With three years of foreign experience, including ups and downs, Davy Klaassen is back at Ajax. Sunday he hopes to make his return against sc Heerenveen. Did the Amsterdammers have a different footballer back than they sold in 2017? “It‘s about me being able to play the game I’ve played all my life.”
As a prodigal son, Klaassen was welcomed in Amsterdam, where trainer Erik ten Hag sees him as a missing link on the midfield. “Prodigal son? I‘ve been walking around here my whole life, so maybe I am. I don’t know what else prodigal son would mean,” it sounds sober as always from the mouth of the 27-year-old midfielder.
On 24 May 2017, Klaassen played his last match in the Ajax shirt: the lost Europe League final against Manchester United. Two players left in Amsterdam: André Onana and David Neres. And that‘s what Klaassen is there again.
As a 24 year old international, he moved to Everton, where Ronald Koeman was a trainer at the time. His stay in Liverpool was unsuccessful. “Have I failed? I would have imagined it differently, that makes sense. But I wouldn’t have missed it either.”
Although Klaassen had the bad luck that Koeman was fired quite soon after his arrival, he also puts his hand in his own bosom. “It has not been all along, but in the end you are responsible. I don‘t blame myself. I’ve always given everything. But it is true that I did not show my best game there.”
Everton‘s playing style turned out to be completely different than Klaassen was used to at Ajax. “In the beginning, I often felt like we’re meeting something… but we can also just play? Like I‘ve been used to my whole life, just playing. Only, if it fails a few times, there is a faster choice for something else.”
Klaassen also chose something else after a year: he moved to Werder Bremen, where in two seasons he developed into ‘the horse lung of Werder‘, as he was affectionately called. He became captain of the team and became a marathon man.
“ I brought a lot from England to Germany. The fact that you focus more on other things than the technical game I’ve always played at Ajax. The game is very different there. You don‘t get the ball that often at Werder. It’s a different kind of football, and for that you have to turn a button in your head. I have done better in Germany than in England.”
While the hard-working Klaassen in Bremen made his meters and even fought against degradation last season, he saw ‘his’ Ajax under the new trainer Erik ten Hag make a furore in the Champions League. Was Klaassen at home, jealously languishing on the couch?
“ No, never. Of course everyone wants to play the semi-final of the Champions League, but I never sat on the bench and thought: I would have wanted to be there now. At that time, the joy for Ajax was greater. In all that time I‘ve been away, I’ve given the club and all those boys the best.”
Missing puzzle piece
Now Klaassen is back on familiar soil and hopes to be the missing piece on Ten Hag‘s midfield puzzle. He left the club as an attacking midfielder with a nose for the goal. To what extent is the new Klaassen another player?
“ Of course, I have developed other sides of myself. Abroad I had less the ball and I played for quite a while on ‘six‘, so as a more controlling midfielder. That’s only been good for me. I‘ve been playing offensive my whole life.”
Does Klaassen have a preference for a new role at Ajax? “It really doesn’t matter to me that much. It‘s mostly about me being able to play the game I’ve played all my life. Nice to play. Whether that‘s on ‘six‘ or ‘ten‘, the idea behind playing is more important.”
No captain band
That, unlike 2017, he is no longer a captain anymore, Klaassen finds no problem either. “I am a person who always takes responsibility. For that, I don’t need to have a captain‘s band or whatever.”
No band around the arm, but the Ajax shirt around the shoulders. “That Ajax is my club, I was already out about it. There were some other options, but I didn’t want to trade Werder in for that. But Ajax is Ajax. At the time Ajax arrived, it was clear.”