By Mohamed Moallim
Jim Collins, in “Good to Great”, wrote the secret of long-term corporate success lies in cultivating a distinctive set of values. For all the talk of diversity and globalisation, this usually means promoting from within and putting down deep local roots. Boris Groysberg, Harvard Business School, affirms companies are too obsessed with hiring stars rather than developing teams.
Both theorists have an ally in Frank de Boer. The difference is that he’s not concerned with Wall Street but the future of AFC Ajax. In essence the former left-back’s vision, to make the Dutch giants top of the food chain again, is the one perpetuated by Johan Cruyff, who championed De Boer to succeed Martin Jol. The legendary number 14 distinctive management model has been proven a success at FC Barcelona. De Boer is hopeful Ajax can enjoy similar riches. “Whether his vision can lead to a utopia in these times remains to be seen.”
After months of upheaval, the Amsterdam club are now restructuring around Cruyff’s philosophy with him in a new role overseeing the transition. Despite his departure from the board he still pulls the strings. With a historic back-to-back Eredivisie won, all eyes focus on the next phase: making an impact in Europe.
Europe is once again the final frontier. A club rich in tradition, decorated with success on the continent, knows the reality is different from years gone by. To once again conquer they will require luck and in the words of De Boer, “sheer belief”. As well as accelerating the individual development of his players. Their ‘daring’ brand of possession-based football, reminiscent of the period between 1986 and 1997 should hold them in good stead. But they will need to be braver, compact as well as clinical. It might not get them far but it’s a start. A presence in the latter stages of European competition is the first objective of a long-term goal.