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Legenda - The career of Luka Elsner

Started on 2 April 2020 by grismosw7
Latest Reply on 13 August 2020 by Justice
Hopefully Elsner can be rewarded for his patience and finally bring an end to the Ajax dominance.

Preseason 2025/2026

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.

Contract Extensions

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.

Players Sold

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.

Players Bought-In

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!

Guus Til

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.

Fredrik Midtsjo

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

Media Predictions

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.
Some good business in the window to replace a number of players who depart the club this summer. The squad looks to be decent on paper and hopefully this can translate to a good side on the pitch. A strong start is necessary.
A few of the more important players gone in the window but have been replaced well. Despite the media prediction I have a good feeling about this season being the one you finally get it over Ajax!

August 2025

Finally we are able to beat Ajax in the Johan Cruijff Schaal! And we did it convincingly, with a mostly rotated lineup against their top lineup. A scoreless draw at halftime looked headed for penalties before an exciting goal fest erupted in the final 45. Mohammed Mallahi opened the scoring in the 57th minute, but Ajax neutralized less than a minute later on a goal from Kenneth Taylor. Andrew Gravillon added a brace over 8 minutes, scoring in the 62nd and 70th minutes to give us a comfortable lead before Mallahi completed his brace 2 minutes later. Not all good news from the match, as Guus Til left the match in the 16th minute with a broken leg and he will miss most of the season as a result.

In Champions League Qualifying, we surprisingly handled Besiktas quite easily 4-1 on aggregate. I was expecting more of a fight, especially away. Nicolas Guerra and Marcos Arena both scored in the first 20 minutes and we cruised to a 2-0 win away, before winning at home 2-1 behind goals from Kovachev and Taabouni. I actually thought Basel was going to be an easier matchup for us but I was wrong initially, but we were able to end up winning comfortable 3-1 on aggregate. The lead most of the home match after they converted on a penalty in the 12th minute. We got a late equalizer from Kenzo Goudmijn in the 77th minute, assisted by Arjen van der Heide. A brace from Guerra in the away match sees us through to the Group Stage for the 3rd straight year.

In the league, we opened by hammering PEC Zwolle with goals from Mallahi, Guerra, and Taabouni. PSV looked to have us headed for a draw but a late goal from Guerra in the 84th minute gets us the 3 points, he just came on in the 81st minute. We were unfortunate to settle for a draw against Vitesse. They scored just before the half but Joaquin Mendoza got the equalizer in the 56th minute. However, Guerra was causing havoc but unable to convert over the final 30 minutes before fittingly missing a penalty in the 94th minute. Tough luck! We jumped on Willem II with a goal in the 2nd minute from Mallahi before Guerra missed another penalty to close out the first half. Gravillon came on at halftime for Guerra and was able to score in the 58th minute to allow us to see out the 2-0 win comfortably.

Overall, what a great start to the season despite integrating several new players to the club late in the preseason.

Jordan Torunarigha

Torunarigha was once again an anchor of consistency for our defense, another great month from him! In 8 appearances he averaged a 7.24 match rating. He won every tackle and also 87% of headers while connecting on 84% of his passes.

Guus Til

Our captain, Til is out expected to miss most of the season with a broken leg but there is a chance he could make a return in February.

Erik Pieters moved from Excelsior to FC Utrecht over the summer and he has them playing some great football right now. Obviously Ajax's slow start has to be the talk of the league, after draws against FC Twente and Feyenoord but they rebounded nicely with an away win against PSV. Their slow start gives everyone a glimmer of hope though, including us!!

Well crap, another difficult draw here but it should be expected I suppose. Some nice story-lines with Elsner having a chance to disrupt Schalke's aspirations for knockout football.

A look at some of the players we will face...

Milan - Andre Silva is emerging into a star along with Samu Castillejo in attack. Franck Kessie and Agustin Almendra create an elite midfield. And their defense is frightening with Carlos Lescano, Mattia Caldara, and Alessio Romagnoli all lining up in front of Gianluigi Donnarumma. It's no wonder they have won the Serie A two years in a row. Managed by Antonio Conte, they are favorites to win the group.

Valencia - Marcelino returns as manager after leaving for the Spain international job, then a stint at Inter Milan. Their top player is new gen right back Hugo Santacruz from Paraguay. He already has 46 caps, at 24 years of age. They also have an aging Eden Hazard and Dani Olmo in their midfield. I think we match up well with them.

