By Stefan Coerts | Dutch Football Editor
After Netherlands’ disastrous Euro 2012 campaign, national team coach Bert van Marwijk’s departure seemed inevitable. Not only had the former Feyenoord boss failed to live up to the high expectations in Poland and Ukraine, but he had also lost the trust of several squad members as players such as Rafael van der Vaart and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar openly rebelled against Van Marwijk. Indeed, the 60-year-old threw in the towel only 10 days after Oranje crashed out of the European Championship.
A long list of candidates was immediately linked with the vacant position, with Ronald Koeman at one point sitting in pole position to take charge. Nevertheless, the Feyenoord coach ruled himself out of contention after insisting that he had no intention of leaving the Rotterdam giants.
The Dutch Football Association (KNVB) was thus forced to turn their focus elsewhere, and eventually approached Louis van Gaal. The flamboyant coach didn’t need long to ponder over the offer, and jumped at the opportunity to take charge of the 2010 World Cup finalists for a second time.
Van Gaal’s appointment seems an incomprehensible choice at first glance considering his miserable first spell in charge. Hired as the successor to Frank Rijkaard after Euro 2000, the 60-year-old became the first coach since Leo Beenhakker in 1985 to fail to guide the country to a major tournament following a dismal 2002 World Cup qualification campaign.
Guess who's back | Van Gaal is all smiles as he returns to the Netherlands bench
Additionally, the hot-headed trainer seems like the least ideal candidate to deal with the current batch of egotistic Dutch stars. The former Ajax boss has a reputation of being an authoritarian, and has been involved in his fair share of bust-ups with players in the past. His falling out with Rivaldo during his stint Barcelona is one of the most memorable player-versus-coach conflicts, while Luca Toni, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery has also had their run-ins at Bayern Munich.
Nevertheless, Van Gaal boasts a handful of qualities that justify his appointment, most notably his ability to rebuild a team with young and hungry players, and this is likely to be the KNVB’s main reason for re-appointhing the controversial coach.
After this summer’s events in Poland and Ukraine, Oranje have no other option but to discard a number of their ageing players, while those who failed to put the team’s interests ahead of their own at Euro 2012 could face the axe, too.
This means a group of young and relatively inexperienced players will have to be brought into the fold, and this is exactly where Van Gaal excels.
The Amsterdam-born trainer kick-started his coaching career at Ajax, where he built a Champions League-winning team consisting of youngsters such as Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids and Patrick Kluivert, who all made their debut under Van Gaal.
|Van Gaal boasts a handful of qualities that justify his appointment, most notably his ability to re-build a team with young and hungry players
He then moved to Barcelona, where he recognised the potential of Xavi and Andres Iniesta, and he repeated this trick at Bayern Munich a few years later with Holger Badstuber and Thomas Muller.
Admittedly, there’s a big difference between coaching a club and leading a national team, but the fact remains that Van Gaal knows how to integrate promising talent into a team with seasoned stars. Players like Kevin Strootman and Adam Maher have shown last season that they have immense potential, and they are likely to make the step up under the new Netherlands coach.
Furthermore, Van Gaal is a figure who commands plenty of respect thanks to his impressive coaching CV. Not only has he won league titles with Ajax, Barcelona, AZ and Bayern Munich, but he has enjoyed his fair share of success in European competitions, too. A repeat of the Van der Vaart-Huntelaar rebellion at Euro 2012 will not be tolerated by the 60-year-old.
It’s impossible to predict whether Van Gaal will succeed this time around, or if another failure awaits. However, there’s no denying that he has all the qualities needed to get Oranje back on track after an extremely disappointing summer.
One of the most colourful people in the football world has returned to the spotlight, and one can only applaud Van Gaal's desire to make amends for past mistakes as he aims to bury memories of the 2002 World Cup no-show.
They might have been the laughing stock of Euro 2012, but expect the Dutch to be back at their usual best when the 2014 World Cup qualifiers kicks off.
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