At one time, the Jaap Stam-Frank de Boer center back tandem was arguably the best in global soccer.
The two best defenders in the Eredivisie – Stam was at PSV Eindhoven and de Boer at Ajax Amsterdam – solidified the Dutch national team’s backline and were a penalty shootout away from the 1998 FIFA World Cup final.
Soon after, de Boer moved to Barcelona and Stam went to Manchester United. They still played together for the national team, and eventually worked for the same club when Stam joined de Boer’s Ajax coaching staff years later.
In 2013-14, Stam was one of de Boer’s assistants, while Siem de Jong captained the Amsterdammers to a fourth-consecutive Eredivisie title.
Stam and de Boer with former Dutch national teammate Marc Overmars. Photo: @AFCAjax, Twitter.
On Thursday, they’ll cross paths once again in the MLS is Back Tournament when FC Cincinnati face Atlanta United FC.
It’ll be the first time the famous center back duo coach against each other.
“The relationship in general, it’s always been good,” Stam said. “Now to meet up and playing against each other in MLS in Orlando, it is something special … I’m looking forward to this particular game.”
Thursday morning’s match will be the second for Stam coaching the Orange and Blue. As for de Boer, he’s in his second season with Atlanta.
“When you're meeting up, when you're playing together in a certain team or a national team then the relationship is very good, but eventually everybody goes his own way and then the communication fades at times,” Stam said. “But I'm sure when we meet up on Thursday, the banter and the communication is there again and then it's like we've never been apart from each other.”