Ajax and coach Maurice Steijn part company (Olaf KRAAK)
Ailing Dutch giants Ajax parted company with their coach Maurice Steijn on Monday just four months into his tenure.
The split comes as the former heavyweights of Europe seek a reversal of fortune after their worst start to a league season in decades.
“Ajax and Maurice Steijn have parted company with immediate effect,” the Amsterdam side announced.
Steijn exits 24 hours after a 4-3 loss to Utrecht, the club’s fourth defeat in seven games, left them in 17th place, one off the foot of the Eredivisie.
“We came to the conclusion that this is for the best for Ajax, even if I regret it,” said Steijn, 49.
“I did everything to lead Ajax back to where they belong, but I wasn’t able to accomplish that,” he added.
Ajax’s caretaker director Jan van Halst noted: “We’ve worked very intensely and professionally over the past few months but the results and the team’s progress were lagging behind.
“Together we decided it was best if we separated.”
Assistant coach Hedwiges Maduro will assume the role of manager “for the moment”, added Van Halst.
Such is the sense of crisis enveloping the club both on and off the pitch they turned to an old experienced hand, former boss Louis van Gaal, to return in an advisory role at the start of the month.
The 72-year-old former Dutch national team coach, who has been recovering from prostate cancer, led the club to a Champions League title in 1995.
Thirty-six times Dutch title winners and champions of European four times, Ajax will always be associated with Johan Cruyff, who gives his name to their stadium.
But you have to go back to 1964/65, when Cruyff had just joined the Ajax youth team, to find a worse start to a season.
Making life worse for the Ajax faithful, bitter rivals PSV Eindhoven top the table unbeaten, winning nine matches from nine.
Amongst Ajax’s losses under Steijn was a humiliating 4-0 rout by their other main grudge team, Feyenoord.
That game was abandoned 10 minutes into the second half when hardcore Ajax fans lobbed flares onto the pitch with their team 3-0 behind.
Ugly scenes ensued as fans fought mounted riot police and smashed the entrance to their own stadium.
The match was completed days later behind closed doors.
Former Sparta Rotterdam coach Steijn was only appointed in June as the replacement for ex-Dutch defender John Heitinga.
Heitinga’s contract was not renewed at the end of last season as Ajax failed to qualify for the Champions League after finishing third in the Dutch top tier.
The former Everton centre-back’s departure had come days after former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar announced he was resigning as chief executive.
Ajax’s fortunes have flagged markedly since the departure of Erik ten Hag for Manchester United in April 2022.
The club sacked their director of football Sven Mislintat last month, as well as Pier Eringa, chairman of their supervisory board.