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Four reasons PSV Eindhoven are overtaking Ajax on and off the pitch

PSV Eindhoven could be on the verge of a record-breaking season in the Eredivisie following an astonishing start to the 2023/24 campaign.

Last weekend’s 2-1 victory at reigning champions Feyenoord was the Eindhoven outfit’s 14th win in as many league games under new manager Peter Bosz.

Heading into Thursday’s home fixture against Heerenveen, the Peasants are full of confidence, vying for another success that would bring them within two triumphs of a historic feat.

If Bosz’s side can win their next three top-flight outings, it would equal the best-ever start to a new Eredivisie campaign – a record PSV set themselves back in 1987/88.

More importantly, it would probably lay the foundation for a long-overdue title as they bid to climb to the podium for the first time since 2017/18, having finished runners-up four times in the last five years.

PSV fell seven points short of defending champions Feyenoord last season and had to settle for winning two other domestic trophies, namely the KNVB Cup and the Johan Cruyff Shield.

To win the latter, they had to overcome arch-rivals Ajax on penalties. 

And while years of flirting with the most coveted piece of silverware in Dutch football inevitably suggested PSV would soon win the title, the Lancers have experienced an epic downfall. 


From a team that, under Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag, almost made it to the Champions League final only a few years back and won three league titles in the past five years, they’ve become unrecognisable.

How did this happen?

Transfer dealings

PSV have been arguably the busiest Eredivisie club in the transfer market in recent years, constantly looking for value and ways to increase the quality of the squad. 

When the club lost last season’s joint-top scorer Xavi Simons to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer, many had thought they’d lose a cutting edge in 2023/24. 

Only 14 rounds into the new campaign, the Peasants boast a formidable +44 goal difference, having netted a jaw-dropping 50 goals at an average of 3.57 per game. 

To better understand PSV’s meteoric rise in the Eredivisie, we must delve into the astute signings and strategic acquisitions made during the transfer window.

In addition to keeping hold of their academy’s up-and-coming talents, such as Ismael Saibari and Johan Bakayoko, they’ve adopted Bayern Munich’s policy of landing the league’s brightest prospects. 

Summer arrivals such as Armel Bella-Kotchap, Sergino Dest, Hirving Lozano, Noa Lang and Malik Tillman have taken PSV to the next level in domestic football. 

Unlike the runaway league leaders, Ajax might have let their new-found appetite for profits cloud their thinking. 

For years, the Amsterdam giants have been reaping significant rewards for offloading their most highly-rated academy graduates to the highest bidders. 

They’ve been at the forefront of young talent development in European football for decades and could’ve let themselves believe the factory cannot hit a barren run. 

But it had to happen at one point. You can’t expect to produce generational talents year after year. 

Ajax’s mistake was refusing to replace their departed stars with new faces, often reluctantly spending insignificant amounts of money on reinforcements. 

It had to backfire sooner rather than later. 

Managers

Although PSV failed to wrestle back the Eredivisie crown from Ajax under Roger Schmidt’s guidance between 2020 and 2022, the German’s appointment was already a step in the right direction. 

Making Schmidt, a highly-accomplished tactician, their manager was a statement of intent, showing unwavering ambition to fight for domestic and continental honours. 

After parting with the 56-year-old in 2022, having won two domestic titles during his reign, the Peasants brought back club legend Ruud van Nistelrooy. 

In his only season in charge, the former Man Utd striker inspired PSV to two cup trophies before relinquishing the managerial post with one league game to spare. 

While Van Nistelrooy failed to lead the club to the Champions League group stage, his successor, Bosz, has passed the test with flying colours as the Eindhoven club thrashed Sturm Graz and Rangers in qualifiers.

By contrast, Ajax have stuttered in the post-Ten Hag era. 

Experiments with Alfred Schreuder, John Heitinga and Maurice Steijn didn’t pay off, with the Lancers faltering on all fronts. 

The latter didn’t last for ten rounds into the 2023/24 season, as the club relieved him of his duties after a disastrous 4-3 defeat at Utrecht in late October.

Ajax needed a wartime manager to bail them out of trouble after caretaker boss Hedwiges Maduro flopped, culminating with an embarrassing 5-2 defeat to none other than PSV.

Instead of scouring the market for a big-name solution, they turned to a familiar face. Former Lancers assistant John van ‘t Schip has taken interim charge of the team until the end of the season.

European achievements

While steadying the ship in the Eredivisie with four wins in five (D1), the ex-Greece national team head coach has failed to turn Ajax’s underwhelming European campaign around.

As the only winless side in Europa League Group B, the Lancers are on the brink of elimination from continental football unless they can beat AEK Athens at home on Matchday 6.

It would at least help them switch to the Europa Conference League knockouts. 

By contrast, PSV fashioned a superb second-half comeback to overhaul a 2-0 deficit and defeat Sevilla 3-2 in their last Champions League outing, securing knockout qualification with a game to spare. 

They’ll feature in Champions League springtime fixtures for the first time in five years, testifying to Bosz’s splendid work at the Philips Stadion. 

Finances

PSV’s on-field success is well-documented, but the club has been making strides off the pitch.

In 2022/23, they displayed commendable off-field performance by notably increasing their pre-tax profit from €1.4 million to €17.5m. 

Moreover, their revenue soared by €7.4m, marking an 8% increase from €93.2m to an all-time high of €100.6 million, signifying their inaugural breakthrough past the €100m threshold.

Despite revenue growth, expenses also escalated by €7.9m (a 6% increase) from €134.8m to €142.7m, resulting in the club registering an operating loss of €42.1m.

To put it in perspective, after facing a €4.4m tax charge, PSV’s profit after tax surged from €1.2m to €13.1m.

Sacrificing financial gains for on-field success is what makes fans come to the stadiums in numbers, and it’s unsurprising that the matchday revenue grew €7.0m (40%) from €17.7m to €24.7m.

PSV’s pre-tax profit of €17.5m ranked as the second-best result in the league, falling short only of Ajax’s notably higher figure of €55m.

It unequivocally shows where the Lancers leadership’s allegiance rests. 

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