On 18th March, 2000, Ajax’s centenary year celebrations ended in tragedy as Twente defeated the Eredivisie giants in Amsterdam. A Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink goal being enough to secure the visitors an unexpected win: The Tukkers had played the whole of the second half with ten men, following Scottish forward Scott Booth’s dismissal. After the defeat, Ajax coach Jan Wouters was fired, and much of it was down to the performance of a young right winger, Andy van der Meyde.

Van der Meyde had been loaned from Ajax to Twente in the summer of 1999, the Amsterdam club deciding the youngster required more first team experience. As Twente finished the season in sixth, van der Meyde stood out as one of the most promising players in all Holland. Therefore it was no surprise that he was soon recalled to Ajax, and left Twente thanking coach Fred Rutten for his quick development.

Ten years later Andy van der Meyde and Fred Rutten have been reunited after the current PSV Eindhoven boss moved for his old charge, securing the 30-year-old until the end of the season, with the possibility of two further years. PSV had needed to strengthen their squad after selling Danko Lazovic to Zenit St. Petersburg, and Rutten had readily suggested van der Meyde, who was without a club following his release by Everton. After six unsuccessful years abroad (two in Italy with Internazionale and four in England with Everton) Andy van der Meyde now has what many consider to be his last chance of returning to the top of the football tree. Back in Holland, van der Meyde simply can’t fail again.

The ex-Inter star turned returned to action for PSV in a Youth Eredivisie game between Young PSV and table toppers Young Sparta. The Young Spartans may have won, but van der Meyde didn’t mind that: “It was good to be on the pitch again” said the Dutchman, “This is only the first step in my new career. It doesn’t matter where I have played previously, I’m completely focused on the present. I want to gain fitness and be important for PSV.”

Van der Meyde’s main aim is to arrest a career which has gone into sharp decline. Injury prone and suffering problems off the pitch, in the last six seasons he has managed just 53 games, 2,664 minutes overall. On 9th April 2005, Inter saw off Bologna at home through a Julio Cruz strike. This was the last time van der Meyde managed a full 90 minutes in an official game. Since the 30-year-old left Amsterdam, he has enjoyed an whole game on just four occasions.

The Dutchman impressed in his time at Ajax between 2000 and 2003, and in the 2001/02 double winning side van der Meyde was a key player. That season was a turbulent one for the Dutch giants, with Co Adriaanse being sacked and Ronald Koeman appointed. Yet van der Meyde played on a regular basis under both coaches, making the right wing position his own in a 4-3-3 system. In 2002, he made his national team debut under Dick Advocaat, and the next season netted 11 goals in the Eredivisie. At the Amsterdam ArenA, van der Meyde soon became known as “the sniper” and “the archer” due to his goal celebratory habit of shooting an imaginary weapon high into the sky. Van der Meyde was doing well, and was part of a young Ajax team that reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League and included Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Christian Chivu, Wesley Sneijder, Rafael van der Vaart, Steven Pienaar and Mido. Amongst that array of talent, van der Meyde was one of the brightest. So where did it all go wrong?

In the summer of 2003, van der Meyde chose to swap Amsterdam for Milan, moving to Internazionale. Ajax coach Koeman later remarked “he left too soon” and went on to comment, “I think he is not yet ready for a top level championship.” In Italy, van der Meyde failed to impress, with many Italian commentators believing that he had arrived in the right place, but at the wrong time. At the time van der Meyde landed at the San Siro, Inter were employing a 4-4-2 system, rather than the 4-3-3 which clearly suited the Dutchman. Van der Meyde was asked to play more as a flank midfielder than a winger, but there were some bright moments. In the 2003/04 Champions League campaign the Dutchman scored a spectacular goal against Arsenal at Highbury, one so special it is still remembered by the Inter faithful to this day. However, van der Meyde never enjoyed a consistency of play, and while some remember the goal, some also remember him losing consciousness and falling to the ground during a press conference. What everyone at Inter can agree on though is that the Dutchman was never well enough, for long enough, to make an impact.

All in all van der Meyde needed a change of scenery, and on 31st August 2005, the winger moved to Everton for £2M. At the time the move was seen as a masterstroke by Toffees boss David Moyes, but now it is regarded as one of his worst pieces of business. For van der Meyde himself, the transfer was simply a move from the frying pan to the fire. In four seasons at Goodison Park, the Dutchman managed just 20 matches, failing to break into the Everton starting eleven, not scoring a single goal, and hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He was fined and suspended by the Merseyside club for failing to attend training, admitted to hospital after a night out drinking, and had many run-ins with Moyes.

“Moyes constantly tried to break me down” van der Meyde said in a recent interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “He’s a man you cannot trust. Several times he told me I didn’t have to worry about physical problems because I was one of the group, but once I was fit again I couldn’t even find a place on the bench.” In his last two seasons on Merseyside van der Meyde played just 11 minutes. On 7th December 2008, he came on for  five minutes against Aston Villa, while the following month, having been brought on as a substitute in an FA Cup fourth round replay against bitter rivals Liverpool, he provided Dan Gosling with the assist for Everton’s match winning goal. Typically, such was van der Meyde’s luck, that domestic broadcaster ITV cut to an advert break in the last moments of extra time, meaning millions of viewers missed the goal.

Last summer saw van der Meyde run out his Everton contract. He had a trial at fellow Premier League side Blackburn Rovers, but did not impress, and then refused a move to Hull City. Although the Dutchman was settled in England, he stated he needed a fresh start. And where better than his homeland?

As an Ajax player, van der Meyde had the club’s name tattooed on his calf. Now he has joined PSV, TV station Omproep Brabant asked him what he will do with it. “I removed it as soon as I signed for PSV” replied the winger. But in Eindhoven, van der Meyde needs to show more than a quick, perhaps painful, tattoo removal. He needs to show the player he was.


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