Schalke - Jeff Saibene keeps chugging a way with Schalke. German new gen striker Edgar Denz is regarded as their top player. Their defense is still stout with Felix Uduokhai and Maximillian Wober in the middle. Also, Alex Blesa is emerging into a star in the midfield. I may regret signing these guys for them...

We start the month on international break before another match with Ajax. Can we beat them 4 straight times!?!? Both ADO Den Haag and VVV-Venlo beat us away last year.

In the KNVB Beker we open with SC Cambuur in hopes to winning the cup for the 3rd straight season.

This should be an interesting month.


Scott & LFCFan - After a start like that hopes are high!!
Exactly the sort of start you would have wanted! The group you've been given is a lot kinder than before. Hopefully you can improve this time around.
A great start with the cup win and nice start to the league. I agree with Scott, that seems on paper a nice group and I think we may see you squeeze through!
My FM time has really been limited as of late with my kids seeking some more dad time. Additionally my 3 oldest sons start club training this week.

Still hoping to plug away at this but will likely change to a two-three times per season update rather than monthly.

Season 2025/2026 - First Half

Some final transfer news...we were unsuccesful and holding off bids for Frank Marcussen with Olympique Lyonnais finally upping their offer to activate his release clause at 12M Euros days before the transfer deadline. The move set off a chain of moves for us, first - we finalized a pending deal to bring in Jaime from Levante for 8.5M Euros. The 21-year old left back brings in a load of potential to a position that has been stuck in a rotation since Borna Sosa left for China. Second, we acquired Rick van Drongelen from Vfb Stuttgart for 14M Euros. We probably over spent for van Drongelen but Diogo Queiros has struggled to settle in since his arrival and we were desperate to bring in another quality center back. He is a bit undersized for our usual requirements but he is more than capable. Finally, we sent Yannick Ploem out on loan to Excelsior. Ploem should see plenty of time with their first team, after two strong seasons between AZ and Jong AZ he was left for only a backup role.

Eredivisie ... I am not sure we could have asked for a better start to the league, sitting a top the table since Match Day 8 after FC Utrecht started to struggle. We are a healthy 9 points clear of PSV and Ajax, both with 37 points. Our defense has been dominate, we have not allowed a goal since early November in league play with seven clean sheets in a row. Yet, somehow we managed to lose sc Heerenveen (17th) at home 0-1. In the boys defense, we were coming off a huge win in the Champions League Group Stage but still the loss is inexcusable and hopefully does not come back to haunt us.

Match Results

League Table

Champions League ... It looked like we were headed for another 4th place finish but then we went into Veltins-Arena and hammered Schalke, 2-0 behind goals from Mohammed Taabounit and Nicolas Guerra. It is hard to fathom how close we were to advancing but a goal from Divock Origi in Schalke's match against Valencia enabled a 1-1 draw that saw both teams advance regardless of our result against AC Milan. However, for about 40 minutes we seemed to be headed toward the knockout round after Guerra scored an opening goal in the 35th minute. AC Milan equalized in the 90th minute, but then Taabouni scored what for sure was thought to be the winner 4 minutes into stoppage time. Then it happened, less than 1 minute later an own goal by Giovanni Troupee allowed AC Milan to get a draw. Despite the dramatic finish we still secured 3rd in the group and qualify for the Europa League Knockout First Round.

Match Results

Group Table

Europa League ... We received what has to be considered a favorable first round draw with AEK Athens. The round of 32 features features five teams from the Eredivisie - Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, Vitesse, and us. Ajax drew Barcelona, cannot help but enjoy that one!

KNVB Beker ... As we begin our quest for a 3rd straight cup trophy, our draws have been a bit more difficult than usual. However, we have relied on our strong defense to advance to the Quarter Finals where we will face off against FC Utrecht. This year, the cup is shaping up to be a great semi-final and finals with most of the major players still involved.

Match Results

Securing the Future ... Despite the stalemate in contract contacts, with AZ still falling short of Elsner's wage expectations, Elsner has continued to build for the future while contending for a league title this season. Several key players have been secured for many years to come and some of them at bargain wages. Jordan Torunarigha has signed a contract extension to remain at the club through the 29/30 season at a very reasonable 133K/mo Euro wage. Backup 19-year old striker Andrew Gravillon and Taabouni have signed extensions through the 28/29 season at wages below 30K/mo Euro each. And finally, Kenzo Goudmijn and leading scorer Guerra has been extended through the 27/28 season at 89K/mo Euro for Guerra and just 27K/mo for Goudmijn.

