They played street football together. Both joined Ajax’s famed youth Academy. And, like any young player, dreamt of football stardom.
But it’s unlikely Edgar Davids and Ulrich Landvreugd – whose footballing careers eventually took wildly different routes – ever believed that they’d be reunited 25 years later in League Two and at Barnet.
After joining Mark Robson at Underhill less than a month ago, it’s fair to say the pair have made an impact at the club.
Since their arrival, the Bees have picked up seven points from four matches and, although Barnet remain bottom of the Football League, there is a positive atmosphere among the supporters.
For Landvreugd, he is enjoying working with his old friend. He said: “It is great. Edgar is a big star and it is nice to see him. I’ve kept in touch with him over the last few years but now we see each other every day again.
“We grew up in the same neighbourhood and we would play on the street and beat other neighbourhoods.
“When I was around 14 years old I was at Ajax and there was an open trial. I took him with me and a year after that he was also playing for Ajax.
“From that period we would play together in the under-21 side. In the same year I had the chance to play in the first team, as did Edgar.”
Having both progressed through Ajax’s Academy, the duo are examples of two contrasting paths a footballer’s career can take.
Davids went on to play for several of the top European clubs, secure three Serie A titles at Juventus and claim a Champions League winner’s medal with Ajax.
Landvreugd left the Dutch giants after finding first-team opportunities limited and joined Fambuur Leeuwarden.
However, he then suffered a serious knee injury. It was one that would end his playing career at just 24.
Like many players who’ve had to retire prematurely, he turned to coaching.
“I tried to get back into professional football when I was 22 until I was 24,” he explained. “I had around four of five operations to try and get back but I could only train three times a week.
“The injury took a lot out of me and sadly I had to stop playing.
“So at 24 I began to take my licences as a coach and I’ve now done UFEA C, B and the A badges.”
Now 40 years old, Landvreugd has more than a decade of coaching experience and worked at Ajax before becoming head coach at FC Blauw-Wit Amsterdam.
He left the club to join the Bees and is pleased Davids gave him the opportunity to coach in England.
He said: “It is great to work with Edgar. He has great knowledge and we are enjoying ourselves.
“I am very happy he gave me the chance to work here and show my skills to the squad.”
The Dutch coach takes first-team coaching sessions with Davids and Mark Robson but is also charged with overseeing the Under-21 side alongside Kenny Brown.
He believes that given their different backgrounds, all the coaches can learn from each other.
“I can learn from the English school about how English coaches work and do things,” he said.
“So everybody can learn from each other. I’m learning from them and I hope I can give them some experience of what I’ve learnt. So it is great.”