Koeman takes well-worn path between Holland and Barcelona

Reuters , Wednesday 19 Aug 2020

Former Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman before the match   REUTERS
Former Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman before the match REUTERS

Ronald Koeman’s appointment as Barcelona’s new coach keeps up a lengthy love affair between the Catalan club and the custodian and heirs of ‘Total Football’ and will have supporters hoping he can be as successful as his compatriots.

He is the fifth Dutchman to take on the job, following in the footsteps of Rinus Michels, Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal and Frank Rijkaard.

Michels was first to take a now well-worn path, appointed in 1971 and when Cruyff came to join him as a player, they ended the club’s long title drought by winning La Liga in 1974.

Cruyff was an instant cult hero after masterminding a 5-0 victory at Real Madrid just a few months after his arrival and leading the side through to a first championship since 1960.

He then cemented his status with four La Liga titles after he took over as coach in 1988, building the playing style and creative culture that is the essence of the modern Barcelona ethos.

“Johan Cruyff painted the chapel, and Barcelona coaches since merely restore or improve it,” said Pep Guardiola, one of his successors.

Barca won 11 trophies under Cruyff, including their first European Cup in 1992 when Koeman blasted home an extra time free kick in the final against Sampdoria at Wembley. Ironically, they were clad in orange kit that night, looking very much like the Dutch national team.

Van Gaal had two spells at Camp Nou, winning the Spanish league twice but not having any success in Europe.

It was Rijkaard who was at the helm in 2006 when they won Europe’s top club prize, by then renamed the Champions League, for a second time, beating Arsenal 2-1 in Paris.

Koeman is the first Dutch coach at the club since Rijkaard, who was replaced by Guardiola. He will have to move quickly to restore confidence after they finished second to Real Madrid in the title race and then suffered a crushing 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in last week’s Champions League quarter-final.

But it will be familiar terrain for Koeman, after playing at the club and then also working there under Van Gaal as an assistant coach.

Koeman, 57, also coached at Valencia and returns now with experience from spells at clubs in Portugal and England, on top of restoring the Dutch national team’s profile after they missed out on the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

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