AMSTERDAM - New coach Martin Jol believes Ajax Amsterdam will face tough competition from champions AZ Alkmaar and an upgraded PSV Eindhoven as they seek to end a barren five-year run without a Dutch title. "Alkmaar almost kept their team together, while PSV Eindhoven made a step forward with signing the experienced couple Andre Ooijer and Orlando Engelaar," he was quoted as saying in Dutch weekly Voetbal International. "You can say it is almost unfeasible (for Ajax to win the title) but it can be done and we will go for it," he added with the Dutch league season getting underway this weekend. Jol had limited transfer funds available and the former coach of the English Premier League's Tottenham Hotspur and Bundesliga's SV Hamburg sought a real leader on the pitch. He got his man when Dutch international Demy de Zeeuw was signed last Friday from Alkmaar. Jol has also been reunited with Cameroon left back Timothee Atouba who joined from Hamburg but saw team captain and Belgium international defender Thomas Vermaelen sold to English Premier League club Arsenal. "Playing for the championship is a must for Ajax, But being the biggest club in the country, seeing the fans and organisation, is not a guarantee for success, like we noticed in the last few years," Jol said. Champions Alkmaar managed to retain most of last season's squad and made an impressive start to the season when they thrashed Heerenveen 5-1 to win Dutch Super Cup on Saturday. Alkmaar have a new coach in Ronald Koeman, who was in charge when Ajax last won a Dutch title in 2003/04. He replaced another former Ajax coach Louis van Gaal who is now at the helm at Bundesliga club Bayern Munich. PSV, whose run of four successive Dutch titles was ended by Alkmaar last season, also have a new coach, Fred Rutten, a former assistant at the club. Rutten, who was sacked in March by Schalke 04, has signed Dutch international midfielder Orlando Engelaar from the Bundesliga club. He has also brought Dutch international defender Andre Ooijer back to the club after three seasons in the English Premier League with Blackburn Rovers. Ajax will start the season on Sunday, travelling to Groningen while PSV host VVV-Venlo. Alkmaar begin their campaign a day earlier, visiting Heracles Almelo.
30 July 2009
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