For years, AZ has been battling to be among the top four in the Dutch Eredivisie. A club with a glorious past and hopefully bright future, in which case you can bet a lot on AZ.
History of the club
AZ’s official founding year is 1967, which is also reflected in the former club name AZ ’67. The foundation was the result of a merger between Alkmaar ’54 and FC Zaanstreek.
The latter club became a professional club in 1964 when brothers Klaas and Cees Molenaar were in charge. They also invested a lot in AZ ’67 from 1972 when the club ran into financial problems shortly after its foundation.
This already paid its dividends a few years later. In the year 1976/1977, AZ were already third in the Eredivisie behind Ajax and PSV, but ahead of Feyenoord. Moreover, they had a much better goal difference.
The following season, the advance continued under coach Hans Kraay senior. AZ again finished third and won the KNVB Cup. In the Europa Cup III (now Europa League), AZ lost in the second round only after penalty kicks to FC Barcelona, which included Johan Cruijff.
This was followed by another third place and even a second place in the Eredivisie. The 1980/1981 season was to be the crowning achievement of the Molenaar brothers and then coach Georg Kessler. The former national team coach (1966-1970) led AZ to the national title as well as the KNVB Cup.
The big disappointment, however, was that year’s loss of the UEFA Cup final. AZ took on Ipswich Town of coach Bobby Robson and, among others, Arnold Mühren and Frans Thijssen in the squad in two matches.
On 6 May, Ipswich Town won 3-0 at home, so the return seemed a formality. AZ made it exciting by leading 4-2 20 minutes before time, but that was all. The final was lost.
In 1981-1982, AZ won the KNVB Cup again. This was followed by an exodus of top players however, who went to try their luck elsewhere. The rankings in the Eredivisie dropped immediately: from 11 to 6 to 13, 9, 15 and 16 in 1987-1988. That 16th spot also meant relegation for the Alkmaar club.
New direction at AZ
In the early 1990s, therefore, a new ‘sugar daddy’ came to the club’s rescue: Dirk Scheringa with his bank Frisia (later DSB). In 1996 and 1998, AZ won the title in the Eerste Divisie and after the latter, AZ remained at the highest level. From 2002, Co Adriaanse led the club to greater heights and from 2005 Louis van Gaal.
Adriaanse reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2005 and a third place in the Eredivisie. Van Gaal finished second in 2006 and could even grab the double in 2007. As leaders, AZ squandered the title by losing 3-2 to Excelsior however.
PSV took the bowl by beating Vitesse so comprehensively that it left Ajax behind. In the cup final, AZ lost to Ajax after penalties (8-7). In 2008-2009, AZ and Louis van Gaal took revenge by becoming national champions.
However, after the bankruptcy of DSB in late 2009, it became more difficult to maintain those successes. Despite a small dip in 2013 and 2014, AZ has maintained itself in the high sub-top of the Eredivisie. Since 2015, the club has been structurally finishing in the top six with a second place finish in 2019/2020 being the highlight.
Club icons AZ
Of course, for the Alkmaar club’s club icons, we mainly look at the success years. These began in the mid-1970s under coach Hans Kraay senior and were cashed in by Georg Kessler. They led the club to great heights. Before he took office in 1976, there were already a number of players who would play a key role in AZ’s first glory days.
Ronald Spelbos, John Metgod and Hugo Hovenkamp held it together at the back. They would also reach 21 and 31 international matches respectively for the Dutch national team. AZ’s attack at the time was particularly feared however.
Kees Kist was above all the goalgetter: in ten years, he reached no fewer than 259 goals. That earned him two top scorer titles in the Eredivisie and the European Golden Shoe in 1978-1979. He was assisted by Dane Kristen Nygaard, Volendam’s Pier Tol and, briefly, Austrian Kurt Welzl.
So the 1990s saw an advance from the First Division to the Eredivisie. The most loyal player from that time was Michael Buskermolen. From 1990 to 2006, he played his entire career for AZ. Not for nothing is he also the record holder with 399 matches and is called ‘Mister AZ’.
In the mid-1990s, he was supported by two Barrys: Barry Opdam and Barry van Galen, accounting for 12 and 9 years of AZ.Between 1993 and 2004, Peter Wijker could also be found in an AZ shirt.
The 2008/2009 championship team (under Louis van Gaal) includes Mounir El Hamdaoui, Kew Jaliens, Maarten Martens, Mousa Dembélé, Sergio Romero and Graziano Pellè.
Looking back at 2021/2022
AZ and coach Pascal Jansen might have expected more from the 2021/2022 season beforehand. The best acquisition at the start of the season was Vangelis Pavlidis, who scored 16 times in the Eredivisie.
Coach Jansen’s young team started with four defeats in the first six games and relatively early elimination in the Conference League. From November onwards however, things went extremely well. In 22 matches, AZ lost only three times.
The fifth spot yielded play-offs for the Conference League. Twice AZ made up for defeat, against Heerenveen and Vitesse.
Looking ahead at 2022/2023
In the 2022-2023 Eredivisie, AZ actually hopes to compete for the top three. Third place would guarantee a third preliminary round UEFA Conference League. Numbers 4-7 will play play-offs for a spot in the second preliminary round Conference League. Of course, winning the KNVB Beker is a possibility to enter the more lucrative Europa League.
AZ had to say goodbye to defender Owen Wijndal, who was recruited by Ajax. Norwegian midfielder Fredrik Midtsjø went to Galatasaray and Moroccan striker Zakaria Aboukhlal to Toulouse. In their place were the likes of Jens Odgaard (from Sassuolo) and Riechedly Bazoer from Vitesse.
We expect AZ to do better than last season but not better than Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord. Therefore, we tip them for the fourth spot in the Eredivisie.
AZ Alkmaar, commonly known as AZ, was founded on May 10, 1967, through a merger of Alkmaar ’54 and FC Zaanstreek.
AZ has had notable players such as Kees Kist, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Arjen Robben, Louis van Gaal, and recent stars like Teun Koopmeiners and Calvin Stengs.
AZ has not won any major European titles; however, they have had notable performances in European competitions, reaching the UEFA Cup Final (now UEFA Europa League) in the 1980-1981 season.
Apart from winning two Eredivisie titles, AZ has also won the KNVB Cup (Dutch domestic cup) four times and the Johan Cruyff Shield (Dutch Super Cup) twice.
AZ has been guided by various successful coaches, including Louis van Gaal, who led the club to the Eredivisie title in the 1980s, and Dick Advocaat, who contributed to the club’s success in the early 2000s.