While he may be a new face in the Premier League, Frank de Boer will come across many familiar faces during his first season as Palace’s new manager, having successfully overseen the development of many players who have become household names in the division.
Back in 2007, the legendary Dutch defender was placed in charge of Ajax’s famed academy, having been a product of it himself two decades earlier. After spending three years nurturing young talent, he would step up to become the Amsterdam giants’ first-team manager and led them to four consecutive Eredivisie titles, paving the way for some of his protégées to secure big money moves to the Premier League.
These include Tottenham Hotspur central defensive duo Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. The pair were mainstays in the Ajax team at the time of De Boer’s arrival, but under their former youth coach they blossomed. After two titles, Vertonghen headed to White Hart Lane in 2012, with Alderweireld heading to Atletico Madrid 12 months later.
Another member of the Spurs side thankful for De Boer’s expertise is Christian Eriksen. The Dane was persuaded to link up with Ajax’s youth team when the now-Eagles boss was at its helm, and quickly progressed into the first-team and gain international recognition. He departed for north London in 2013 after three league titles and being named the Danish Footballer of the Year.
Manchester United’s Daley Blind is another current top-flight star who was developed by De Boer. Having come through the ranks as a midfielder, Blind was handed a first-team debut in 2008 and when struggling for form before De Boer’s ascension to the first-team, his conversion into a left-back put him back on the right track and would eventually be named the club’s Player of the Year in 2012.
De Boer will also come up against Everton’s £23 million summer signing Davy Klaassen this season, who spent eight years in the Ajax academy before being given a chance in the first-team by De Boer, and he responded by becoming one of their top strikers and earning 14 caps for Holland. The captain of the 112-time capped international’s team at the time was Siem de Jong, who is still on the books of Newcastle United and played the best football of his career under De Boer’s management.
The list continues with Swansea City’s Mike van der Hoorn who was plucked from Utrecht by De Boer as a 21-year-old and gradually phased into Ajax’s first-team, and Vurnon Anita was another success story who is currently looking for a new club after 155 games at Newcastle over the past five years.
With the transfer window open for a while longer yet, there’s no reason why more talents who benefitted from De Boer’s teaching could find themselves facing off against Palace’s new recruit during his first campaign in English football.