The State of Dutch Club Football

May 21, 2019

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Founded: 1956

Most Championships: Ajax, 34

Last 5 Winners: Ajax (18/19), PSV (17/18, 15/16, 14/15), Feynoord (16/17)

UEFA Ranking: 11th

Highest Ranked Club: Ajax, 20th

Interview with Dutch football journalist and editor Michiel Jongsma

After Ajax’s season in Europe this year, is Dutch football on the rise again?

While Ajax and to a lesser extent PSV’s performance hardly have been accidents, it’s more of a testament to the strength of those two teams rather than a broader success story.

Ajax and PSV were comfortably ahead of the league as they have been in most recent seasons, with the two only dropping two and four points against the bottom half of the table. This season, there were no teams in the Europa League from the Netherlands as Feyenoord and AZ lost out to minnows and Vitesse was knocked out to Basel.

This is hardly an accident: in the last four seasons, only AZ managed to get out of the group stages of the EL. With PSV and Ajax the only two teams with enough financial muscle (and lack of need to sell), these are the only teams that realistically can reap what they sowed in the season before.

However, in recent years Dutch clubs seem to be able to produce quite a bit of talent and with Ajax and other clubs happy to pay a decent fee for these players, perhaps through innovation Dutch teams can create an upturn.

We also saw PSV competitive in Europe this year. What’s been the reason for this upturn in relative success?

PSV and Ajax are both financially healthy clubs and have been quite successful in identifying talent, both in the Eredivisie and in the league. And with the lack of need to sell, they can pretty much ask the fee they feel is justified and invest that money in talent that is perhaps a bit too unproven for actual top teams, but is fine for them to develop in the Eredivisie.

Furthermore, in the case of Ajax they have a very good manager that has been able to develop the team really well. Mark van Bommel is still quite new to the job, but had a front line to rely on that could well be one of the more talented in European football, especially for a smaller league.

What is seen as a successful year for Dutch sides in Europe? What’s expected of them?

I think getting three to four teams in the group stages of European tournaments and at least two making it past the group stages is probably what will be seen as a good season.

Do most of the country get behind the Dutch sides playing in Europe or is there a lot of tribalism still apparent?

Yeah I think that is fair, although the EL final defeat two years ago and the semi-final this season by Ajax sparked some celebrations from Feyenoord fans, as those two are fierce rivals. But in general, I think most fans are really aware that their chances of European participation, the league’s pull in terms of attractiveness is partly dependent on the success of other clubs in Europe.

We don’t really have the luxury of rooting against Dutch teams in that sense. That said, it’s not as if the teams in Europe turn into some kind of extension of nationalism, whereby the remaining Dutch teams are being cheered on by all.

How is the EL viewed in Holland?

Like how national Cup competitions feel for many I guess. Fun when you’re in it, with either a Dutch team or your own, but when you don’t have a horse in the race it doesn’t really speak to you.

How do you think the Europa League 2 will affect Dutch performances in Europe and what has been the reaction to the formation of the competition in Holland + the other proposed changes to European competition?

The Champions League / Super League situation is becoming increasingly worrying, but in the Netherlands there is a set group of clubs (Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord) that have a chance of getting European success anyway. From that, the idea of adding another European tournament for smaller teams is actually something that is quite enticing for fans of a lot of clubs.

For the best part, the leagues consist of teams for which European participation is a prize, so if there are more of those games and fans actually feel their team can win a game or two too, that does sound quite attractive.

What would you like to see UEFA do to level the playing field more for small European sides?

In recent years, Ajax and PSV have done quite well with good players from big leagues that wanted to win titles and participate in the Champions League, with Dusan Tadic, Andres Guardado and Hector Moreno the main examples. From that, as a way to level the playing field, more countries and fewer teams in the Champions League would be something I’d really like.

Incentivizing the Europa League more financially and turning it into a more prestigious tournament would really be something I’d like as well. The Europa League has turned into a way to reach the Champions League, rather than a prize in itself, which I think is an absolute shame. The automatic CL spot doesn’t really help there as well.

One other thing that would be handy: End the transfer window before competitive football starts. Last season, AZ sold star player Alireza Jahanbakhsh a day before playing their first EL qualifier against Kairat Almaty, which does not really help when you want to try and qualify for the Europa League. If the transfer window would be shut on August 11st and qualifiers would start from one or two weeks later, clubs would be given a fairer chance in my opinion.

Interview with Dutch football journalist and editor Michiel Jongsma

Find all your Champions League betting odds here

A Europa League infographic

Author: Tom Mortimer

Tom is the editor at Betting Circle and has been creating online content for over 10 years. Tom mainly writes about sport and gambling, but every now and then also delves into fleshier subjects like politics and psychology. When he was 18 he created and over the last few years he's written on a freelance basis for ESPN, WorldSoccer,, among many others.

Twitter @TMortimerFtbl

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