Marcel Keizer has been appointed as the new head coach of Ajax, but who is the 48-year-old tasked with continuing what Peter Bosz started? Michael Bell gives you the lowdown on the new Ajax boss.

Profile and playing career

Born in Badhoevedorp, Marcel Keizer is the nephew of Ajax and Netherlands legend Piet Keizer. He started his playing career as a midfielder with Ajax but only made four appearances for the first team before leaving for Cambuur in 1989. He spent nine years in Leeuwarden, making more than 280 appearances for Cambuur before seeing out his career with De Graafschap and FC Emmen. He retired in 2002.

Coaching career

After retiring, Keizer got his first big coaching role at Eerste Divisie side Telstar, where he spent two years before taking on the role as technical director with Cambuur. Keizer left Leeuwarden to take over at FC Emmen in 2015 but returned to Cambuur after only a few months, this time as head coach. He was tasked with keeping the club in the Eredivisie, but couldn’t stop their relegation as they finished bottom of the table.

Last summer Keizer was planning Cambuur’s return to the Eredivisie but he received an offer to return to his first love, Ajax, where he took over from Jaap Stam as head coach of Jong Ajax.

At the time, director Edwin van der Sar said, “We think Marcel Keizer is the right man to lead Jong Ajax. In addition to being in our youth system, and a professional footballer, he is relatively young, but is a very experienced trainer for his age. That is important for the group of talents he represents with Jong Ajax in the Jupiler League. It is important to us that the transition from players in the youth structure to Jong Ajax and then to the first team is in a good shape. Marcel plays an important part in that process. ”

With Keizer at the helm, Jong Ajax excelled in the Eerste Divisie, finishing second to league winners VVV, who they hammered 4-1 in Venlo just before the end of the season. Keizer handed Jong Ajax debuts to the likes of Matthijs de Ligt and Justin Kluivert before they broke into the first team, and was heralded as playing the best football in the league. Jong Ajax only lost eight times all season and scored the most goals in the league (93).

Unsurprisingly, Ajax’s hierarchy were delighted with Keizer’s first season at the club and he has been chosen as the man to succeed Peter Bosz, who left for Borussia Dortmund.

Playing style

Cambuur’s Jerge Hoefdraad described his former boss by saying, “He is a quiet, honest man. He is always busy with players to make them better through additional training. He loves football and hard work A no-nonsense football animal. A true 4-3-3 trainer.”

Much like former coach Peter Bosz, Keizer is a disciple of Johan Cruyff and sets his side’s up to play the traditional Ajax way. He wants his players to press the ball high up the pitch and dominate possession at all times. His Jong Ajax side last year were a joy to watch moving forward with their fast pace and intricate passing from the back.

What he says

“It is difficult to characterise myself. I want to improve myself every day and hope to convey that to my players. I’m someone who says how it is. Good is good. Bad is bad. I do not like to stick to my own favourite tactic, but look at what is best for the team.”

What they say

Jamiro Monteiro who played under Keizer at Cambuur, “He was really busy with the players and I think he made players better. He thinks the team is more important than the individual. He’s a very good person. If you’re talking to him, you can have a good conversation with him. I think he’s a quiet type and he is not one to shout the whole training.” (Ajax Showtime)

Jerge Hoefdraad, another Cambuur player, “Marcel has a good view on football. You saw that this season at Jong Ajax as well. He wants everything to be solved playing football and is committed to the five-second rule. I noticed this season when we played against them. In possession, Jong Ajax is calm and quiet, but as soon as they lose the ball, they fly on top. He loves the Barça style. A lot of possession, all the attackers have threats. And immediately put pressure with loss of possession. As an attacker, he demands a lot from you.” (Elf Voetbal)

Cambuur director Gerald van den Belt, “With Keizer, Ajax makes a great choice. With Arne Slot and Erik ten Hag he belongs to the best trainers at the moment. Marcel is a no-nonsense figure, devoid of political intrigue. He himself is pure. No compromises. That makes him a nice person.” (AD)

Ronald de Boer, “I know they all rave about Marcel Keizer. He finished second with Jong Ajax and that’s actually a youth team. Many people said that young players could not cope against physically stronger players but he has got them playing fantastic. My brother was also pushed forward from the A1. Based on what I’ve heard and seen, I would dare (to appoint him). ” (Fox Sports)

Is Keizer the right choice?

For some Ajax fans, Keizer won’t be the exciting name they were hoping for when Peter Bosz’s departure was confirmed. The 48-year-old has not yet experienced the pressure of coaching a major side, but neither had Frank de Boer when he was appointed, while PSV had success with Phillip Cocu and Feyenoord with Giovanni van Bronckhorst, who both had less experience than Keizer.

The appointment is clearly a sign that the Ajax board don’t want to move away from the clubs traditional way of playing and want a coach that will work well with the technical heart. Peter Bosz’s relationship with Dennis Bergkamp and Hennie Spijkerman was strained towards the end of last season, and Keizer’s appointment should smooth everything with the two coaches who will play a big part under the new boss.

Keizer has already worked with a number of players who will form the first team next season and got them playing some fantastic football with Jong Ajax. He seems to have the full backing of the board and will oversee one of the most talented groups to represent Ajax in years.

Will he be the man to end Ajax’s wait for the league title and build on their success in Europe though? We will just have to wait and see.




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