Jan Vertonghen believes Ajax have started to take steps towards a much-needed rebuild, though concedes things may get worse before they improve.

The 36-time Dutch champions have made an awful start to 2023-24, taking eight points from their first nine games of the Eredivisie season to sit 15th ahead of Sunday's meeting with Heerenveen.   

Maurice Steijn left his role as head coach by mutual consent with the club mired in 17th place last week, just four months after he joined from Sparta Rotterdam on a three-year deal.

Hedwiges Maduro then took charge as Ajax made unwanted history against PSV last Sunday, suffering a fifth successive Eredivisie defeat for the first time in their history as they were routed 5-2.

Ajax responded by appointing former winger John van 't Schip as interim coach this week, and his first game in charge resulted in a 2-0 win over FC Volendam on Thursday.

New boss Van 't Schip represented the club for 11 years as a player between 1981 and 1992, before returning as Marco van Basten's assistant coach in 2008.

While Vertonghen – who began his career with Ajax before leaving for Tottenham in 2012 – knows his old club have a long road ahead of them, he believes they have the right structure in place to bounce back.

"It hurts. Obviously, [Ajax] can't win the league every year, but where they are now is not good," Vertonghen, an Athlete Partner for APEX, told Stats Perform.

"It was bad on every level, but sometimes you have to hit lows to get back up. I think they're getting the structure back right. 

"Obviously, they've given a lot of power to someone who wasn't familiar with the culture at Ajax [Steijn]. In three or four months, a lot of damage was done. 

"Where they are now doesn't reflect the quality of the squad at all. Bringing in 13 or 14 new players and a new coach, it takes time, and at Ajax you don't get that time. You need to perform. Being second is not good enough. 

"They've got some people back at the club with Ajax in their heart, who want the best for Ajax. So, yeah, it will take a while, and hopefully they can get into Europe this year."

Vertonghen moved to his homeland to represent Anderlecht last September, but he endured a dismal first campaign with the 34-time Belgian champions, who finished 11th in the Pro League.

However, Anderlecht have bounced back under Brian Riemer this campaign, sitting second in the table ahead of back-to-back away games against title rivals Cercle Brugge and Gent.

Asked about Anderlecht's upturn, Vertonghen said: "Last year was a very, very bad and disappointing season, but we had a very good transfer window. 

"We made great signings, people that didn't really fit in left, and we brought in some young guys and experienced players; Kasper Schmeichel, for example, guys who want to win. 

"That's what we need. The atmosphere in the team is great. We have a very, very strong squad of 20 to 25 players. In Belgium, it works with a play-off system. If you get into the top six, you go through to the championship play-off, and that's our ambition: to be in that top six. 

"Whoever's in the top six can be champions. It's important for all the teams who have the ambition to achieve the highest things to be in that top six. 

"There are eight or nine teams fighting for that top six, and then we'll see. At the moment, we're second but still only a couple of points from seventh, so now we have two massive games.

"It's massive for us, two away games as well, so if you lose those two games, you can be seventh. That's how close it is, so we have to get at least four points out of those two games."

Belgium international Jan Vertonghen has returned to his home country by joining Anderlecht on a permanent deal from Benfica.

The former Tottenham defender, who has won a remarkable 139 caps for his country, has penned a two-year contract with Belgium's most successful club.

Vertonghen made 57 league appearances during his time in Portugal, having previously enjoyed an eight-year stint in the Premier League. 

Speaking to Anderlecht's website, Vertonghen revealed: "There have been talks with Anderlecht in the past already, but suddenly everything fell into place. 

"I've been following the club's project for a while now and I'm convinced that with my experience I can contribute something to this group."

Vertonghen is not the only former Spurs player to leave Benfica, with Adel Taarabt departing by mutual agreement after seven years with the club.

Roger Schmidt's team have already moved to replace the outgoing duo, sealing a loan deal for Paris Saint-Germain winger Julian Draxler and a permanent move for United States defender John Brooks on transfer deadline day.

After last season's disappointing Champions League exit at the hands of Villarreal, Bayern Munich are on the verge of transforming their team in one transfer window.

Sadio Mane and Ryan Gravenberch are potentially transformative signings for Bayern, and they apparently are not done just yet.

According to reports, Gravenberch's international team-mate is doing to what he can to force a move to Sabener Strasse.



Bayern Munich are reportedly edging closer to securing the signature of wantaway Juventus defender Matthijs de Ligt, according to Bild.

De Ligt is reportedly willing to lower his wage demands in order to help force through a move, after a gap in expectations between the two clubs over the initial offer.

Bayern's proposal to the Bianconeri was reportedly €70million with an extra €10m in bonuses, with the latter looking at €80m as a base to any package.

De Ligt's move to lower wage expectations gives the reigning Bundesliga champions added leverage over Juventus, who after Paulo Dybala's departure, would not want to see another star run down their contract.



– Chelsea are now targeting PSG centre-back Presnel Kimpembe after almost securing Kalidou Koulibaly's signature, The Guardian reports.

– Meanwhile, Mason Mount is seeking to begin negotiations with the Blues over a new long-term deal, per The Athletic

– Ousmane Dembele is set to sign a new two-year contract with Barcelona after his previous deal expired, Sport is reporting.

– Charles de Ketelaere prefers a move to Milan despite interest from Leeds United for the Club Brugge striker, according to Fabrizio Romano.


Club Brugge's midfield prodigy Charles De Ketelaere has been linked with Milan and Lazio and admits he dreams of testing himself in a foreign league.

De Ketelaere broke into Brugge's first team in 2019-20 and was named the 2020 Belgian Promising Talent of the Year last December, one month after making his senior international debut.

The 19-year-old also finished fifth in the voting for the Belgian Golden Shoe, which is awarded to the best player in the country's top flight.

De Ketelaere has a contract with Brugge until June 2023 and is interested in challenging himself abroad, though he is no rush to leave Belgium.

"Honestly, I do dream of an adventure abroad, but I don't have to right now," he told Krant van West-Vlaanderen.

"I will always make a healthy choice. Only sporting ambitious count. You always want to improve.

"There is no concrete career plan. A few foreign clubs were interested, but if I say that I want to stay at Club Brugge for another three years I would be very happy with that."


Brugge sit top of the Belgian Pro League and 13 points clear of second-placed Royal Antwerp.

The impressive De Ketelaere has only started 15 of their 26 league fixtures this season, but he has certainly made his impact felt.

De Ketelaere has supplied 35 key passes, which is the most of any player under the age of 21, and just under half of those have come following a carry.

His tally of 16 carries with a chance created is bettered only by Stef Peeters (18), Francis Amuzu (18) and Xavier Mercier (19).

The teenager is averaging two key passes per 90 minutes in the Pro League this season, as well as one interception, 4.8 recoveries and 1.9 tackles.

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