Injury Notes ... Guus Til has entered rehab and is expected to return in late January. This season has been one of the most injury plagued seasons under Elsner's watch with the squad rarely featuring what would be assumed the top 11. Til, Fredrik Midtsjo, Albert Profijt, Aurelien Tchouameni, Svetoslav Kovachev, Gravillon, and Queiros have all missed more than 4 weeks.

Other Notes ... Elsner reportedly turned down an offer to interview for the Napoli managerial role. Ajax loses Paulo Sousa abandons ship and leaves for the role at SV Werder. They replaced him with fellow Slovenian, Valter Birsa. Birsa makes the switch from Fortuna Dusseldorf. Willem II's Doneyll Malen leads the Eredivisie in scoring with 19 goals in 19 matches. Henrik Christensen leads the league in clean sheets with 13, 5 more than Vitesse's Claudio Ramos. Christensen has recently been scouted by Juventus and Inter. Renovations to AFAS Stadion have been completed, bringing capacity up to over 27,000.
Interesting to see Elsner turn down the Napoli interview that would have surely been a bigger job based on reputation. However, I can understand just how much he wants to win this title after these years and currently it's never been a better chance. Good luck for the second half.
This season looks incredibly promising. The Eredivisie looks to be heading to Alkmaar! Keep this going.

A good chance of progression in the Europa League too with no disrespect intended to AEK Athens.
2020-07-24 21:29#276538 TheLFCFan : Interesting to see Elsner turn down the Napoli interview that would have surely been a bigger job based on reputation. However, I can understand just how much he wants to win this title after these years and currently it's never been a better chance. Good luck for the second half.

Thank you

Absolutely the timing from Napoli was not right, I turned down moves to Roma and Liverpool for one last chance to win the league and we are to close to bail now!

2020-07-26 00:21#276564 ScottT : This season looks incredibly promising. The Eredivisie looks to be heading to Alkmaar! Keep this going.

A good chance of progression in the Europa League too with no disrespect intended to AEK Athens.

It has been incredible how well the new players have blended in and performed. I am just hoping to hold off Ajax and the rest of the league to see this out!

Season 2025/2026 – Final Report

Winter Transfer Window … We knew we would have to fight to hold onto our prized goalkeeper Henrik Christensen, both Juventus and Lyon came calling but neither came close to our evaluation of €25M. Christensen was infuriated by Elsner’s asking price and the two were at odds the rest of the season, with Elsner turning to Mees Bakker to see out the final weeks of the season (see Europa League). We only made one transfer, selling disgruntled defender Diogo Queiros to Watford for €8.5M. We also loaned out Nikolay Andreev to Fortuna Sittard and Andrew Gravillon to PEC Zwolle, though we recalled Gravillon in April after only appearing in 2 matches for PEC Zwolle. He was supposed to be on the first team.

Eredivisie … What a dreadful second half to the league, we really struggled to score but our defense fortunately kept us in every match and we were able to snatch up quite a few draws a long the way. Injuries (twisted Ankle in January and Sprained Knee Ligaments in April) played a big part with Nicolas Guerra missing 10 out of our final 12 matches, not scoring a single goal in the league since December. Additionally, Teun Koopmeiners missed our final 7 league matches with a lower back stress fracture.

Even so, we did just enough to end up in the final match day with a chance to win the league with a win against Excelsior at home. Even with FC Utrecht at 68 points after being top of the table for 26 match days, but with a sizable goal differential lead. FC Utrecht had to travel to Amsterdam to take on Ajax, but got a pair of first half goals to ramp the pressure up as we watched the out of town scoreboard while we struggled to find the back of the net despite our dominate play. For 90 minutes we looked headed towards a classic failure to win the title that would be talked about for decades to come in Dutch football. Then it happened, 2 minutes into injury time – Giovanni Troupee launched an early cross from midfield into the box that found Arjen van der Heide for the chip in goal to win the league!!!

We won the league almost wire to wire but it was not pretty by any means! Thankfully FC Utrecht had a bad stretch of form in October/November tallying just 2 points in 6 matches. That stretch allowed us to build a lead of 12 points.

Our lethargic attack was 5th best in the league with just 54 goals, 18 behind the league’s best Willem II. FC Utrecht’s attack was not much better at 56 goals. Where we won the league was on the defensive end. Where we only allowed 12 goals all season, 19 better than 2nd best Feyenoord’s 31 allowed. FC Utrecht allowed 34, tied with Ajax for 3rd. We captured an amazing 22 clean sheets in league play!

The league title is just our second in club history, with our first coming 17 years ago.

