After a rather underwhelming debut season at the Johan Cryuff Arena – Steven Bergwijn sparkling only intermittently as Ajax lost their crown to usurpers Feyenoord – the decision to hand the former Tottenham Hotspur winger the international the captain’s armband following the departure of Dusan Tadic was a major show of faith.

Bergwijn will be leading Ajax in 2023/24.

And Van der Vaart, like new Ajax boss Maurice Steijn, is hoping that the captaincy can light a fire under a player who, he believes, is almost unrivalled in Dutch football.

Former Tottenham man Steven Bergwijn is Ajax’s new captain

“When he is in top form, he is the best player in the Eredivisie,” Van der Vaart tells NOS. “Together with (PSV Eindhoven’s) Noa Lang.”

Van der Vaart believes that Steijn could be the perfect coach to get the best out of Bergwijn; the former Sparta Rotterdam boss’s arm-around-the-shoulder approach ideal for a player who faced more stick than carrot under Antonio Conte and Jose Mournho at Tottenham.

“Bergwijn is a player you have to tickle, and Maurice Steijn is good at that. I therefore understand why Steijn makes Bergwijn captain,” the Dutch legend adds.

“And all those people who shout ‘he is not a good talker and not a leader’ and this and that; That is just nonsense. Bergwijn just has to decide matches, that is his responsibility. That is what it is all about and, if he does that, you can wear the armband.

“Be yourself, don’t behave differently. I’ve experienced so many captains who shout all kinds of things but say nothing.”

Bergwijn will be determined to guide his hometown club back to the top of the domestic tree in 2022/23, Ajax having fallen some way since the glory days of Erik ten Hag and Marc Overmars over the last 12 months

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