It is almost impossible to mention the name Danny Blind without thinking of Ajax. A legendary figure at the Amsterdam-based outfit, the former Dutch international is part of an elite group of players to have lifted every European trophy during his career.
From the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987 to the 1992 UEFA Cup and the 1995 UEFA Champions League, no continental silverware escaped the robust defender’s clutches. The Oost-Souburg native even helped the Godenzonen clinch an Intercontinental Cup in 1995, scoring the decisive penalty in a 4-3 shoot-out victory over South American champions Gremio.
“That’s the greatest memory of his career,” said his son Daley, the latest gift offered by Blind Sr to Ajax’s expectant supporters.
Almost three decades after Danny Blind made his debut for the Dutch giants, Daley Blind has established himself as the club’s first-choice left-back, and as a firm favourite with the fans. As well as sporting a similar hairstyle, he has also inherited his father’s defensive rigour and accurate passing skills.
“My dad had a truly great career; naturally, he was a role model for me. I learned a lot from him. When I was young, he was always there to give me advice, and that’s still the case today. I owe him an awful lot,” the Ajax No17 told FIFA.com.
Like his father, Blind Jr began his professional career at centre-back, but his coach, Frank De Boer, who played alongside Blind Sr, believed he could do a more effective job on the left flank. And it was in that role that he earned his first international cap earlier this year, after being called up by Louis van Gaal, whose right-hand man within the Dutch set-up is none other than Danny Blind.
“I don’t think I was selected because my dad happens to be part of the staff. However, I do feel a lot of pride about the role he fulfils with the national team, which is not something everyone can say,” said Daley.
It was not by chance that Van Gaal chose Danny Blind to assist him in guiding the Oranje, just like the appointment of De Boer to the helm of the Netherlands’ most successful club was anything but a throw of the dice.
The task of engineering a return to the upper echelons of the European game was handed to those who had played a key role in the resurgence of the 1990s, 20 years after the first Johan Cruyff-inspired golden age enjoyed by Ajax and the Netherlands. Curiously, it was Cruyff who was behind Danny Blind’s transfer to Ajax from Sparta Rotterdam in 1986.
These changes appear to have borne fruit – the teams resemble each other on the pitch and the wins have stacked up. “The two teams do play a similar style, based on a short passing game,” said the 23-year-old.
“They take the same approach, showing confidence in young players and generating healthy competition for places. Everyone works hard to get a chance,” added the player who currently shares left-back duties for the Netherlands with Bruno Martins Indi and Jetro Willems.
“But having played just three times for my country, I’m perhaps not best-placed to talk about what’s changed within the national squad since the last European Championship,” pointed out Blind, more willing to extrapolate on the club to which he has remained faithful, aside from a loan spell at Groningen in 2010.
“I’m really living the dream. To get the chance to represent the same team in which my dad made his name is really quite incredible. This place has taught me everything. It’s a club that gives opportunities to up-and-coming players. Every year, two or three players from our youth academy join the first-team set-up. I was given that same chance. I wasn’t the first, and I won’t be the last.”
Winner of the last three Dutch League titles, Ajax have begun to inspire fear on the European stage once more. After finishing third in a demanding group that included Manchester City, Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid in the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League, the Amsterdammers were surprisingly ousted from the UEFA Europa League by Steaua Bucharest in the Round of 16.
“It was our only slip-up, because apart from that, we had a great season. We’re trying to implement a technical style of play, one where we’re constantly moving around. Overall, I feel like teams are more afraid of us now. As for us, we’re gaining in confidence,” said last season’s supporters’ Player of the Year.
At international level, meanwhile, things could not be rosier. The only European nation with a 100 per cent record in 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualifying matches, the Netherlands are ideally placed to book their ticket for Brazil.
“There’s no doubt that we’re full of confidence, but personally speaking, I’d prefer not to put the cart before the horse. I don’t have enough international experience to expect anything of anyone. Of course, playing at the World Cup is a dream of mine, but there’s a long way to go. I’m going to focus on Ajax, and hopefully stay on the right path,” he said.
Despite his numerous trophies and 42 caps for the Netherlands, Danny Blind never had the opportunity to play at a FIFA World Cup. “That’s true, but I’m a different player,” concluded his son with a mischievous smile.