Soon they will have a barbecue with players and staff members. To end a turbulent season well. On Monday, Fred Rutten will drive home to the Twente village of Overdinkel. Will he see his children and grandchildren again. “That’s nice too,” he says. And then he gets on a plane on Wednesday morning for a holiday to Spain. His office at training complex De Herdgang “has been empty for a long time”.
So he will be sitting in the AZ press room late Sunday afternoon in probably his last hours at PSV, in his third term at the club in twenty years. The second place in the Eredivisie has just been secured with a 2-1 win. And with that qualification for the preliminary round of the Champions League. That’s what it was all about, after Rutten took over from Ruud van Nistelrooij, the coach who resigned on Wednesday because he no longer felt support from players and staff members.
Rutten talks with the diminutives that are typical for him. “It was difficult for everyone this week. All the more clever that we got the heads on one side. Whether it’s me or the masseur or physio, we all gathered the stuff together and gave it a positive swing.” Rutten (60), a very experienced trainer, was completely surprised by the departure of the coach, like almost everyone at the club.
Read also: this happened on the day Ruud van Nistelrooij left PSVwhere the dissatisfaction had been dormant for some time.
Much remains unclear, but it is certain that tensions in the technical staff are the basis of Van Nistelrooij’s decision. Also frictions with Rutten, who was linked to the young, ambitious head coach this season as a seasoned assistant. Insiders spoke of infighting between staff members.
Players recently expressed their concerns in a conversation with the management that Rutten will stop after this season, because they consider him very important. The same applies to André Ooijer, another assistant who will also stop after this season.
Rutten indicated to Van Nistelrooij a month ago that he does not want to continue in this role, as an assistant, despite an ongoing contract. “At a certain point there will be some hairline cracks, a little too often a point of discussion,” says Rutten on Sunday. “I know how I am, if I do that again next year, I will not do that to myself.”
When he walks onto the field just before half past three, in the first game after Van Nistelrooij’s departure, Rutten immediately slips around the corner, looking for a seat in the dugout. Almost as if he feels uncomfortable in this role, something he already hinted at a press conference on Friday. He does not like to be in the foreground, is not a fan of media appearances.
He will get his hands on a team on Wednesday where “everyone was in shock, from his apropos”, as captain Luuk de Jong describes it. For example, midfielder Joey Veerman and his family are threatened, tells the midfielder on Sunday against the NOS. This because, he said himself, his agent was seen as the one who had leaked about the frictions at PSV with Van Nistelrooij, about which in The Telegraph was written. “I am very pissed off about this week,” Veerman said about the threats. “The football world is really a shit world.”
The Spanish assistant Javier Rabanal Hernández has been given a place on the bench again against AZ. He had disappeared during the course of the season, because there would have been discussion among staff members about his contribution. The fact that he is back there now fits in with the image that PSV is trying to radiate unity in a week when a crisis broke out.
With two whims from Xavi Simons, AZ is defeated without convincing. There is always a short tune in the stadium when FC Twente scores against Ajax (3-1) – as if an offer is being announced in the supermarket. Followed by cheers. Because a victory by Twente is good news for AZ and PSV. The home team is still going full for the win, so third place can still be conquered from Ajax. Due to the space that AZ gives away, Simons benefits in the last minute (1-2).
PSV can now prepare for the preliminary rounds of the Champions League at the beginning of August. There is little time while the club awaits a metamorphosis. From trainer and staff members to players. It is expected that a more experienced coach will be chosen, after the young trainers Mark van Bommel (dismissed in 2019) and Ruud van Nistelrooij did not make it on their debut at the highest level. Mentioned as possible candidates are Peter Bosz, who is available, and AZ coach Pascal Jansen, who worked for five years in PSV’s academy. Jansen did extend his contract with AZ this spring.
The skeleton of the team is also in need of renovation. In the center of the back there is a lack of players who take the team by the hand, take care of the organization and build-up. Brazilian André Ramalho has not proved to be that mainstay. His young English colleague Jarrad Branthwaite does have that potential. He is rented from Everton, PSV wants to buy him, but the asking price is still too high for the club.
A point of concern is that few talented youth players from their own training have broken through in recent years. There are plenty of them offensively, which has resulted in good transfers, including Cody Gakpo, Donyell Malen and Steven Bergwijn. Internally, there is a critical review of whether defenders should be trained differently.
In midfield, PSV wants to build the formation next season around playmaker Joey Veerman and the creative attacking midfielder Simons, who has become the top scorer of the Eredivisie with his goals against AZ (nineteen goals, just like Douvikas of FC Utrecht). Van Nistelrooij had his doubts about Veerman’s mentality. The big question in the coming weeks is whether Simons will stay. He did not want to give a definite answer about that on Sunday. “My priority is with PSV,” he said.
PSV hopes to conclude a new contract with Simons, which now runs until 2027. The much-discussed clause that applies until next summer will then leave the club: it gives him the right to transfer to his former club Paris Saint-Germain, provided that club is willing to pay more than ten million to PSV. Whether it is still of influence that Simons recently changed agents – from Rafaela Pimenta (business partner of the late Mino Raiola) to the Briton Darren Dein – is unclear.
Defensive midfielder Ibrahim Sangaré hopes to be able to sell PSV for a considerable amount this summer, he seems ready for the next step. There would be interest from Paris Saint-Germain and English Premier League clubs.
For the offensive positions it is thin. Luuk de Jong will turn 33 in August, the new technical director Earnest Stewart reportedly wants to get FC Groningen striker Ricardo Pepi as a backup. Winger Anwar El Ghazi now brings too little for PSV standards (he was sent off on Sunday), especially with a view to European ambitions. Loaned reserve players Fábio Silva and Thorgan Hazard, both of value as substitutes, are expected to return to their clubs.
The season is saved with second place – a deep sporting crisis is prevented. The upcoming renovation will have to be done without Rutten, although he kept a small blow to the arm. “Everything is possible in football land,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.
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