Louis Van Gaal – The Biography
By Marten Meijer
Ebury Press – £7.99
I always had the feeling there was a lot more to the outspoken Dutch football manager, Louis van Gaal, than a mere menagerie of scowl tinged, dirty looks aligned with riotous quips and incendiary put-downs. The latter of which is particularly pertinent whenever the Amsterdammer is confronted by certain members of a staid and equally incendiary media – especially within that of The Netherlands.
An altogether boisterous and bemusing example of which can be found in the eleventh chapter (‘Van Gaal and the Media’) of this more than insightful read, Louis van Gaal – The Biography, where author Marten Meijer writes: ”When Voetbal International reporter Ted van Leeuwen asked a ‘dumb question,’ van Gaal gave the celebrated response,, ‘Are you really that dumb, or am I so clever?”’
Wry, witty and to the point, this overtly enjoyable/readable biography, tackles many, if not most of the idiosyncratic (although some would argue, dictatorial) behaviour patterns, that have long been associated with what many consider to be one of the greatest European managers of all time.
His current tenure at the helm of Manchester United may well prove this to be the case; although his managerial tactics – some of which have been ”developed by the Israeli army to track the movement of tanks on the battlefield” – at Ajax, AZ Alkmaar, Barcelona and of course, Bayern Munich, may have already placed him alongside the ranks of Shankly, Ferguson and Mourinho et al.
To be sure, there are numerous examples throughout this brazen biography, that do much to substantiate the tactical thinking behind the so-called ‘Iron Tulips’s’ footballing ideology. In chapter thirteen for instance (‘The Louis van Gaal Menu’), we stumble upon such discerning discourse as the following: ”I am ”two in one,” a harmony and a process coach. I build a relationship with the players. In that relationship it is clear what my vision is and how we can realise it within the team […]. I do not believe in war and punishment […] There is a certain distance between the players and me, and that is good. But players from 16 up to 35 make up the group. Some are still on their way to adulthood, so I fulfil a fatherly role. But I can also be a tormentor. I conduct myself according to the circumstances. But the precondition is that there has to be a relationship. That is why I rarely scold players; I am more emotional and direct. When you work in a punishing way, you correct someone based on his behaviour. But someone’s behaviour is part of his identity, so I don’t think that is useful. I rather look for solutions in communication. It may be necessary to penalise, but in the end the player has to want to make the right choice. Otherwise you get an unworkable situation.”
As mentioned at the outset, one wouldn’t normally akin such considered thinking with the feisty Dutchman, which is why Louis van Gaal – The Biography makes for such compelling reading.
Compelling, might I add, for all the right reasons.