Marc Overmars

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Ajax exec Overmars makes Ziyech sales pitch to Arsenal

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Ajax technical director Marc Overmars has made a public pitch to Arsenal for winger Hakim Ziyech, who he believes would be high enough class to directly replace Mesut Ozil at a fraction of the cost.

The 46-year-old Dutchman, a former Gunner during his playing days when he spent three seasons at Highbury, made a bold and direct statement, calling out his old club to make a change in the attack that he believes will benefit them greatly. In fact, he insinuated that the two sides already spoke, but he was rebuffed, a surprising result to the Dutchman.

“I am a bit surprised that it is still so quiet around Hakim,” Overmars told Dutch publication Voetbal International. “I think he has played better every year and his statistics are exceptionally good. Many clubs are increasingly looking at that.”

It’s no surprise the technical director of a selling club is playing up one of his players, but it was only just beginning for Overmars, who specifically said Arsenal should rethink its strategy. “I think Hakim Ziyech is better than Mesut Ozil. I would say sell him and you will get Hakim for half [the price]. But they [Arsenal] didn’t listen to me. So it could just be that he stays with Ajax.”

It’s certainly quite a shock to see such a brazen public statement from an executive when most involved in transfer dealings are all too happy to keep the inside information out of view.

Ozil, who turns 31 in October, is a polarizing figure at Arsenal, where he has produced a host of brilliant and glittering moments but also gone missing for extended periods of a long season. He has failed to truly push Arsenal towards a genuine title challenge since arriving from Real Madrid in 2013, having secured just three FA Cup titles in his time at the Emirates, a relatively disappointing haul at a club that prides itself as one of the biggest in the English game.

The 26-year-old Ziyech is one of the stars of Ajax’s surprising Champions League run this season, helping the club reach the seemifinals and serving as an experienced presence in a squad bursting with young talent. He scored five goals and assisted four more in 17 Champions League matches and added another fantastic Eredivise haul to his wonderful season, scoring 16 league goals and assisting 17 more in 29 top-flight matches. Ziyech has 12 goals in 23 international matches for Morocco and started all four of their matches in this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations, failing to find the back of the net before the country was eliminated in the Round of 16 by Benin.

In the interview, Overmars also lauded David Neres for rejecting a move to China last winter, pointing out how well it worked out for both the club and player, with Ajax reaching far into the Champions League and Neres earning an international call-up.

Ajax hires Utrecht boss Erik ten Hag as next manager

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After cleaning house last week, Dutch giants Ajax has chosen FC Utrecht boss Erik ten Hag as its next manager, replacing Marcel Keizer who lasted just half a league season.

Just days before Christmas, Ajax completely wiped the slate clean on the pitch, removing Keizer and his entire staff, including assistants Hennie Spijkerman and Dennis Bergkamp. The decision was made by general manager and former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar, and technical director and former Arsenal winger Marc Overmars.

Ajax sits second in the Eredivisie table, five points behind PSV Eindhoven and with just one loss since September. However, outside the domestic league, they were eliminated from Champions League play in the preliminary stages by French side Nice, and then subsequently dumped out of Europa League play by Norweigan side Rosenborg all by mid-August. The last straw appeared to be a loss in the KNVB-Bekker (Dutch cup competition) to FC Twente on penalties last week the day before Keizer and his staff was dismissed.

Van der Sar said at the time of the change that he “did not have the confidence that we will reach the levels we seek in the manner in which we have been proceeding” and admitted “there is also a difference of opinion about the technical policy to be implemented.”

The 47-year-old Ten Hag was handed his first managerial job by Overmars back in 2012 when he was appointed boss of the Go Ahead Eagles, leading them to Eredivisie promotion via the Erste Divisie playoffs. He was then hired as manager of Bayern Munich II before leading FC Utrecht in 2015. Last season, the club finished fourth in the Eredivisie, and currently sit 6th midway through this season. They marched through a pair of Europa League qualifying rounds before falling to a strong Zenit St. Petersburg side before reaching the group stage.

The club announced Ten Hag has signed a two-year deal and begins his tenure on Monday. He will debut on January 21st against Feyenoord, and then will return to FC Utrecht a week later. Ajax does not meet PSV Eindhoven again until April.

Arsenal and Manchester United will have to run over Marc Overmars to woo young Ajax pair

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As Manchester United, Arsenal and a host of other big European clubs eye up the young stars of Ajax, their director of football has gone borderline morbid in his descriptions of what he’d do to keep them.

Midfield Davy Klaassen, 20, is one of the hottest commodities in Europe and 22-year-old defender Joel Veltman is not that far behind, but Marc Overmars tells suitors they can bring trucks full of gold bars to Holland… they’ll just be driving over his body.

“I’m going to the gate and lie in front of it when they come for Joel Veltman or Davy Klaassen.”

Klaassen broke through to the first team this season and has responded with eight goals in 12 Eredivisie matches, while Veltman has been a key defensive cog for a side that hasn’t allowed more than a single goal in a contest dating back to an Oct. 22 loss at Celtic.

“We are constantly working on a puzzle and every time you have it almost complete, it can fall apart, because a piece is snapped up.”

“I love Ajax being attractive for a transfer, but these guys do not get out of here.”

And Overmars want to redo the contracts for the pair, both which currently run past 2016.