London (AFP) – New Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer believes his disappointing spell as Inter Milan coach has prepared him ideally for the ultra competitive Premier League.
The 47-year-old Dutch footballing great — who was capped 112 times and won the 1995 Champions League with the outstanding Ajax side under Louis van Gaal — told ‘The Times’ he is proud to be crossing swords with the likes of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, both of whom he knew when he played for Barcelona.
“With the coaches here, you want to be here, and that’s why I’m very proud,” said de Boer, who was at the Catalan giants from 1999-2003.
“A friend of mine congratulated me, saying, ‘You can be very proud, you’re one of the 20 managers of the Premier League, the best league in the world, the most watched of the world.'”
De Boer — who along with twin brother Ronald were mainstays of a sublimely-talented Dutch national side in the 1990’s and early 2000’s — says he is looking forward to working with Palace chairman Steve Parish and his team as unlike the Chinese owners of Inter they know their football.
“They have a lot of punishment and reward in China. That’s the culture,” said de Boer.
“The owners wanted the players (locked) in the training ground for one week because they lost a game. They did —- and lost the next game.”
However, de Boer — who suffered the heartbreak of losing on penalties in both the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000 semi-finals — says the Inter experience made him better at his job.
“When you come to training grounds, you see words, messaging that ‘If You Didn’t Fail, You Didn’t Learn Anything’,” said de Boer, who with Ajax became the first coach in Dutch club history to guide a side to four successive league titles (2011-14).
“First you have to fail to be better. I did. It was a good experience. I came out as a better manager.”
– ‘Inventive, explorers’ –
De Boer, who like Ronald ended his playing career in Qatar, has been chosen to fill the vacuum left by Sam Allardyce, who stepped down after last season having accomplished his task of preserving Palace’s Premier League status.
He has been particularly taken by Ivory Coast international wing Wilfried Zaha but insists he is not going to overhaul immediately the ‘Eagles’ counter-attacking style with his more cerebral passing game.
“That kind of player (Zaha) is the one you come to visit the stadium for,” purred de Boer.
“He can make the difference. With the Robbens, Messis and Ronaldos, you have to get those players in their best position so they can show their qualities.
“We want to try that with Zaha because he can be decisive. He’s shown that already; he’s still young (24), can still improve.
“We’re not going to go suddenly totally the opposite (to counter-attacking) -— that’s suicide.
“We do it step by step. To play possession because it’s fun to have the ball has no purpose.”
De Boer says being Dutch there will be no problem to slipping into the new way of life and football style that is the Premier League.
“We (the Dutch) are inventive, we were explorers. We adapt well,” he said.