Emanuelson opted for a long stay at Ajax: ‘I still had to get to know myself’

Urby Emanuelson consciously chose to play at Ajax for a long time at the start of his career. He saw a player like Ryan Babel make the move abroad relatively early, but the former Ajax player himself only opted for an adventure at AC Milan at the age of 24.

“That was a conscious choice for me. I was still young and I still had the feeling that I had to get to know myself’, he says in Building Bridges of FC Rehab. ‘I’m really an emotional person. It just has to feel good. If I’m even in doubt, I don’t feel comfortable with it. I’ve had a lot of chances to leave early, but I’m someone who goes my own way and doesn’t let anyone drive me crazy.’

At Ajax, Emanuelson played together with Ryan Babel, among others. The attacker was only twenty years old when he made the move to Liverpool, but the current assistant coach of FC Utrecht did not look at it with a jealous feeling. “Ryan already went to Liverpool and that made me proud. But I wasn’t like, Ryan is going now, so I have to too. I thought it was my strength that I did my own thing. I stayed with that no matter what. I could be really stubborn about that.’

Years later, Emanuelson decided it was time for him to take the next step in his career. Living and playing football abroad was different and he had to find his way. ‘I’m lucky that I had a lot of support there. Seedorf was there and he helped me a lot. The club also helped me. I was really given time to develop and show myself. I was allowed to make mistakes, despite the fact that you play on a big stage.’

Ten Cate as a trainer

The former Ajax player concludes with an anecdote from his time at Ajax. He came to work with Henk ten Cate, who tried to bring out all the talent in Emanuelson. ‘Ten Cate was a trainer who was after my ass,’ he says. “He gave me a mirror once. He said: Urby, put this mirror in the bathroom and I want you to look in that mirror every morning and ask yourself: Did I do everything I could to become a better footballer today? I started working on it and he helped me a lot.’

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