AZ will officially start the season on Wednesday after a number of turbulent months. The Alkmaarders want to permanently hook up with the top in the Eredivisie and to achieve that they seem to be taking a tougher stance than before. "If you are kicked on the sore leg a few times, you can react."
For AZ, the strike of the Eredivisie in March due to the corona crisis was a hard blow. The team of trainer Arne Slot participated fully in the battle for the national title with nine rounds to go, but because they had less goal difference than Ajax, they were ranked second by the KNVB and the team from Amsterdam first.
It was the beginning of a quarrel between AZ and the KNVB. The club believed they were entitled to first place and thus the best European ticket because they had won against Ajax twice, but the Dutch football association did not agree. AZ then stepped to UEFA without the KNVB and Ajax knowing it, but was not heard there either.
"AZ has not handled it properly by secretly knocking on the door of UEFA, but everyone has long forgotten that. The club still has the favor factor. It really has not ensured that the relations between AZ and Ajax, for example, are now on edge. ", says Barry van Galen, who played at AZ between 1997 and 2006.
"If you are kicked in the sore leg a few times, then you can react. Everyone would get a bit more irritable. Especially if you are right, and that was the case in AZ's case. The club really does not care about itself. shot the foot ", said Kees Kist, who wore the AZ shirt in two periods (1972-1982 and 1984/1985).
The AZ players celebrate the dominant 0-2 victory on a visit to Ajax in March. (Photo: Getty Images)
'You will not become more popular if you threaten to participate'
Nevertheless, AZ's action was typical of the transformation that the club has undergone. AZ is no longer just settling for European football, but strives to break through the hegemony of the traditional top three. Players are no longer sold to Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV.
"It's great that AZ is so ambitious. The club doesn't have to feel inferior to the rest. Some may not like that, but you won't become more popular if you threaten to participate. Then they think. you get annoying pretty quickly. Let them think so, "says Van Galen.
"It is admirable that AZ thinks so big. In my time and until recently, the best players were picked away by the competition every year, but AZ now has it financially in order and therefore certainly no longer needs the money. you don't make the others stronger either, "adds Kist.
The two brand new internationals of the Dutch national team at AZ: Calvin Stengs and Myron Boadu. (Photo: Pro Shots)
'The length of the transfer market could be a problem'
AZ missed out on 40 million euros because of the second place (the guaranteed income when qualifying for the Champions League) and must already play in the second heat of the most important European club tournament on Wednesday. Opponent is Viktoria Plzen, the number two in the Czech Republic.
"Normally AZ should be able to win, but of course the preparation did not go completely smoothly with the injuries and the results", Van Galen refers to the absence of, among others, Calvin Stengs and Myron Boadu in a number of exhibition matches and the many defeats.
"AZ is in good shape at the moment and can again achieve just as much success as last season. The problem is that the transfer market is still open for more than a month. The club can just lose Stengs, Boadu and Koopmeiners and then the world will see it. suddenly very different ", Kist concludes.
In order to still gain access to the group stage of the Champions League, AZ must survive no fewer than three preliminary rounds. If the Noord-Hollanders lose to Plzen - the second and third preliminary round are decided on one match - then they will enter the third preliminary round of the Europa League.
See also: All exhibition matches of Eredivisie clubs in preparation for the new season