Frank de Boer: What Crystal Palace can expect from new manager

By Elko BornDutch football journalist
Frank de Boer
De Boer was a big domestic success at Ajax - winning four straight league titles

Crystal Palace have appointed Frank de Boer as their new manager - but what sort of man will be in charge at Selhurst Park next season?

There is no doubting his pedigree as a player.

The 47-year-old former defender was capped 112 times by the Netherlands, playing in two World Cups and three European Championships.

He also played for the likes of Ajax, Barcelona and Rangers.

But after a managerial career that has taken him to Ajax and Inter Milan, is the time right for him to move to the Premier League? And will he be the right fit for Palace?

Bringing in the new breed at Ajax

De Boer retired in 2006 and started his managerial career at Ajax's under-19 side; the club's most prominent and highly regarded youth team.

In the summer of 2010, De Boer was also assistant manager to Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk during the World Cup in South Africa. The Oranje finished that tournament as runners up, narrowly losing to Spain in the final.

However, it was the impression De Boer made while in charge of the under-19s that persuaded the Ajax board to make him their head coach in December 2010.

He replaced former Tottenham and Fulham manager Martin Jol, who was heavily criticised during his time at Ajax for breaking with the tradition of giving academy graduates their chance in the first team.

De Boer immediately gave the club's hierarchy and fans exactly what they wanted. With a team comprising many young players, including rising stars Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, Ajax beat AC Milan at the San Siro in the Champions League in the Dutchman's debut as boss.

Speaking to the BBC website in 2012, De Boer said: "From our under-12s up to the under-19s, I know almost exactly what we have.

"I know each of them by name and everything about them. It is very important for me to be involved because in three years they could be one of the top players in my squad."

Young players at Palace can be expected to be given a chance to impress.

The last to come through and really establish himself was winger Wilfried Zaha - but now the likes of midfielder Luke Dreher and striker Keshi Anderson might be given the opportunity show what they can do.

Frank de Boer (left) and Bert van Marwijk at the 2010 World Cup
De Boer worked under Bert van Marwijk as the Dutch reached the final at the 2010 World Cup

Leaving a legacy

When De Boer took charge, Ajax had not won the Dutch Eredivisie in seven years - but they then won it four years in a row.

However, domestic dominance was not replicated abroad and they failed to impress on the European stage.

In the Champions League group stages, Ajax managed to beat Manchester City in 2012 and Barcelona in 2014. However, reaching the knockout stages proved a step too far.

Things were not much better in the Europa League. In the 2013-14 season, De Boer was heavily criticised after a humiliating 5-1 loss to Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg.

It would be wrong to say European frustrations were behind De Boer deciding to leave the club in 2016. After six years in charge he wanted a new challenge, preferably abroad - and the club respected his decision.

Ajax missed out on a fifth straight league title in 2015-16 after drawing with relative minnows De Graafschap on the final day of the season. It was hard to stomach and the general feeling was all parties needed a fresh start.

Frank de Boer and his team celebrate winning the Dutch league in 2013
Ajax won the title in four successive years under De Boer

De Boer had taken charge of Ajax during a tumultuous period in the club's history - and been a big success.

"He has his own ideas about football," De Boer's twin brother Ronald told BBC Sport.

"He has grown up with the mentality of Ajax and Barcelona. That is attractive football and pressing forward, like he did at Ajax. For sure, he will want to do that at Palace.

"But he is also realistic. If sometimes putting your team back 10 yards because it is benefiting your team and you have the type of players for that, maybe he will do that. Initially it will always be pressing forward. I hope it will work at Palace."

A humbling experience in Italy

Frank de Boer had a frustrating few months at Inter Milan
De Boer encountered challenges that he was unable to overcome at Inter

At the start of the 2016-17 season, De Boer found the new challenge he wanted when he was appointed as Italian side Inter Milan's new manager in August - and Palace fans will be hoping his second experience of managing abroad is better than his first.

