James Rowe spoke to PEC Zwolle’s Manchester City-bound defender Philippe Sandler.
They spoke about his experiences coming through the youth academy at Ajax, as well as life at his current club PEC Zwolle.
Sandler will join Manchester City this summer, and the player spoke about his upcoming move to the Premier League champions elect.
How do you feel the season has gone so far here at PEC Zwolle?
We are satisfied with how the season has gone, especially the first half of the season. We played some great football and picked up a lot of points.
After the winter break we had some difficult fixtures and we hope to pick up points again in the coming matches.
What is it like for you to play under current PEC Zwolle manager John van’ t Schip . What qualities does he have as a manager?
He is a manager who is very relaxed and always wants us to train really hard.
He has great assistants in his back room staff and I believe as a squad that we are really benefiting from that.
Here at PEC Zwolle we play really attacking football, and often defenders have many one on one situations to deal with. I believe as a defender such situations are great opportunities to learn.
You came through the youth set up at Ajax . What was it like for you to come through such a renowned youth system?
It was a fantastic experience and you have to give everything. You have to be able to make the grade.
If you want to reach the top you have to give everything, and I had a great time as a youth at Ajax and I will never forget it .
Ajax also encourage you as a player to be aware of nutrition and power training. They also place emphasis on the education of their youth players too.
This summer you move from Zwolle to Manchester City. How did such a transfer come to fruition?
I heard that scouts from Manchester City were watching me, but you do not expect as a player to go from PEC Zwolle to Manchester City .
I thought initially that they were keeping tabs on me and did not expect them to approach me or PEC Zwolle during the winter break to transfer to the club.
But that is what happened and I am delighted.
PEC Zwolle and Manchester City have reached an agreement for 20-year-old centre-back Philippe Sandler. Fee around €3 million but he will finish the season in Zwolle.
— Football-Oranje.com (@FootballOranje_) January 29, 2018
What were for you the decisive factors when weighing up a potential transfer to Manchester City?
Manchester City scouts came to Amsterdam for talks, and they showed how they go about their business and I was very impressed with the plans that they have for me.
I am really positive about my impending transfer, it’s like a fairy-tale .
The best manager in the world, Pep Guardiola, is currently in charge there, and he can teach me a lot, and also the style in which they play football attracts me a lot.
Other clubs here in the Netherlands showed an interest but as soon as Manchester City approached PEC Zwolle, I wanted to speak with them to arrange a deal. Luckily that is what happened.
Are you already keeping an eye on events in the Premier League this season, and the form that Manchester City are in?
Yes definitely I watch a lot of football and Manchester City are in great form this season, blowing teams away with great football in the Premier League and the Champions League.
I enjoy watching them, and not just because I will transfer to the club this summer. Although I do look forward to facing Sergio Aguero on the training ground!
John van 't Schip (PEC Zwolle coach) on Philippe Sandler: "He will really get a chance (at City). I believe that the entire Manchester City squad will play in the World Cup, so the preseason is an excellent opportunity for Philippe to work with Pep Guardiola and also to play." pic.twitter.com/ztz14E37mB
— City Watch (@City_Watch) March 8, 2018
As someone who is very young, and with your experiences with Ajax and in the Eredivisie, could you say who the best player is that you have played with so far in your career?
Abdelhak Nouri is by far the most gifted player that I have ever played with. We played together in the youth teams at Ajax and Timothy Fosu-Mensah, currently on loan at Crystal Palace who went to England at a very young age, is a fantastic player.
The way that he has developed is great to see.
Who is the most difficult opponent that you have faced so far in your career?
Last season I played against Kasper Dolberg who plays for Ajax, and in my opinion when you play against him you must be on your guard for 90 minutes because he is a great player.
In the youth teams of Ajax we were invited to play in the best youth tournaments, and I often played against Youri Tielemans who currently plays for AS Monaco when he has in the youth team at Anderlecht. He is tremendous player with a bright future in my opinion.
Finally, Philippe, who are the managers that have helped you so far in your professional career?
Casimir Westerveld helped me in lot in my youth team at AFC where I played before I went to Ajax .
He also followed on to Ajax as well and he helped me a lot there too.
My agent is Mino Raiola, who works together with Jose Forte Rodriguez who was a defender at AZ Alkmaar during his career, and they have both helped me a lot in my career so far.