After a successful spell with Sparta Rotterdam last season, Maurice Steijn took charge at Ajax ahead of the 2023/24 term, signing a contract until 2026. However, the Dutch manager did not take the pressure well and would go on to lead Ajax to their worst start to a league campaign in their history.
On October 23, Ajax announced that Steijn was relieved of his duties. He left the team in second from last spot in Eredivisie with a record of one win, two draws and four losses. Now, the officials are tasked with finding the next Ajax manager while Hedwiges Maduro has assumed a caretaker role at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
List of Possible Ajax Next Manager
At the time of writing, only two names have appeared in the media as potential next Ajax managers – John van ‘t Schip and Mitchell van der Gaag, Erik ten Hag’s assistant at Manchester United. We have also compiled a list of alternative candidates in case the Dutch giants cannot convince their primary targets.
John van ‘t Schip
The sports publications in the Netherlands have named John van ‘t Schip as Ajax’s favourite candidate for the vacancy in Amsterdam. The intention is to appoint the 59-year-old on an interim basis until the end of the season.
Van ‘t Schip is available for instant hire as he has been out of a job since November 2021 when he left the Greece national team, a position he held for two years. The Dutchman was fairly successful with the Greeks, recording 11 wins, nine draws and six losses in 26 matches.
Previously, Van ‘t Schip worked at PEC Zwolle, Melbourne City (two spells), Guadalajara and Twente. Before starting his managerial career, Van ‘t Schip also held youth and assistant coaching roles at Ajax, Twente and the Dutch national team. He was also named interim head coach at Ajax in 2009 for one game after the departure of Marco van Basten.
Besides his history as a coach, Van ‘t Schip also played for 11 years at Ajax after graduating from their academy. All things considered, Van ‘t Schip is a decent short-term candidate due to his experience and knowledge of the club.
Mitchell van der Gaag
Similarly, Mitchell van der Gaag also knows Ajax as he held various positions at the Amsterdam club in the past. However, the 52-year-old currently works as an assistant coach to Erik ten Hag at Manchester United. While Ajax seem to be interested in his appointment, rumours in England claim that Van der Gaag is determined to continue at Old Trafford for now.
Speaking about Van der Gaag’s past at Johan Cruyff Arena, he was their reserves’ coach between 2019 and 2021. In 2021/22, he was appointed assistant manager under Ten Hag, whom he later followed to Manchester United.
Prior, the Dutchman was a head coach in Portugal (Maritimo and Belenenses), Cyprus (Ermis) and the Netherlands (FC Eindhoven, Excelsior and NAC Breda).
Since he is already familiar with the Ajax dressing room, Van der Gaag makes a solid candidate for the job as long as the club can convince him to leave Man United. In addition, the 52-year-old has the right playing style for the attack-minded Ajax.
Louis van Gaal
Louis van Gaal returned to Ajax earlier this October in an adviser role, hoping to help the club amid the turbulent spell with his vast knowledge of the game. While there have been no reports regarding Van Gaal for now, we can imagine the 72-year-old assuming the managerial job in case the club fails to find a better candidate.
Van Gaal’s merits as a coach are difficult to overstate. For one, he was the author of one of the best Ajax sides in recent history, as he coached them between 1991 and 1997. In charge of the Dutch giants, Van Gaal won 10 trophies, including the last Champions League title in the team's history in 1994/95. The veteran would go on to coach Barcelona, AZ, Bayern Munich and Manchester United, winning multiple trophies along the way.
Even if it is only on a contract until the end of the season, many fans would certainly like to see Van Gaal return to Johan Cruyff Arena.
Although it is rather difficult to imagine it happening, Graham Potter would be an amazing appointment for Ajax due to his preference for possession-oriented, attacking football and his experience at the highest level. Moreover, Potter would be available for instant hire as he left Chelsea in April 2023.
While Potter’s last experience was one to forget, the Englishman undoubtedly has the needed qualities to build a proper long-term project at Ajax. His Brighton team was one of the most exciting sides in the Premier League despite the lack of financial resources, and he can do more than he did at Chelsea with the backing of the club.
Many expect Potter to be back in the Premier League soon, but Ajax could be an interesting opportunity for him as it offers the chance to win titles and play regularly in the Champions League. Besides, it won’t be his first experience outside of England as he coached Ostersund across various divisions of Swedish football between 2011 and 2018.
Another promising candidate for a long-term project at Johan Cruyff Arena is Ralph Hasenhuttl. The Austrian coach is currently in search of a new job after being dismissed by Southampton in November 2022.
While Hasenhuttl did leave the Saints in the relegation zone and suffered some nasty defeats during his time at St Mary’s Stadium, his work at Southampton had positives too. During his two full seasons in charge, the club finished mid-table and played some entertaining football.
Hasenhuttl’s most memorable work was with RB Leipzig, though, as he would lead the Red Bulls to a second-place finish in their first ever season in Bundesliga. His RB Leipzig side pressed their rivals relentlessly, being an uncomfortable opponent even to the biggest teams.
Before RB Leipzig and Sounthampton, Hasenhuttl mostly coached in the lower divisions in Germany and made a name for himself at Ingolstadt when he took them to their first ever Bundesliga promotion and survived the following season in the top division.