Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

It was the former Louis van Gaal, but also a twist on the current van Gaal. The Dutch coach once asked one of his analytics teams to do very specific research because he wanted to get an idea about a particular playing field. The staff went and did their duty responsibly, but cautioned that it may not be possible to quantify as van Gaal wanted.

“This is low quality,” Coach said when he finally saw it.

“But that’s exactly what you want!” staff protested. Van Gaal fixed that look on her before giggling and patting her on the back. The Dutch coach is famous for his honesty, but also unmistakably honest – at least to himself.

This has been seen more than ever in the last few months until the landing in Qatar. Van Gaal will not be as diplomatic as other managers about the nature of this World Cup. None of Gareth Southgate is making sensible escapades for him. Van Gaal has already described it as “bull**t”.

“It’s ridiculous that the World Cup is there,” he said a few months ago. “It’s about money, it’s about business interests.”

Just this week, Van Gaal told people he agreed with Dutch fans to boycott the tournament. “They’re right.”

This World Cup has been normalized in such a way that many in football willfully blindfolded it, and van Gaal’s willingness to delve into it caused a phrase to circulate about him: “One of the last honest men. In football.”

He is also someone who cares a lot about football.

Van Gaal’s idea of ​​wandering around Fifa’s village of Potemkin and telling everyone what is a story in itself warrants a documentary crew of its own, but it’s pulled much deeper. The reason for this was the rare lie of this honest man, although necessary and understandable.

Van Gaal did not tell his players during qualifying that he was suffering from aggressive prostate cancer.

Extremely admirable courage, reinforced by the 71-year-old coming out of retirement to save his country’s underperforming team and try to get one last shot at victory.

Some may think that the poignant circumstances allowed van Gaal to speak more freely, but that would be a lie in itself. He’s acting like himself, as Ajax’s Steven Berghuis finds out when he sends a message to the manager that he’s sick.

A WhatsApp message came back quickly.

“Thanks. I hope you’re ready to become a world champion.”

Berghuis said he found the message poignant.

It can also be read as Van Gaal being suddenly demanding and being honest with himself. The strength of the manager’s personality combined with his football knowledge certainly brought more from the Netherlands.

Steven Bergwijn (left) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a qualifying goal against Norway.

(AFP via Getty Images)

He brought them together, making an early-growing but incomplete and inexperienced group of young people much more than they were. This Dutch team looks like they could easily make it to the quarterfinals, which is promising for the future – like France in 2014.

Not for Van Gaal. It’s all about the now, about seizing an opportunity. He’s here to win the World Cup and has impressed the players equally. They’re in a great run and look like they could match anyone in a World Cup without being a super favourite.

They also have this great emotional reason, which only strengthens Van Gaal’s bond with his team. Some may see this as a new development for the manager himself, but in fact it is not.

While many players in the past are fed up with the 71-year-old player and his demands, former Dutch international Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink insists this is always an exaggeration.

“Oh, he’s number one, man,” Hasselbaink says. Independent. “He is at the top in every field. On the field, off the field, there is always an idea with him. The tactical aspect is his training, which is always intense and always sharp.

“I was very good with him. He was very good at keeping time. If we have a meeting at 12 noon, you’ll be there two minutes before 12. If you have dinner and everyone has to wear a suit, they expect you to wear it. It goes this far in the details.”

There are stories that Van Gaal sent players back to their rooms because they preferred to wear flip-flops with their sweatpants instead of the expected sneakers. But what has always been important to Hasselbaink is for van Gaal to explain his reasoning. Wayne Rooney was another high-profile actor who felt the same way. Van Gaal might have given him immediate instructions that Rooney might not have liked, but the manager would explain why and that would convince him.

“Some will say it’s an army camp, but he says that if you follow such instructions, you will follow the instructions on the field and stick to team ethics,” Hasselbaink explains.

Van Gaal speaks to the players during a training session at Qatar University in Doha

(Getty Images)

Some players couldn’t handle it. “He and [Pierre] van Hooijdonk – not well,” Hasselbaink chuckles. “But I think he’s changed a bit. He’s softened.

It also evolved. There is an instructive story that illustrates this.

In Van Gaal’s first stint as Dutch manager in 2001, a very talented but sick team was 1-0 down against Ireland in Dublin. They had to score two goals or they would be eliminated from the World Cup, so the manager agreed. Up to a point. Although Van Gaal made a striker, he did not deviate from his ideological purity in the 4-3-3. Hasselbaink was introduced as a winger.

“Yes,” Hasselbaink laughs now. “And that was a big mistake. He continued with 4-3-3. My best position was forward but he put me on the right flank. I tried to do a job for the team.”

It didn’t work. The Netherlands were defeated, did not qualify and as a result ended van Gaal’s term and he was chosen as the Antonio Conte of his time.

He was seen as one of the best managers in the world until then, especially since his young Ajax in 1995 saw the path to Champions League glory with this very ideological naiveté. But the game was changing, so van Gaal had to change.

It has gone through several renaissances now. There was the championship with AZ Alkmaar in 2009, the run to the Champions League final with Bayern Munich in 2010 and of course the semi-finals with the Netherlands in the 2014 World Cup.

Most of these involved tactical moves far from teams Ajax and Barcelona, ​​but now they have gone almost to the other extreme. Van Gaal adapted a line-up specifically for one team. With many of the Netherlands’ best talents in defense and midfield, he chose a wing-back line-up that he certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of in 1995 or 2001. It also brought an acceptance that Dutch football culture and media usually wouldn’t. to let.

Van Gaal leads education in Doha

(AFP via Getty Images)

There would even be room for a younger Hasselbaink out front.

“I definitely think I’ll have a place,” Hasselbaink smiles now. “He changed that, but just because he’s Louis van Gaal, the journalists don’t put him in trouble.

“There is no discussion about 4-3-3. You must understand that things did not go well under Frank de Boer; it was actually pretty bad. Now van Gaal took over and changed things. They are more robust. They beat Germany. He admitted that he has really good defenders, so I think he’s lined up accordingly because of the opportunities he has.”

In other words, he stays loyal to his team and to himself.

Van Gaal believes the Netherlands can win the first World Cup in its history. He convinced his players. That honesty shines.