In 2010, with current Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho as manager, Inter had won the Champions League, as well as Serie A and the Italian Cup. But since that treble-winning season, the club had fallen down the table more every year.

De Boer's mission was a tremendously hard one from the outset. As a relatively young manager without any particular experience in Italian football, he had little knowledge of Inter's difficult and chaotic internal political situation.

After only three months in charge, De Boer was unceremoniously sacked by the club after a 0-1 loss to Sampdoria in November.

At the time of De Boer's dismissal, Inter were 12th in Serie A, 14 points behind league leaders Juventus. in his final five games in charge, the former Ajax boss managed only one win.

He had failed to inspire or motivate his players for a sustained period and tactically he was still looking for ideas to take the team forward. But he was only given three months to figure all these things out.

De Boer's twin brother Ronald is adamant that the experience in Italy will make him a better manager.

"Sometimes falling down on your face helps you to move forward," he told BBC Sport.

"You have to learn from your mistakes. One of the mistakes was that it is so difficult to step in a week, or two weeks, before the start of the season with a team that is not fit at all and a team who has 30 players under contract with an average age of 28."

All about De Boer
De Boer and his twin brother Ronald both played for the Netherlands, Ajax, Barcelona and Rangers
Frank was a defender who won 112 caps, Ronald a midfielder who won 67
As a player De Boer won the Dutch league five times and cup twice, the Spanish league, the Champions League and the Uefa Cup
As a manager, De Boer won the Dutch league four seasons in succession

Time right for Palace move?

In recent years, De Boer has been unfortunate when it comes to timing.

Back in 2012, it was reported that Liverpool had contacted him for talks about their vacant manager's job before hiring Brendan Rodgers. De Boer, however, felt it was too early for him to move to the Premier League.

In 2014, Spurs contacted Ajax for permission to talk to De Boer as a replacement for Tim Sherwood. It is likely De Boer would have been willing to make the move, but the north London club ended up going for Mauricio Pochettino instead.

Now he has the opportunity to manage in a league that has always interested him.

Ronald de Boer added: "The Premier League is the most exciting league for sure. Frank wants to be part of that."

Above all, he is a down to earth type of manager. He has often said he will only take charge of a club at the beginning of the season, so that he has time to implement his vision and assess his squad before things kick off.

De Boer will relish the opportunity to face Everton boss Ronald Koeman. At Palace, De Boer will want to emulate the largely successful career path of his compatriot, who managed Ajax in the early 2000s before becoming successful at Southampton and taking charge at Goodison Park.

In the Premier League, De Boer will also get to pit his wits against his former Barcelona team-mate Pep Guardiola, now in charge at Manchester City. The two young managers have been known to bounce ideas off of each other every now and then, and both are influenced by the ideas of Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff.

A calm but critical manager

Frank de Boer
De Boer is not afraid to engage with the press - and is happy to crack a joke at press conferences

De Boer will now be managing in a league with an intense media scrutiny.

It is a good thing, then, that he is not the type to shy away from discussions with journalists. At Ajax, De Boer would always take time to explain his tactical choices to whoever was interested, again and again if needed.

De Boer's facial expression often seems to be locked in a frown - but he knows how to make a joke as well. Straightforward and unafraid to simply state whatever is on his mind, English football can expect to have a few laughs during Palace news conferences. Think Louis van Gaal's directness, but with a friendlier edge.

His players, however, are advised to remain sharp. No matter how well his teams perform, De Boer always wants them to do better. At Ajax, he could often be seen passionately motivating and correcting his players, even when they were already well in the lead.

This is characteristic of De Boer's management style and was already obvious during the World Cup in 2010. While Netherlands manager Van Marwijk stayed seated, assistant De Boer would often get up to shout instructions at players - and let's just say those 'instructions' were not always suited for television.

As he starts the next phase in his career, Palace fans can expect a critical but honest manager who knows how to reward hard work and commitment and who is not afraid to put his foot down and fight for what he wants.


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