March 29, 2017

How Nigeria will remember retired Van Gaal

Van Gaal
National titles: Ajax (1993-94, 1994-95, 1995-96), Barcelona (1997-98, 1998-99), AZ Alkmaar (2008-09), Bayern Munich (2009-10) Champions League: Ajax (1994-95) Uefa Cup: Ajax (1991-92) FA Cup: Manchester United (2015-16)

DUTCHMAN Louis van Gaal on Tuesday announced his retirement from football coaching citing family reason.

The 65-year-old has been clubless since May 2016 when he  was axed  by Manchester United.

There are tempting offers from China but Van Gaal is calling it a day.

“I could have gone there [China], but I’m still here,” van Gaal told De Telegraaf. “So much has happened in my family that I have been forced to look at things differently.”

The sudden death of his son-in-law had been the catalyst, he said.

“I had said [after leaving Manchester United] that I would stop but I changed that into a sabbatical, but now I believe that I will not return to coaching.”

He made name with giants like Ajax Amsterdam, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, The Netherlands national team and lately, Manchester United.

He became famous in Nigeria as the man who paraded Finidi George and Nwankwo Kanu in the Ajax triumphant squad over more fancied AC Milan in the final of the 1995 Uefa Champions League.

Two seasons before this feat, Ajax was in bankruptcy but Van Gaal was determined to raise a title-chasing team for the 1995 continental challenge.

He had a friend—Clemens Westerhof— who was the Technical Adviser to the Nigeria national team at that material time.

Westerhof recommended George to Van Gaal who without trial, made it to the starting eleven of Ajax.

Two years ago, Van Gaal revealed that it was him and not Ajax who paid for George and Jari Litmani’s transfer to the Amsterdam club.

The case of Kanu was more dramatic.

Nigeria’s U-17 side, the Golden Eaglets were in Holland camp towards the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championship when words got home that Westerhof was distracting the team by attempting to sell the team’s highest goal scorer, (Kanu) to a Dutch team.

Nigeria eventually lifted the trophy and Kanu later went on trial with Ajax. He was promoted to the first team and joined Finidi to be the first two  Nigerians to win the UEFA Champions League,  arecord unmatched by any other African nations.

Van Gaal’s love for Nigerian talent also manifested in the capture of Gbenga Okunowo for FC Barcelona in 1998.

Okunowo was a member of Nigeria’s U-17 team to the CAF/UEFA Meridien Cup in Portugal where he was spotted by the club’s scouts.

Okunowo’s impressive showing at the Barca youth team earned him a chance with the main team.

‘At the training ground, Van Gaal told me he had been watching and would need my strength in the defence where Barca had injury worries,’’ the former Super Eagles player said.

For his role in transforming and encouraging Nigerian players, he stands as a hero but Van Gaal has issues with the media especially with those in England and has a parting word for them.

‘‘Winning last year’s FA Cup with Manchester United , against the backdrop of impending dismissal, was my greatest achievement .I was standing on the gangplank for the last six months. My head was in the guillotine, put there by the English media. And then in those circumstances you have to try and stick to your vision and inspire the players of Manchester United.”