MARIETTA, Ga. — Good things come to those who wait.
Such is the case in Atlanta, where Atlanta United president Darren Eales has officially been united with Frank de Boer, a manager and footballing icon that he’s long admired from across the Atlantic. De Boer was formally presented to Atlanta media in a press conference Monday where he, technical director Carlos Bocanegra and Eales spoke about his union with Atlanta United for the first time.
For Eales, De Boer was a managerial appointment that had been a long time coming, even going back to the president’s time at Tottenham Hotspur when Eales worked to bring in the likes of Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, whom De Boer had managed previously.
“Soccer is a global village and it’s built of relationships,” Eales told media at the event. “We had a relationship from when we signed Christian Eriksen and Jan Vertonghen, and a number of players that came from that great team at Ajax that Frank had into Tottenham. Soccer is a small world.”
That small world led Eales to what he calls “a perfect fit” for both the club and De Boer, who Eales said is on a contract “longer than two years.” For the manager, it’s a great fit for the same reason it was for former manager "Tata" Martino — the club is fully set up for success and the only thing the manager needs to worry about is what happens on the pitch. And for Eales, De Boer represents exactly what he hoped to build at Atlanta United when he sat in a conference room spitballing ideas with Bocanegra years ago.
“When we were talking about what we want Atlanta United to be, I think Ajax is sort of a beacon of that type of club that does things right and has that culture and core values in place,” said Eales. “Clearly, Frank has that from his time there. A lot of those core values we’re trying to build here are similar, and that’s where I think he’s a great fit for us, and likewise we’re a good fit for him.”
Despite being appointed to the job Dec. 23 and his contract officially starting Jan. 1, De Boer had yet to spend much time in Atlanta, with the MLS Combine in Orlando taking place so early in his tenure. Monday was one of the Dutchman’s first days embedding himself at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground.
“It’s a fantastic club from what I saw already and what I’ve seen today and especially the people that I’ve talked to,” De Boer said. “When a club comes like Atlanta United, you have to be interested and I was, especially with the philosophy of the club, the structure of the club, and the core values that are so important to me.”
While Atlanta United doesn't have a profile in Europe like Inter Milan or Crystal Palace, two teams he’s managed since his days at Ajax, De Boer said Atlanta United is set up to let coaches succeed where those two particular clubs are not, and it’s rooted in the strong structural foundation of the club. De Boer joked that he spent more energy in the eight months he spent at those two clubs combined than he did in nine years in management in Ajax having to deal with issues off the field.
“From the start, I had the feeling that I could focus on the one thing that I’m very good at, and that’s the football side,” said de Boer. “ The number one thing is what you see on the field, and that’s what I want to everybody. I’m very proud to be here and continue the dream that [team owner] Arthur Blank has, and hopefully we can have some great years ahead of us.”