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Low-profile Steijn replaces Heitinga as Ajax boss

Sparta Rotterdam coach Maurice Steijn was named Ajax’s new boss by the Dutch club on Wednesday, taking over from the departed ex-Netherlands 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 came days after former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar announced he was resigning as chief executive.

Ajax’s fortunes have flagged since the departure of Erik ten Hag for United in April 2022.

Steijn, 49, had been in charge at Sparta since 2022 after spells with Den Haag, VVV-Venlo, NAC Breda as well as Al-Wahda in the United Arab Emirates.

“With all the clubs he worked for, the results exceeded the expectations,” Ajax’s director of football Sven Mislintat said in a club statement.

“So, he has shown multiple times with his teams that he is a real overperformer. He is ready for a step up, I’m sure of that,” he added.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman said he was surprised about Ajax’s decision. 

“I think it’s interesting, not strange, but interesting,” Koeman told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

“If you followed the news a bit, I would not have spoken about Maurice Steijn but a foreign coach.

“I think it’s good that it’s a Dutch coach,” he added.

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