Match Results

League Table

Europa League … As expected, we made easy work of AEK Athens, winning 3-0 on aggregate after really dominating play in both matches. That setup an all-Dutch showdown in the second knockout round with us drawing PSV. Fortunately, that was during a stretch where Nicolas Guerra was available to play. Albeit he was only cleared to play 45 minutes each match, but that was good enough for him to score in both matches. With his 2nd goal being the lone away goal of the series, seeing us through!

In the Quarter Final Round, we drew Barcelona, while the experts predicted us to go down in heavy defeat, we put up one hell of a fight. In the first leg, we failed to get an away goal but lost just 1-0 behind a Philippe Coutinho goal in the 69th minute. The match was fairly even throughout and gave us confidence for the second leg. We attacked Barcelona from the start and scored two early goals, Mohamed Taabouni and youngster Andrew Gravillon. We held that 2-0 lead through the 90th minute but a controversial five minutes of injury time was added and Barcelona scored in the 94th minute to win with an away goal. Frankly, Henrik Christensen should have saved it – it was a weak effort from him and was his final straw with Elsner.

Liverpool went on to beat Tottenham, 1-0 in the Final.

In the Champions League – Borussia Dortmund beat Chelsea, 1-0 in the Final.

Match Results

KNVB Beker … For sure this was our most difficult KNVB Beker since arriving at AZ but we were fortunate to get home draws against FC Utrecht and Fortuna Sittard which made our path to the finals a bit easier. In the Finals, we were set for another showdown with Ajax. The match was fairly even throughout, but an own goal by Mees Bakker seconds before the half put us trailing Ajax for the first time in 5 matches. We got an equalizer from van der Heide in the 65th minute. The rest of the match was foul ridden with a total of 49 fouls called in total. We went into extra time without a distinct advantage to either team but we brought on Andrew Gravillon to replace sub youngster Roel Eppinga who was terribly ineffective. The move paid off almost instantly, with Gravillon scoring in the 92nd minute! Albert Profijt added another goal minutes later to give us a 3-1 lead that we were able to see out.

AZ win the KNVB Beker for the third straight year! With the win AZ complete the treble in Netherlands!

Match Results

Other Notes … for the third straight season Luka Elsner was named the Manager of the Year in the Eredivisie. Jordan Torunarigha was named Player of the Year by the Fans, he finished 3rd in voting for Eredivisie Football of the Year. Amazingly Christensen was snubbed from the Eredivisie Goalkeeper of the Year, the league likely recognizes our overall defensive effort. Our top goalscorer in all competitions was Nicolas Guerra with 19 goals in all competitions, followed by Mohammed Malahi with 15.

Guus Til … after nearly a decade with the club Guus Til’s time is coming to an end after requesting a transfer, he believes there is nothing more to achieve with the club. He never truly recovered from the broken leg he suffered early in the season and only appeared in 11 matches with a career worse 6.58 match rating registering no goals or assists for the first time in his career.

Elsner on the Move? … the managerial market is extremely quiet, at least compared to the last few years. The only positions open of significance at the start of the summer break were Manchester City and Hannover 96. Manchester City hired Jair Ventura who most recently got Arsenal into the Champions League with a top 4 finish in the Premier League. That move opened up Arsenal which Elsner was reported as a favorite to be named the next manager. After interviewing for both Arsenal and Hannover, Arsenal decided to hire Antonio Conte who was fired by AC Milan earlier this year. Hannover offered the position to Elsner but were far short of what Elsner was expecting at this point in his career and he opted to extend his contract at AZ Akmaar. The 3-year extension makes Elsner the second highest paid manager in the Eredivisie at €101K/month only trailing Ajax’s Valter Birsa.

Another stadium expansion … the club has announced another stadium expansion, this will be the final one taking the grounds up to full capacity at 30,000. The project is expected to be complete in mid-August.

AZ announce affiliate club … Elsner pressured the board into adding an affiliate club abroad, as such the club has announced a deal with FC Seoul out of Korea. The club should see a major financial benefit to all merchandising sales. The club is reportedly looking to expand with additional affiliates to be announced in the coming months.

Transfer Budget & Payroll … with the club gaining value every year at an alarming rate, now at €598M and nearly €50M cash on hand. A transfer budget of €16M has been announced, payroll is expected to be around €2.4M/month (currently at €2.0/month).
Congratulations. You ran it very close in the end which I can imagine wasn't best pleasing but you saw it out. The Europa League tie was a tough one and you were unfortunate in the end but it happens. I am somewhat surprised to see Elsner staying as I thought after all the disputes he would be off. But another three year deal, could we see a push a European titles now...
Oh yeah yeah

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