There are few Arsenal players I liked better than Marc Overmars, probably Wenger’s most underrated signing. When he joined the club in 1997, I didn’t know that much about him, but soon learned that his blistering pace and relentless energy made him a huge asset to Wenger’s sides in the late 90’s, and Overmars’ two goals against Everton in spring of 1998 sealed the championship that year for Arsenal.
He left for Barcelona in summer of 2000, and as his tenure there was during one of Barcelona’s lean periods, came and went from Barca in a few years trophyless. He retired due to knee problems in 2004, attempted a comeback in 2008 with Dutch side Go Ahead Eagles. That comeback lasted a season, then he took up a back office job there since he had been a shareholder since 2005. In 2011, he became Ajax’ youth coach for one day a week, and then in 2012 he left Eagles and became Ajax’ director of football.
It’s safe to say his tenure there was...mixed? Ajax are as close to an automatic top three finisher as Arsenal used to be, so while it’s not quite an autopilot-level job, you’d have to try pretty hard to do badly at it. And by some accounts, Overmars did just that - while some of the coverage is a little, shall we say, hyperbolic, and while occasionally people do have a nice thing to say, overall his Ajax career has sounded like a case of “could have done better”.
Which puts in context nicely today’s news that Overmars is reportedly leaving Ajax at the end of this season to join Arsenal in an as-yet-undefined capacity. As mentioned, I dearly loved Overmars as a player, and while I will be the first to admit I know nothing about his job as Ajax DoF other than what I read in the links above, it doesn’t really fill me with confidence reading that Ajax fans don’t really think he’s all that good at his job.
While “what the fans think” should never be your first metric, another red flag gets run up the flagpole when you consider the career of fellow Dutchman and Ajax legend Frank de Boer. After winning three championships in three years in a league where defending isn’t really a thing in any meaningful way, he made the leap to Inter Milan. At Inter, he lasted 85 days, overseeing one three game winning streak and not much else before getting the sack. de Boer then went to Crystal Palace this year, leading them to zero league wins and zero goals scored before being let go in favor of Roy Hodgson, this time in 77 days. So if nothing else, I guess he’s getting more efficient?
The other thing about Ajax is the kind of club they tend to be - they raise kids up from scratch and turn them into great players, then sell them. I’m not sure Overmars would be able to do that at Arsenal, but that’s the Ajax mindset, and that’s not a mindset I necessarily want Arsenal to inherit.
So while I love Overmars as a player, I have many, many fears about Overmars in a technical role, even though there’s nothing indicating what that role would be if the rumor turns out to be true.