If Dutch football is synonymous with one club, it has to be Ajax Amsterdam.
And besides the players creating magic on the pitch for the club, the managers of Ajax have been exceptional too.
Just look at how many of them have gone out of the Netherlands to create a huge impact.
So let us look at the 5 Best Ajax Managers of All Time.
What we have tried to do here is rank them based on the silverware they delivered, time on the job, and the influence they have left on the club.
So let’s get started.
5. Erik Ten Hag
Our first pick Erik Ten Hag was appointed as Ajax manager in December 2017.
The reason he is on the list ahead of someone like Kovacs is that he took Ajax to a Champions League semi final in an era where competing has become increasingly difficult.
Ajax does not get nearly as much revenue as other top clubs and so reaching as far as they did takes a huge effort.
Coming back to Ten Haag, he was the replacement of Marcel Keizer as the club could not find any consistency in the league campaign.
Even though he stabilized the ship in the remainder of the season, his best results came in the following season. In the 2018/19 season, he won his first trophy as an Ajax manager, beating Willem II in the KNVB Cup final.
Furthermore, Ajax won their 34th Eredivisie, edging PSV by three points, interestingly beating them in the final game 4-1.
And by beating them again, Ajax also won the 2019 Johan Cruyff Shield.
But Ten Haag truly captured the spotlight in the Champions League. Ajax’s 2018-19 campaign was an absolute fairytale.
After reaching the Round of 16 and being drawn against Madrid, the three time defending champions, Ajax showed their class.
After a thumping performance at the Bernabeu, they eliminated them 5-3 on aggregate.
In the quarter-finals, they met Juventus. Despite drawing in the home leg, they were able to win 2-1 in the away leg. Many felt that this could be a similar storyline that saw FC Porto win the Champions League in 2004.
In the semi-finals, the fairytale ended cruelly though. They had beaten Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in the away leg.
What’s more? They were even three goals to the good at half-time of the home leg.
However, a Lucas Moura hat trick saw the Dutch champions sensationally getting knocked out of the Champions League.
Despite them getting knocked out, many football fans appreciated Ajax for their incredible run and Ten Haag for his managerial brilliance.
Since then, Ten Haag has grown in confidence and looks set to groom another generation of superstars.
4. Frank de Boer
Frank de Boer replaced Martin Jol as the new Ajax manager in December 2010. And what followed was a flurry of titles.
As he got appointed in December, the busiest of all the months in a season, his first game came only two days after his appointment.
The game was against AC Milan in the Champions League, in which Ajax won 2-0.
As he had won five Eredivisie titles as a player, many people within the Ajax board felt that he could do the same as a manager. Little did they know that he would do something not even the previous managerial regimes could do.
Ajax board gave him the funds to bolster the squad so they can compete in the league. However, De Boer did not just make Ajax compete, and he made them a dominant force in the league.
Frank de Boer became the first manager in Dutch history to win four consecutive Eredivisie league titles, eclipsing Rinus Michels and Louis Van Gaal’s feat.
This feat made it nine league titles for De Boer as an Ajax player and manager. This consistency linked him with a move to the English giants, Liverpool. However, he denied the rumours, calling himself “an Ajax man.”
Furthermore, he added the Johan Cruyff Shield to his trophy collection after beating AZ Alkmaar 3-2 in the 2013 final.
In 2014/15, his Ajax side finished 17 points behind PSV, the highest Dutch league difference between the winners and the runners-up. After another runners-up finish in the league, he left his position.
The special thing about his time was that the quality of the squad was below par but he created an atmosphere where he got the best out of his players.
3. Louis Van Gaal
Louis Van Gaal‘s six-year tenure at Ajax was an extremely prosperous one. Under him, Ajax won three consecutive Eredivisie league titles from 1994 till 1996.
His first trophy was the KNVB Cup in 1993 when Ajax beat FC Heerenveen 6-2. Later in his career, Van Gaal stated that this trophy was pivotal to winning all the domestic and European medals later.
