Rotterdam: Ajax Amsterdam must decide next month whether the great Johan Cruyff or Louis van Gaal, who coached them to their last European Cup triumph 16 years ago, will be chosen to try to lead them back to the summit of the European game.
The decision will be made following an internal political war that has dragged on for months and has even involved allegations of racism against Cruyff which he has denied.
The Dutch maestro, one of the finest players to grace the game, is a man with strong views who has never got on well with Van Gaal and has alienated others with his opinions.
The tensions underlying attempts to restore the Dutch champions to their former glory have simmered for months and they exploded on Sunday with racism allegations on Dutch TV.
Edgar Davids, another former Dutch international who had two spells at Ajax during an illustrious playing career, said in a television interview that he had been racially abused during his time on the club’s board.
Although Davids, who is of Surinamese descent, did not name the person involved, Ajax supervisory board chairman Steven ten Have later said on Dutch TV that Cruyff had told Davids: “You are only on the board because you are black.”
Cruyff has strongly denied the racism allegations, saying in his weekly De Telegraaf newspaper column on Tuesday: “Ajax is a multicultural club and we have found that many talented immigrant players quit when they reach puberty.”
“So we wanted to tackle this problem with someone from the same background who had come through it. And that was Edgar Davids. During one of our fights I pointed that out to him. But it had nothing to do with his skin colour.”
Davids has also played the incident down, saying on his personal website: “I never said, and I want to emphasise that, that Johan Cruyff was a racist, despite this unfortunate remark on his part. I would also like to make clear I have deep respect for the soccer player Johan Cruyff.”
This week’s racism row has diverted attention from the battle for control of Ajax with the board shattering under the weight of the ambitious project the club launched to re-establish itself among the elite of European football.
The three-man board led by chairman Uri Coronel stepped down at the start of the week and appointing a new one will be on the agenda when the club’s 24-man members council meets on Monday.
The council must also decide what happens to the five-man supervisory board, with Cruyff lined up on one side and the other four members including Davids on the other, before a shareholders meeting scheduled for Dec. 12.
Since the Ajax supporters’ association owns more than 70 percent of the listed company it will ultimately decide what to do about the split in the supervisory board.
Cruyff, 64, said on Sunday he would not continue his work on the supervisory board with the other four members, who last week reached agreement with Van Gaal for him to become the club’s general director from July 1.
Cruyff, who played in Ajax’s three European Cup-winning teams from 1971-73, said the others had gone behind his back.
“Too many things have happened, keeping me in the dark,” he said. “The deal with Van Gaal is the absolute low point.”
It is no secret that Cruyff has never got on with 60-year-old Van Gaal, who was sacked as Bayern Munich manager in April.
“It is now time for the club to decide which direction they want to go because I won’t co-operate with these four commissioners (on the supervisory board) anymore,” Cruyff said.
Cruyff does not want to work with Van Gaal who himself would be unwilling to adopt someone else’s technical blueprint for the development of Ajax and the club’s young players.
Cruyff has the backing of almost all the staff at Ajax’s famed youth academy, which has produced hundreds of players who have made the grade around Europe. On the other side of the equation are Cruyff’s opponents who support Van Gaal.
Cruyff has said that under his plans “there is no place for a technical director or a director with a coaching licence”.
The state of flux at the club also involves former players Wim Jonk, Dennis Bergkamp and Frank de Boer, the Ajax manager.
“Wim Jonk, Dennis Bergkamp and head coach Frank de Boer have their responsibilities in the overall technical set-up and the three of them will manage that part of the club,” said Cruyff.
Former midfielder Jonk outlined Cruyff’s master plan to Wednesday’s edition of Voetbal International magazine.
“In the last few years there have been too many changes in the way of working, all initiated by the coaches. That should not happen,” he said.
“We are executing a philosophy that should be followed by every coach, even if we are gone. That is the big wish of Johan, create a platform that can last 100 years.”
Matters will come to a head two weeks before Christmas when the four-times European champions must decide their future path.