After having been part of the Ajax Amsterdam youth setup since the age of 11, it was a difficult choice for captain Davy Klaassen to leave the club following fourteen years of service.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Klaassen revealed that former Arsenal great Denis Bergkamp was a big reason why he agreed to a transfer to Everton. He went on to say that a conversation in person with Toffees manager Ronald Koeman was important for him to buy into what his countryman has planned at Goodison Park.
Speaking of Bergkamp, he said -
“My first Premier League memory is watching him for Arsenal.
“Of course he was an Ajax legend, too, but when I watched the Premier League he was the one I wanted to see - one of the best ever. Even in training at Ajax now you can see a special player. He told me a lot about the way of playing in England. Dennis is not much of a talker, but would always show you the way in training, focusing on smaller details.
“His biggest message to me was when your first touch is good, you have many options on a football field.”
When asked about leaving Ajax, he went on -
“I played at Ajax since 11 so it was hard to leave because I love the club, but I knew it was the right moment.
“I lived 25 minutes from Ajax. I was in the first team since 18. I missed a year through injury, then played another two years and was made captain.
“When I talk about it now like this it seems strange to say it, but the fact is I was one of the most experienced players even at a young age. But when I watched the Premier League in Holland on TV, for me it is the best competition in the world.”
Losing to Manchester United in the Europa League final last season disheartened Klaassen, who rued the total football style’s ineffectiveness at the highest level.
“You win nothing with compliments.
“There are some aspects of the Ajax way which are the right way to win, but I also feel you must be able to adapt – adapt to a different competition or to a different type of opponent.
“You have to see what players you have. Can they play the way you want? The most important thing for me is winning.
“In Holland everyone wants to play nice football and that (United) game was a little different. That was another type of football. We are used to it a bit in Holland but the level of United’s players was much higher.
“I am not someone who says ‘this must always be the way, there is only one way’.
“I felt United did what was best for them to play against us and it worked for them. They scored two lucky goals, but once they were ahead we had to go at them.
“Our team was not big or physical and that made a difference.”
Koeman met with Klaassen during the summer -
“Ronald is a big hero in Holland.
“I saw him in the stadium a few times when we were playing Europa League. Then I saw a few things in the newspaper where he said I was a good player.
“I did not want to be thinking about a move until the end of the season. I wanted to concentrate on Ajax’s games and sometimes you read about clubs but I told my agent not to tell me until I ask.
“Then I had heard the Everton manager wanted to talk to me. When the moment came I thought this is big. After that it happened quick. Ronald lives just ten minutes from my home, so when he went back to Holland in the summer I went to his house in Bussum.
“The conversation was maybe an hour and he gave me a good feeling. The manager explained his plan and the club’s ambitions and the style of play. He presented a picture and it was good for me.
“I spoke to a few people, thought about the situation and then in the end I decided yes, I wanted to go to Everton.
“I spoke to John Heitinga (the former Everton and Ajax player) who told me about the club and said it would suit me perfectly.
“Every club has its own way, but the training here is quite similar to the Dutch training. The biggest difference will be the games. I expect another world. Ronald has the Dutch philosophy but he also understands the English football philosophy. This is a good combination. The games will make me physically stronger. Of course I may do extra training but there are many here who will help me.
“At Everton we have some more physical players, too. This is good.”
Just one of multiple captains on the Everton squad, Klaassen wants to make his mark both at Goodison as well as the Dutch national team, which has fallen upon hard times.
“I am a younger player but on the field it is no place to be shy.
“I want to contribute to the team but I must show I am capable of playing here and I belong at the club.
“The last few years have been very difficult for Dutch football. We missed the Euros and players such as (Wesley) Schneider and Robin Van Persie are older. It is time for the next generation to stand up.
“I have to see myself as one of those who needs to pick it up.”
There’s a lot riding on Klaassen’s performances this season, but the responsibility appears to be on willing and able shoulders.