This week AZ supporters got the news they’d been waiting for –the fate of ailing AZ Alkmaar head coach, legendary Marco van Basten.
In late August, Van Basten took sick leave, leaving assistant coach Alex Pastor to take the helm at the Alkmaar side’s away game to FC Dordrecht on August 30, leading the squad to a 3-1 win. AZ’s statement offered the mysterious news that Van Basten’s leave was due to “stress caused by a personal nature.”
Dutch media suggested that Van Basten was depressed and suffering from heart palpitations, likely as a result of the death of Van Basten’s father in July. Van Basten was to remain on sick leave until September 15, during which time Pastor assumed head coach responsibilities.
On September 15, it was announced that Van Basten would be stepping down as head coach of the Eredivisie club, but that AZ had not issued the news yet supposedly because the directors were all out of town.
Club Director Earnest Stewart shot down this rumour and Van Basten reportedly contacted the paper himself to correct their story, calling the news premature. Van Basten met with AZ club directors on September 15, with a press conference scheduled for September 16.
The Dutch media tossed another drama bomb onto the fire by suggesting that Van Basten might have said he was meeting with AZ and was feeling good and wanted to return, but he had not mentioned his role in the capacity of head coach, leading to speculation that he would be coming back in a different capacity.
That rumour turned out to be true.
Van Basten, who scored 24 goals in 58 international appearances for Holland, has stepped down as head coach, but remains at AZ in the capacity of assistant coach.
On Tuesday it was reported that Alex Pastor would take up the role of head coach. However, in what has been a dramatic week for AZ, Pastor has been let go from AZ after both parties failed to agree on terms, while one report suggested that Pastor had been the one to leak specifics of Van Basten’s condition to the media.
Van Basten took on the role of Netherlands boss between 2004 – 2008, followed by a year as Ajax manager, and then took a three-year break before joining SC Heerenveen for a year. In 2014, he joined AZ Alkmaar. He stated at his AZ presentation that it might seem strange for a former head coach of Ajax and Netherlands to take on the management of a smaller club. AZ is often seen as a stepping stone on the way up for ambitious managers, such as Louis van Gaal, who spent four years as manager at AZ, before moving on to bigger things.
According to De Telegraaf, Van Basten said that he was at a quieter time in his life.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Van Basten said that he had been head coach for 10 years and there was a lot of tension at the top. He went on to say that his health had not been good as a result and that he wanted to do his job well, and if he took a step back and had less responsibility, he could provide more value.
He added that he wanted to postpone his departure as head coach for as long as possible and tried many things to address the stress, but that eventually, “I [Van Basten] came to the conclusion that either I was going to have to do other work, or do my job differently.
Other work seemed quite drastic so I chose to do my job differently.”
The 49-year-old also announced that he would never take a head coach’s role again.
It’s a sad turn of events for everyone who’s ever respected or followed Van Basten, which includes Fernando Torres, who recently said that he wanted his time at AC Milan to “rank alongside some of the club’s legends” including Van Basten. To be fair, who doesn’t respected Van Basten’s profilic career?
Ajax boss Frank De Boer also offered his opinion on the situation, echoing the thoughts of many by stating that he was glad Van Basten would continue to remain a part of Dutch football. He also suggested that Ajax would be happy to have him in an assistant coaching capacity should Van Basten be interested.
Meanwhile, the search for a new boss at AZ is on. Whoever steps in will hopefully bring some calm to all the drama currently surrounding the club, although sadly, it is unlikely anyone will replicate the shine that Van Basten brought to the club.