Koeman shows the Mido touch as striker included

AJAX coach Ronald Koeman has included top scorer Mido in his squad for tonight’s Champions League match against Arsenal after the banned player apologised to him and the rest of the squad.

Koeman said that a meeting had taken place at the request of technical director Leo Beenhakker and the entire squad about the 19-year-old striker, who had been relegated to the youth team because of his poor attitude.

“The squad came to me to talk about the whole situation. Mido apologised to the group and to me,” Koeman said yesterday.

“So for me there was no longer any reason to ban him. I took this decision because it is the best for the club.

We probably will need Mido and that also had some influence on the decision.

But for sure this will be his last chance. And towards the rest of the squad I said that they have to correct him if needed,” he said.

Mido, who has scored 18 goals in 36 matches for Ajax this season, missed last Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal at Highbury, but with the Dutch side depleted by injury, Koeman can ill afford to be without his top striker.

Ajax lead Champions League Group B, ahead of Arsenal and Valencia with all three teams on five points from three matches. Mido was banished from Ajax’s first team after a series of incidents which upset Koeman.

The manager’s patience finally snapped when the striker failed to turn up to meet sponsors after the team’s Dutch first division 2-1 win over Groningen last weekend. Koeman also accused Mido of not giving 100% in training sessions.

Koeman also received good news this week as international midfielder Rafael van der Vaart agreed a new contract, which ties one of The Netherlands’ top young talents to the club until at least the end of next season.

Ajax said they had also agreed new terms with Dutch under-21 international midfielder Nigel de Jong, extending his deal until 2006.

With 28 goals in 57 appearances for Ajax, 20-year-old Van der Vaart has attracted the attention of several of Europe’s top clubs and the Dutch champions were delighted to agree the new deal with him, which could run until 2006.

“For Ajax it’s fantastic that Rafael will play for us this coming season,” Ajax technical director Leo Beenhakker said.

“The adjusted contract includes a clause saying that in case of any foreign interest Rafael can’t and will not leave us.”

De Jong, the son of former Dutch international Jerry de Jong, has signed a deal will keep him at the club until the end of the 2005/6 season.

The 18-year-old made his debut for Ajax last October and has already played 15 times for the Dutch under-21 side.

He scored the equaliser in last Tuesday’s 1-1 Champions League draw against Arsenal in London.

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