Daley Blind will provide Bayern Munich with options, experience, and his Ajax-trained talent after the former Manchester United defender joined the Bundesliga champions — bundesliga.com highlights five things about the Netherlands international.
MASTER OF ALL TRADES
"Many Ajax players can play in various positions. They teach you in the youth academy to play different positions: what is required of a left-back, what's required in midfield," explained Blind, who is likely to be used at centre-back, but could also deputise for Alphonso Davies at left-back.
He would also be a ready-made replacement for Joshua Kimmich in a defensive midfield role, especially due to his ability on the ball and eye for a pass.
"You always try to position yourself on the pitch to be your most effective. I think I'm at my best when I'm on the ball often, so I try to do that," he explained. "Of course, my passing is a big weapon, but I think most of all it's my quick thinking. Always try to have the ball ready to pass after just one or two touches, to change sides. These are all the small things that make football as simple as possible."
The Blind family have a long association with Ajax. Daley's father, Danny, played for the Amsterdam club for 13 years, notably winning the 1994/95 UEFA Champions League and edging into third in the all-time appearance list.
He ended his playing career there in 1999, one year after his son had joined the club as an eight-year-old prospect. "Daley is one of the biggest talents at the club," said Ajax's then-technical director Martin van Geel when a teenage Blind signed a first professional contract in 2007.
He made his first-team debut in the 2008/09 season, but after just five appearances, he joined Groningen — the club where Bayern legend Arjen Robben started his career — on loan where he might have stayed but for a change of heart from then Ajax coach and former Hamburg boss Martin Jol.
He returned to the Dutch capital for the 2010/11 season, starting a run of four successive league titles for himself and the club. His second spell, which started in 2018, brought a further three Eredivisie crowns, including two Dutch doubles, and took him to 333 competitive appearances in the iconic red-and-white shirt.
The secret to his longevity? "I was often reminded by my father to 'live for the game," said Blind, who heeded the advice to limit his off-the-pitch rabbel-rousing with the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen as they came through the Dutch club's famed youth ranks. "I think I understood quickly when I could have a night out and when I couldn't."
HEART TO HEART
"I feel good at the moment," said Blind shortly after being diagonsed with a heart problem having suffered dizziness during a Champions League game in December 2019. "I am trying to come back as soon as possible."
He did return in February 2020 after surgery that saw a defibrillator implanted in his chest.
That is also like his friend Eriksen, whose own on-pitch collapse at EURO 2020 left Blind in tears after playing in the Netherlands' 3-2 win against Ukraine just 24 hours after his former teammate nearly died in Copenhagen.
"Besides the fact that I know Christian well as a friend, the situation for him is terrible," said Blind, who collapsed again in August 2020 during a friendly with Hertha Berlin.
"Of course, I have also experienced a few things in that area, so that I had to overcome a mental hurdle to play."
UNITED WITH VAN GAAL & MOURINHO
Named Dutch Footballer of the Year after the 2013/14 season, Blind's sparkling form inevitably caught the eye of other clubs, and Manchester United secured his signature that summer, allowing him to team up with compatriot Louis van Gaal.
"I am delighted Daley has signed for the club. He is a very intelligent and versatile footballer that can play in many positions," said the former Ajax and Bayern coach. "Daley is a great reader of the game, he has played under my philosophy over a number of years and he will be a great addition to the team."
Blind played for two seasons under LVG before Jose Mourinho took over at Old Trafford and opened Blind's eyes to a different style of coaching.
“Mourinho was completely different from what you know as a Dutch footballer. He is so performance-oriented and tactical," said Blind, who won the English League Cup and UEFA Europa League in 2016/17 with the Portuguese tactician after claiming the FA Cup under Van Gaal in 2015/16.
“It was defensive, but he can read matches in advance like that. He can completely destroy an opponent by putting down the tactics. I thought it was great to experience that."
Blind made his senior international debut in June 2013 when Van Gaal handed him the fabled orange shirt of his country for the first time, going on to help them finish third at the 2014 FIFA World Cup 12 months later.
It was under his mentor that - nine-and-a-half years after his maiden appearance - Blind featured in all of the Netherlands' World Cup games, and in fact played every single minute of De Oranje's matches until being substituted in the second half of the quarter-final defeat to eventual winners Argentina.
“Blind has always delivered in the Dutch national team," said Van Gaal, the team's coach in Qatar. "I am very satisfied with him."
Blind's passing ability and defensive nous served his nation well as he moved onto 99 international caps in Qatar, passing Robben to move to ninth in his country's all-time appearance chart.
He joins former Ajax teammates Matthijs de Ligt, Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui in the Bayern squad, and follows in the footsteps of compatriots such as Robben, Mark van Bommel and Roy Makaay in donning the Bavarian giant's red shirt.
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