Atlanta United announced on Sunday morning that Dutch legend Frank de Boer has signed a multiyear contract to become the club’s next head coach, succeeding Gerardo “Tata” Martino.
A superstar at Ajax, FC Barcelona and several other clubs during his playing days, de Boer, 48, began his managerial career at Ajax, where he won a club-record four consecutive Eredivisie titles. He moved on to shorter and less successful stints at Inter Milan and Crystal Palace, and was reported to be ATLUTD’s leading candidate by ESPN FC in the past week.
De Boer's work will begin quickly: He officially starts on Jan. 1, Atlanta's preseason opens on Jan. 14 and their season begins early thanks to their inaugural Concacaf Champions League campaign, which starts with a visit to Costa Rica's Herediano on Feb. 21.
“Frank de Boer has a distinguished background, both as manager and player, and we’re ecstatic to welcome him to our club,” Atlanta president Darren Eales said in a club release. “When we began our search, we were determined to find someone who fit all of our criteria. In addition to meeting our club’s core values, Frank’s philosophical views for how to play unequivocally aligns with ours.
“He also has a proven track record of developing youth players, with many of them going on to star for top European teams. Finally, his multilingual capabilities, including Spanish and English, ensure a smooth transition in the leadership of our club.”
An elegant, commanding center back who played in two World Cups and three Euro championships for the Netherlands during his playing days, de Boer won five Eredivisie (Dutch top flight) league titles, two KNVB Cups, one La Liga championship, a UEFA Champions League trophy and a fourth-place finish at the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
He began coaching at Ajax's famed youth academy in 2007, then moved up to lead the first team in 2010, initially on a caretaker basis in the wake of Martin Jol's departure. De Boer would go on to oversee a period of dominance at the Amsterdam club, earning a reputation for grooming young talent and eventually winning the Rinus Michels Award, the Dutch coach of the year gong.
That led to stints at Italian giants Inter Milan, where he lasted just 85 days on the job as club leaders lost patience after a slump of four losses in five Serie A matches, and England's Crystal Palace, who dismissed him just 10 weeks into a three-year contract as the side lost their first four Premier League games of the 2017-18 season.
“The club’s sportive ambitions, as set out in a long-term strategy to be the best in class, clearly fits my personal ambitions,” de Boer said of the Five Stripes in Atlanta's release. “I would like to build on the current success to develop a secure, solid foundation for the club at the top of MLS and beyond. Aside from the club’s ambitions, the values, culture and the philosophy for the entire organization are a vital part in realizing that point of success. This is exactly what I believe in as a person and as a coach. All of this combined, makes that I am really excited to be a part of it.”