In the 1994/1995 campaign, they went the entire season undefeated, earning the title of “Dutch Invincibles.” However, the essential requirement of the Ajax board was to flex their muscles on the European stage.
And Louis Van Gaal did precisely that. Under him, Ajax had already won the 1992 UEFA Cup title. And he added to that by winning the Champions League as well in 1995.
The most crucial thing in this winning campaign was that they went the entire European campaign unbeaten as well.
Therefore, Ajax became the first football club to go a domestic league campaign and a Champions League campaign unbeaten in the same season. What a monumental performance!
Later on, in 1995, he added both the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup to the trophy collection. Apart from the European success, Van Gaal was also able to add three Johan Cruyff Shields to his locker.
Numerous great Dutch players such as Edwin Van Der Saar, Frank Rijkaard, and Denis Bergkamp were fundamental to the Dutch manager’s success.
In 2004, Van Gaal returned to the club as the sporting director. However, his appointment didn’t last long as he had an internal conflict with the Ajax board of directors.
2. Jack Reynolds
The first great manager of Ajax, Jack Reynolds was also a revolutionary that paved the way for the club we see today.
The Englishman was one of the managers that introduced the concept of “Total Football” to the game, of course later brought to the mainstream by Michels.
As a result of his influence, Ajax became one of the most decorated football clubs under his regime.
As Jack Kirwan’s replacement, Reynolds was the second ever coach of Ajax, appointed to continue the traditions of developing youth players and integrating them into the first team.
So, in just a season, Ajax returned to the first division. Afterwards, they were able to beat PSV 5-0, claiming the Dutch Cup for the first time.
In his first stint, Ajax won their first two league titles in 1918 and 1919, respectively. Ajax went the entire 1918/19 domestic campaign unbeaten, a feat only matched by Louis Van Gaal as the Ajax manager later on.
Jack Reynolds’ win in the 1917 KNVB Cup, was his third trophy in his first stint of Ajax management. He also won the Western Regional Championship in 1921.
After returning from Amsterdam FC in 1928, he got appointed as Ajax manager for the second time. His second stint was of 12 years in which the club was able to win five Dutch League titles.
The domestic consistency and trophies helped Ajax develop their new stadium, i.e., De Meer. In 1940, Reynolds retired from football management.
However, he reversed his decision five years later as the club was going through a transitional period with no sign of direction.
In his final season, Ajax were Dutch champions in 1947, making it eight league titles under the Dutch great.
Reynolds retired from football, stating that he had done more than he could have imagined with his boyhood club.
1. Rinus Michels
Any discussion about the best Ajax manager of all time can not go in any other direction than Rinus Michels.
The Dutchman is considered one of the greatest coaches in the 20th century let alone at Ajax.
And the reason is pretty simple. The brand of football he implemented did not just serve the squad under him, it dominated (and is still dominating) World Football.
The style was of course Total Football introduced at Ajax by Jack Reynolds and revitalized by Michels.
Playing exceptional football, Michels won a total of eight titles including the 1971 European Cup, four league titles, and three National Cups.
Ajax went on to win two more European cups using the same blueprint that Michels used and his influence to this day remains huge in Dutch football.
That is also the reason why he is our top pick ahead of other dignified names.
Another reason why he was so special as Ajax coach was because he helped the Netherlands as well in winning a major international honour in the European Championship of 1998, their only one since then.
There have been other managers in the history of Ajax that have made notable contributions.
The great Johan Cruyff could not win much silverware as Ajax manager but played an attractive brand of football and his 3-1-2-3-1 formation was used later by Ajax in winning the 1995 Champions League. That alone is proof of his excellence as a coach.
Vic Buckingham is another Ajax manager who won a league title with Ajax in 1959/60 and introduced a certain someone named Johan Cruyff to the side.
He was hailed by Cruyff for instilling professionalism in the Ajax team of that time. This quality enabled them to shine in the years to come.
Similarly, Stefan Kovacs is another Ajax great who was only disqualified because of his short tenure in charge of the club. He won two consecutive European Cups in 1972 and 1973 also winning the league in 1972.