I still remember the excitement of the Ajax fans when they first found out Frank Rijkaard was returning to Amsterdam back in 1993. The Amsterdam-born, former defensive midfielder wanted to finish his career at his boyhood club, and Louis van Gaal welcomed him back with open arms. Ajax were bursting with promising talents, but needed somebody in the their first team to mentor them, and Rijkaard was the ideal player to do just that. He won a couple of European Cups (now CL) and twice the Italian League with Milan, and had been one of their most influential players.
The likes of Seedorf, Davids, De Boer brothers, Kluivert, Kanu and Overmars will have looked up to him enormously. In the two years that Rijkaard was at Ajax, he (their captain) and Van Gaal led the team to the sort of glory Amsterdam had not seen for twenty years, and has not seen ever since. It all culminated in Ajax winning the CL in 1995, beating Rijkaard’s former club Milan, both in the group stages as well as in the CL-final.
At the time, Ajax were a mixture of very promising talents and a number of good, but definitely not great, players (Danny Blind, Litmanen, Bogarde (!), Reiziger, De Boer brothers etc). Rijkaard made a big difference with his leadership skills and experience, as well as his desire to win at all costs.
In a way, the current Arsenal team are not too dissimilar to Ajax back in the early nineties: plenty of promising talents, and a number of good and committed, senior players. What is missing badly though, is a senior player in our squad who has done it all and still has the hunger and leadership skills to take this team forward; just like Frank Rijkaard did twenty years ago.
Unfortunately, we do not have any players out there who have an Arsenal background and won it all, and are still fit enough to lead our team back to glory in the space of one to three years. Maybe Thierry could still do it, but I reckon it is too late for that now.
For the last two seasons, I have been hoping that either Van Bommel or Seedorf would come to Arsenal, just for one or two seasons. I felt, and still feel, strongly we are lacking such an experienced player for the reasons described above.
Van Bommel is a hard and very experienced player with a real winner’s mentality. He won the CL with Barcelona and the League in four different countries (Holland, Germany, Spain and Italy). He is now at PSV Eindhoven where he plays regularly and has not lost his hunger for success at all. He is mentoring the fine Dutch prospect Strootman into a future ‘Van Bommel’ and also the Belgian talent of Mertens, and PSV are in a good position to win the Dutch League this year – a feat they have not achieved in the last four years (after winning it four times in a row between 2004-2008).
Van Bommel would have been the ideal signing for us this summer. He would have played alongside Jack or Arteta in our ‘2’ in midfield, and led the team by example. He would have taught the likes of Jack, Aaron, Francis and even Arteta and Cazorla the darker arts of football, as well as positional awareness and overcoming setbacks. I can just imagine him in the dressing room after a disjointed first half against a top-team: he would single-handedly change the mood.
The same goes for Clarence Seedorf: also a multi-silverware winner and somebody with great leadership and mentoring skills. He has won five league titles and the CL four times; and with three different clubs. He would have been a fine mentor and have made a great impact on our youngsters. Seedorf, to everybody’s surprise, decided to finish his career in Brazil, where he is now playing for Botafogo.
Both Seedorf and Van Bommel would not have had to play in every game for us. Just once a week would have been enough to have had a fantastic impact on our team.
We are desperate for one or two quality, experienced veterans who have won everything and can act as leaders and mentors to our aspiring squad for a few seasons. In my view, Arsenal missed a great opportunity in not signing up either of them this summer.
There might be other very experienced, multi-silverware winning, senior players who could make a real difference at Arsenal for one or two years. He would also need to have good command of the English language and earn instant respect from our talented youngster: any ideas?
Written by: Total Arsenal.