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Dutch Master at Work

Louis van Gaal is a Dutch football manager who got a foothold in the coaching world with a brief spell at AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie. His obvious talents went unnoticed and was eventually snapped up by Ajax in 1991.

It was at Ajax where van Gaal was to make his name. Here, the football world and the fanatical fans of Ajax would soon witness a style of play that only magicians could conjure up. The side he created was of youth and experience. The club was famed for its youth academy and from this van Gaal blooded youngsters ( Bergkamp, Winters, George, Kluivert, the De Boer twins) to name but a few into the first team.

After a season of gelling together, van Gaal led his side to their first major honour under his guidance winning the Uefa Cup in 1992. More success was to follow as he won the Dutch Cup in 1993, but it was the league title that had eluded him and he was to capture the coveted Eredivisie title in 1994. Not only was he to win it once but he went on to capture the title in 1995 and 1996. Throw in a triple whammy of Johan Cruyff Shield succeesses which is the equivalent of the English Charity Shield, you could say that at domestic level he had won everything.

The question on everbody’s lips was could van Gaal take his success to the next level – the European stage, pitting their wits against Europes elite clubs. In 1995 va Gaal saw his side claim the scalp of AC Milan to win the European Cup. This was followed up by World Club Cup success as Brazilian side Gremio fell victim to the Dutch masters.

Van Gaal’s success at Ajax meant he was now the most coveted manager in Europe with all major clubs vying for his signature. A call from the Camp Nou in 1997 was to much to resist for van Gaal and he soon took up the hot seat at Spanish giants FC Barcelona. Van Gaal wondered if he could bring success in Spain. How joyous those fans became as van Gaal led Barca to the La Liga title as well as the Spanish Cup and Uefa Super Cup in his first season and he went on to guide them to a successive La Liga title the following season. Despite this success he was wideley criticised and eventually resigned as manager of Barcelona.

Van Gaa’s next job was to manage Holland – his task was to lead them to the 2002 World Cup finals in Japan/Korea. The honeymoon was shortlived as he failed to deliver what was asked of him after his side failed to qualify for the World Cup after defeats to both Portugal and Republic of Ireland. As a conclusion van Gaal resigned from his post.

He returned to Barcelona as manager in 2003, but his tenure was shortlived as he never delivered any success and resigned from his duties.

He returned to the Dutch Eredivisie replacing Co Adrianse as manager of AZ Alkmaar. Although he never won anything with them, he actually won the hearts of the fans with his style of football as it improved the clubs stature and fortunes.AZ finished third in the 2006-2007 season, three points behind champions PSV and runners-up Ajax. Van Gaal also led AZ to the Dutch Cup final in 2007 of which they lost. AZ also missed out on Champions League qualification after narrow losing otut to Ajax 4-2 on aggregate.

The defeat to Ajax felt like a crushing blow to the head of Van Gaal and announced that he would leave AZ citing poor results. Sensing this, several seniors then asked van Gaal to rethink his decision and badgered him to stay for one more season. Van Gaal listened to what the players had to say and therefore made his decision to carry on with the job.

The decision made by van Gaal to stay with unfashionable AZ proved to be a fruitful one as he led them to the Dutch Eredivisie title in a season which will be remembered for a long time to come.

Again the vultures were circling and this time it was the hierachy of Bayern Munich that wanted Van Gaal. The latter didn’t need much persuading and was appointed manager of the Bundesliga club.

Lets hope van Gaal can bring success to Bayern, almost everything he touches seems to turn to gold. If thats the case then he will soon be the toast of Bavaria.

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