Frank de Boer leads Ajax to Eredivisie title after overcoming injuries and boardroom disputes


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The Independent Football

Ajax coach Frank de Boer has led the club to their 31st Eredivisie title, his second championship triumph in just 16 months at the Dutch giants.

Ajax clinched the title with a 2-0 win over VVV Venlo last night with Siem de Jong scoring a brace.

De Boer has overcome a number of obstacles including injuries (he has used 27 players during the campaign) to key players such as Kolbeinn Sigþórsson, Derk Boerrigter and Gregory van der Wiel this season. The former Dutch international has guided his young team to a second successive league title despite his efforts being undermined by a bitter boardroom dispute involving club icon Johan Cruyff during the season.

Cruyff rejoined the board last February after starting his 'technical revolution' by criticising his former club on a number of occasions in his weekly newspaper column for De Telegraaf, culminating in a piece headlined "This is not Ajax anymore."

The internal power struggle intensified in February when Cruyff won a court battle overturning the appointments of Louis van Gaal and Martin Sturkenboom against his wishes. The supervisory board quit after losing the case, and Cruyff eventually also resigned with a new board coming in to implement his revolution.

The entire supervisory board - Edgar Davids, Steven ten Have, Paul Romer and Marjan Olfers - had already resigned from the club before Cruyff,  following a Dutch appeals court decision to uphold an original ruling in December that prevented Van Gaal and Sturkenboom from being appointed directors at Ajax.

"That was not a pleasant period as the club was divided into two groups and several people acted strangely and were avoiding their rivals," De Boer was quoted as saying in Voetbal International.

"For me, it felt like I had to choose between a son and a daughter in opting to take the side of either Cruyff or Van Gaal."

"I supported Cruyff publicly as he had asked me to and I also agree with his technical and tactical blueprint for the club."

"I was also disappointed in Louis van Gaal as he had kept Cruyff in the dark when he was appointed," De Boer added.

Ajax put together a run of 13 straight wins and lifted the championship with a match to spare with arch-rivals Feyenoord currently in second place. Ajax had been in fifth place in the league, trailing leaders AZ by 11 points after the first 12 games.

De Boer has won the title playing a brand of football loyal to the ideals of Cruyff and Van Gaal. Ajax have been starting 10 players from their youth academy towards the end of the season with only Theo Janssen (a product of the Vitesse youth team) stopping De Boer fielding an entirely home-grown line-up. Youngsters Lorenzo Ebecilio, Jody Lukoki, Aras Özbiliz, Dico Koppers, Ruben Ligeon, Ricardo van Rhijn and Daley Blind have all played their part this season. Ajax tend to play two touchline-hugging wingers in a possession based 4-3-3 formation.

De Boer also led Ajax to last season's title after taking over from the sacked Martin Jol in 2010.

De Boer expects skipper Jan Vertonghen to leave the club this summer with a number of European clubs interested in the Belgian international.