Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer seemed happy for Ajax, a team he played for and managed, and Tottenham, which features three players he coached, on their advancing to face each other in the semifinals of the Champions League.
Ajax advanced by beating Juventus 3-2 in a two-game aggregate score. Tottenham advanced by beating Manchester City 4-4 in a two-game aggregate score, moving on by scoring more away goals. The Dutch giants will face the rising English power April 30 and May 8.
Of course, de Boer was more happy for one than the other.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “It’s good for the brand Ajax.”
De Boer made 328 appearances for Ajax, helping it win the UEFA Super Cup, Cup and Champions League. After retiring, he managed its academy before moving up to the first team, where he managed three players who were later sold to Tottenham and became first-team standouts: Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. De Boer coached Eriksen and Alderweireld both in the Ajax academy and then with the first team.
“I had a great experience with them,” de Boer said. “It’s fantastic to see that they are developing that good.”
Because he hasn’t been with Atlanta United long, and the season started with seven games in the first few weeks so he hasn’t had time, de Boer said he hasn’t yet had a chance to work closely with Atlanta United’s Academy, which is quickly gaining a reputation under Tony Annan as becoming one of the better systems among MLS teams.
But part of de Boer’s plan is to have assistant coach Bob de Klerk share some of the ideas from Ajax, which has a reputation of being one of the world’s best producers of talented soccer players.
“We can give them some input,” de Boer said. “We are willing to help in the future for the good of the academy.”
Atlanta United on Saturday will host Dallas, which arguably has the best academy in MLS. It has seven Homegrown Players on its 30-man Active Roster. Several, including Paxton Pomykal, Reggie Cannon and Jesus Ferreira, are starters. Atlanta United, in its third season, has four Homegrown Players on its 30-man roster.
“It’s a good example of how it can work in the United States,” de Boer said of Dallas. “Raised the kids well, and they are the product of your first team. It’s good for the fans because they recognize it’s a homegrown player. It’s good for the community, and I think for every club it’s fantastic. I’m really appreciating what they are doing.”
De Boer didn’t say if he and Darren Eales, who was Director of Football Operations at Spurs before becoming Atlanta United’s President, had a wager on the game between Ajax and Tottenham. He did say that he’s glad that Ajax will play Spurs instead of Manchester City.
“I think City is the better team,” he said. “Now with (Harry) Kane out, Son (Hueng-min) suspended and (Mousa) Sissoko possibly out, it’s a good advantage. I think they will make more chances against Spurs than City.”