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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May 18, 2009

Koeman relishing AZ challenge

New AZ Alkmaar coach Ronald Koeman admits he faces a challenge to emulate the success brought to the team by his predecessor, Louis van Gaal.

The 46-year-old was appointed AZ boss on Sunday after reaching an agreement with the club's board on a two-year deal.

Koeman takes the reins from Van Gaal, who is bound for Bayern Munich in the summer, and the former PSV Eindhoven coach required little persuasion in accepting the post.

"For many this is a surprise," he said in an interview on Sport Voetbal. "We started talking on Thursday in the afternoon, first between chairman Dirk Scheringa and Ger Lagendijk (my agent). I was in Portugal.

"This morning (Sunday) we agreed on the conditions for the contract. I was open to a new job and the conversation between the parties went so well that we reached a swift agreement."

Koeman now faces the task of keeping the recently-crowned Eredivisie champions at the top of the pile in Holland.

"They are the Dutch champions and the club has a very good structure." he continued.

"I have seen them play this season and from a distance I've seen the fine job they've done in recent campaigns. And then there's the Champions League to come. That combined makes it a big challenge."

However, Koeman does not mind filling the boots of Van Gaal, who recently guided AZ to their first league title since the 1980/81 season.

"I also went to PSV after Guus Hiddink had won four titles. I managed that and we worked fine there," added the former Holland defender.

"Do we have a chance in the Champions League? Our goal is to stay in the competition until after the winter break.

"That depends on several factors. I did that with Benfica in the past and that squad was no better than AZ. It depends on the draw and the games."

Koeman also insists it is too early to talk about changes to the squad as they prepare to battle on the domestic and European front next term.

"We will talk about that over the next couple of days," he explained.

"There is of course a good selection. It depends also on whether players leave AZ or not. But there is the possibility to do something.

"One of the questions was if the group would stay together. If a very big club comes with a big bag of money, you can't keep a player in Alkmaar."

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