Hopefully Elsner can be rewarded for his patience and finally bring an end to the Ajax dominance.
Well the preseason has been rather hectic, compared to what I was hoping for but with the success we were having it should not be too surprising how much pressure we were seeing from bigger clubs to buy our players.
We will start with the good news first! Fredrik Midtsjo agreed to a contract extension that will keep him at the club through June 2027. There was some doubt that the two sides could reach an agreement but cooler heads prevailed and Midtsjo's expectations were brought back in-line. Nicolas Guerra signed an extension to stay at the club through June 2028, when healthy he has been a valuable asset to our attack. Finally, promising young striker Andrew Gravillon agreed to an extension that will keep him in Alkmaar until June of 2029.
I will simply start in order of which the player was sold. Defender Pantelis Hatzidiakos was sold to Fenerbahce for €2.6M after requesting a transfer, he was looking for more playing time than we could assure him of. Oleg Danchenko was sold for €7.75M to Club Brugge after Danchenko and the club could not come to terms on a contract extension. The 31-year old right back will certainly be missed, time and time again he created opportunities for us with his cross delivery. Ole ter Haar Romeny was finally sold by the club after two years of lackluster performance, Dynamo Kyiv bought him for €10.5M
Arguably our best player from last season, Rafael Leao was sold to Bournemouth for €17.5M after Leao and the club could not agree to an extension. It was always our intent to flip him for a profit and we did so, making almost €14M. Young left back Dirk Boldt was sold for €15M to RB Leipzig after just one injury filled season with the club. Both sides were miles apart on contract extension discussions and there was significant interest from teams in Germany to bring him back home. A decent €6M profit on the sale but I was honestly hoping for more.
Calvin Stengs has finally moved on from AZ Alkmaar after being sold to Leicester City for €22M. Stengs was excited to join the Premier League side and his development has stagnated over the years. AS Saint Etienne bought Luka Ivanusec for €1M, he became expendable after we brought in Marcos Arena last summer.
And possibly the worst part of the summer, once again we lose a top prospect before we get a chance to really showcase him. The 18-year old Rik Dietvorst forced a moved to PSG for €11M, we wanted a loan back but he refused so we ended up having to cut ties completely. Hopefully he has more success than Angelo Saro who has been irrelevant since moving to Germany a couple seasons ago.
All-in-all we sold 8 players for €76M but more could be coming. Frank Marcussen has been a topic of interest with Schalke, Borussia M'gladbach, and Leicester City all activating his release clause but failing to come to an agreement in terms of a contract. Roma, Valencia, Bournemouth, Lazio, and Lyon are all also rumored to be making a move for him soon too. With all the interest he is not interested in discussing a new contract. I am hopeful we can hold on to him.
Once again I will go in order by the transaction date. First, we brought in Lewis Dalton from Bournemouth on a free. He is a towering striker at 22 years old, but we are not expecting anything immediate from him. He will start at Jong AZ for now. Joaquin Mendoza joins the club from River Plate for €9.75M, the 22-year old Argentinian right back is coming in to replace the departed Danchenko. Some big shoes to fill for the young man but he has the potential. Twenty-five yeard old Dutch defender Kik Pierie was acquired from PSV Eindhoven for €8.5M, he will be coming in to replace Hatzidiakos. Pierie gives us a versatile defender with plenty of Eredivisie experience behind him.
Aurelien Tchouameni was acquired from Hertha Berlin for €10M. The 25-year old midfielder will rotate with Teun Koopmeiners in the midfield, he brings a large upgrade in physical skillset compared to Koopmeiners and others around the club. A pairing with Goudmijn will be quite interesting. Winger Arjen Van Der Heide was bought from SC Heerenveen for €12M, he will rotate with Taabouni on the left wing replace Leao.
Another Dutch winger joins the club, as Mohammed Mallahi was bought from FC Utrecht for €5M. He scored 12 goals and 5 assists last season in the league. He will replace Stengs on the right side. Finally, with Marcussen likely to move on we brought in Svetozar Markovic from Real Sociedad for €1.6M.
We handled the friendly season as expected, outside of a disappointing showing against Manchester City. I did not expect us to win but was hoping to be more competitive. The pay day was nice though!
Til was injured in training on the 24th of July with pulled knee ligaments. He is expected to return to action in the middle of August.
Midtsjo was injured in training on the 29th of July with a twisted ankle. He should be back on the pitch by the end of August.
2024/2025 Squad Announced
Quite an overhaul from last season but many key pieces still in place. I am expecting Taabouni, Til, Goudmijn, and Tchouameni all to see significant time in the first team. We need to find another center back option that is better with his left foot to backup Torunarigha. Otherwise, I do not think we are far off where we were last year. For sure Leao and Stengs will be missed, they put so much pressure on the opposing defense. Defensively we should be even better if we can keep Marcussen.
Eredivisie Season Preview
1) Ajax (3-1)
2) AZ (4-1)
3) Feyenoord (5-1)
4) PSV (6-1)
5) Vitesse (18-1)
6) FC Utrecht (25-1)
7) FC Groningen (30-1)
8) sc Heerenveen (65-1)
9) Willem II (80-1)
10) FC Twente (85-1)
11) VVV-Venlo (200-1)
12) Heracles Almedo (250-1)
13) ADO Den Haag (300-1)
14) PEC Zwolle (700-1)
15) Excelsior (750-1)
16) N.E.C. (1000-1)
17) Fortuna Sittard (1000-1)
18) Go Ahead (1000-1)
Ajax are once again favorites, their odds are no different than a year ago but the rest of the league has worse odds – including us.
Top 5 Transfers, not related to AZ (based on €)
The top 7 all involved AZ…
Feyenoord sold Marijan Matkovic to Everton for €12.75M
FC Groningen sold Wayan Pratama to Bournemouth for €10.25M
ADO Den Haag sold Bruno Freitas to Juventus for €7.25M
Ajax sold Marlon Gangadin to Crystal Palace for €7.25M
PSV sold Vaclav Cerny to Feyenoord for €4.6M
For the rest of the league it has been rather quiet.
Media Dream Eleven
GK – Henrik Christensen, AZ
Defenders – Godfred Diallo, Vitesse; Jonny, Ajax; *Franck Marcussen, AZ; *Dodo, Ajax
Midfield – George Mhlongo, Vitesse; *Hakim Ziyech, Ajax; Kenneth Taylor, Ajax
Attackers – Svetoslav Kovachev, AZ; Wilfried Smit, PSV; Josh Sargent, Ajax
A lot more diversity than in previous seasons with “only” 5 players from Ajax on the Dream 11. Only 3 players form last year’s Dream 11. Shows how hard it is in this league to keep your top players!
For the 3rd straight year, we start with Ajax in the JC Schaal Cup. Ajax have won the trophy 5 out of the last 6 seasons. This looks to be our most difficult start to the season so far. PEC Zwolle always gives us a tough match, with PSV and Vitesse both very good this year. Besiktas are going to be a tough opponent – they feature Moussa Diaby who played for Elsner at ASSE. Diaby has been very good since heading to Turkey, with 26 goals in two seasons. They also have Eray Karatas on loan from AS Monaco, Karatas is one of the top players on the Turkish National Team at just 22 years old. The striker had 9 goals a season ago with AS Monaco in Ligue 1. I think we can beat them because our defense but it’s not going to be easy to slow them down.