated qualifying for their return on the European stage. After staggering incompetence on every possible level saw the club relegated four years ago, Twente have quickly found a way to re-start exploiting their massive potential. Make no mistake, they’re here to stay and their renewed sense of confidence is on show as well. Feyenoord came in with an offer for Ramiz Zerrouki, Twente’s midfield maestro, but the Rotterdam side were sent packing as their offer didn’t nearly match their valuation of the Algerian international. FC Twente are still a debt-ridden club, but apparently the situation is no longer serious enough to require an execution sale every time an offer comes in for one of their players. With the squad largely intact, it’ll be interesting to see if they can maintain their excellent league form if they are to reach the Europa Conference League group stage.

The manager

It seems a long time ago now, but last autumn there was no consensus on whether or not to offer charismatic boss Ron Jans a new deal. Then results started to change, the board swayed in the direction of keeping Jans, who repaid that confidence by leading the club back into Europe. His days at Twente seem similar to his peak days he enjoyed at FC Groningen, with the club in the higher echelons of the league table and just an all-round positive mood around the place. The one difference: Twente have a lot more to spend than Groningen. Who knows where Jans may take them.

One to watch

Obviously Christos Tzolis from Premier League-relegated Norwich City is an interesting acquisition, but put November 12 in your diary. Sparta v FC Twente might be a good game anyway, but there’s a potential sub-plot with more than a hint of inevitability about it. Sparta are managed by Maurice Steijn, and Twente signed his son Sem on a free transfer from ADO Den Haag this summer. Sem Steijn is a midfielder with a remarkable eye for goal, who’ll take sardonic pleasure out of hurting his dad’s team. It’s almost certain to happen, really.

FC Utrecht

Current situation

Expectations are traditionally a bit too high in Utrecht. The money to do better is there, but they keep spending it wrong and can’t really have too many complaints about failing to qualify for Europe again. It resulted in another managerial casualty. Henk Fraser was lured from Sparta to fill the vacancy at the Galgenwaard stadium. The expectations remain unaltered: Utrecht know they are too good to be dragged into mid-table or, God forbid, worse than that, just like they are aware that challenging for the title is beyond them. Like every year, they showed a lot of ambition on the transfer market – tempting Bas Dost into a return to Dutch football was a clear statement of intent, and there might be more to come following the sale of Quinten Timber to Feyenoord. Ajax wonderboy Jurriën’s younger brother landed his hometown club a record-breaking fee for an outgoing player, and they might be tempted to re-invest some of that money.

The manager

Will Henk Fraser be the man to lead Utrecht back into Europe? He’ll point to his time at Vitesse, when he guided the Arnhem side into the Europa League twice in two seasons. It’ll be tough with five places up for grabs and Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord as good as certainly grabbing two of them, leaving Utrecht to overtake either AZ or the resurgent FC Twente to get there. Chances are he’ll oversee a lot of transfer business in the next few weeks, as he is currently working with a bloated squad. Incoming transfers are still expected now Timber has landed the club a pot of gold, but there’ll have to be players shipped out first if there’s to be any space in the dressing room.

One to watch

It’s got to be Bas Dost. Utrecht haven’t had a firing striker ever since Sébastien Haller left the club quite a few years ago, which certainly is part of the reason that the club haven’t fulfilled the lofty ambitions of owner Frans van Seumeren, who continues to invest large sums of money into his beloved club. Signing Bas Dost from Club Brugge must have come with a heavy wage package, considering he was on about £30,000 a week there. If he finds his form of ten years ago, when he was the league’s top scorer with a staggering 32 goals, he’ll be worth every penny.

Vitesse

Current situation

Peace and quiet never last long at Vitesse, but this summer the unrest has turned up yet another notch. Russian owner Valeri Oyf initially provided relief by announcing he’d waive the £125 million the club owed him, but there’s not been any further update on a takeover. Meanwhile on the pitch, Vitesse have had to say goodbye to several key players without getting replacements of similar quality. It’s resulted in a frankly dreadful pre-season and a negative atmosphere around the club, a group of supporters have requested a meeting with the board to get some clarity on where they stand, on and off the pitch. As long as that unrest lingers, it’ll be difficult for them to mount a challenge to qualify for another European campaign, like the one they all so thoroughly enjoyed last term. They won’t go down, not by a long stretch, but the good times might be over for now.

The manager

Thomas Letsch gets a lot of stick from the supporters, mostly for persisting with his 5-3-2 system even when it wasn’t producing the goods at the business end of last season. The German can boast some highlights from his two seasons in charge: reaching the cup final in 2021 was followed by a terrific European adventure. As long as there is no clarity over Vitesse’s finances, it is hard to see Letsch being enabled to repeat either of those highs. To his credit, Letsch hasn’t complained about it.

One to watch

Nikolai Baden Frederiksen. The Danish striker arrived with lots of promise, but didn’t nearly fulfil the expectations. He struggled with his fitness a lot and reportedly struggled to settle in Arnhem, leading to a modest return of seven league goals in 26 appearances, though one of them was the all-important winner in the local derby away to NEC. Frederiksen is still only 22 and did occasionally show his promise. If he finds his feet in the coming months, he could score the goals that Loïs Openda won’t anymore now he’s gone, and maybe things won’t be all that bad after all.

FC Volendam

Current situation

They’ve been very close before, but the men in orange have finally clawed their way back into the top-flight after an eighteen-year absence. And they did so in style, clinching second place in the Eerste Divisie playing a brand of – at times – swashbuckling football. Volendam, twenty minutes north of Amsterdam, isn’t an ordinary town. As a closed-knit community with relatively little influence from the outside world, they couldn’t be prouder to have a team back in the top flight. And they’ll do whatever they can to keep them there a while this time, as their previous adventure at this level lasted just a single season. The question mark is over the defence: Volendam shipped 53 goals last season. If they don’t improve there, they could well be on the receiving end of a few trashings. There will be goals, at both ends.

The manager

Volendam is the smallest town to boast an Eredivisie club, but the only one to be able to say that their manager was born in it. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that Wim Jonk, a local boy who brought his team back to the Eredivisie after such a long absence, enjoys boundless popularity with the supporters. Jonk has been linked with moves to other, bigger clubs plenty of times but always opted to stay put in the hope of one they leading them out against the likes of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. It’ll be interesting to see if the interesting brand of football they play can be paired with results at this level.

One to watch

The prospect of Eredivisie football has tempted striker Henk Veerman to return home. Bas Dost’s arrival meant his role at FC Utrecht would be more limited anyway. The 6ft7 target man, who is better on the ball than his appearance might suggest, will provide Jonk with a clear Plan B if the silky passing football they have made their trademark doesn’t quite work. As things are in a village, there’s no real hiding place should things go wrong for Veerman. The club’s ticket office is staffed by.. his mother. At least he’ll get to see her more often, he joked upon his second coming at the club he supported as a boy.




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