AZ Alkmaar sealed the club’s first Dutch championship in nearly 30 years without kicking a ball on Sunday after title rivals Ajax were routed 6-2 by PSV Eindhoven.
Ajax’s defeat means AZ, who have an 11-point lead over second-placed FC Twente, cannot now be caught with only three games remaining.
AZ had missed the chance to be crowned champions in front of their own fans when they lost 2-1 to Vitesse Arnhem on Saturday.
“I must say I wasn’t happy this morning but this makes everything nice,” said Alkmaar coach Louis Van Gaal, who picked up the fourth league title of his career after his years with Ajax. “The fans were ready to celebrate yesterday but it doesn’t matter now that we are champions.”
“The aim now is to turn AZ into a big national club and one that is known in Europe. The president wants to do things in stages which touches every domain and not merely results on the pitch,” he said.
AZ won their only other crown in 1981 and are the only side outside of the traditional Dutch powerhouses of Ajax, Feyenoord and PSV Eindhoven to have claimed the title since 1965.
Van Gaal, who is under contract until 2011, is key to the club situated 40km outside Amsterdam and which came into existence in 1967 with the amalgamation of Alkmaar’54 and FC Zaanstreek.
“He’s a teacher beyond compare,” said Alkmaar striker Moussa Dembele. “With him you learn something new every day.”
Ajax, the most successful side in Dutch history, have failed to win the title for five straight seasons.
Ajax coach Marco van Basten admitted on Sunday that “AZ deserve the title ... AZ were the best team over the past six months.”
AZ have have played in the Eredivisie since 1998 after a post-1981 decline and reached the UEFA Cup semi-finals in 2005, with van Gaal taking the helm later that year.
He considered quitting last summer and when they lost the opening two matches of the current campaign experts predicted that van Gaal would not to make it to the winter.
But AZ then turned the tide in dramatic fashion, starting the unbeaten run of 24 wins and four draws with a 1-0 over PSV on Sep. 20 which van Gaal and the team’s video analyst Max Reckers named the defining moment.