louis van gaal and josé mourinho – alike, but still different

it’s quite a few months ago, now. 8 months, to be exact. louis van gaal and josé mourinho were at the sidelines in the year’s second most important final of the year. in the bernabeu, their clubs bayern munich and internazionale milan were playing the final. and those two trainers seemed so different; here the tall and pretty big dutch, there the shorter and smarter looking portuguese.

van gaal won the champions league with ajax in 95, eliminating bayern with a 5x2 in the semifinals...

actually, there not that different at all. and not at all trendy, either. everywhere in europe, the young coaches with clear concepts, humble but firm image and smart sentences are taking over more and more clubs; the money is short, and suddenly the coach becomes a more important figure to make the little money invested give out the maximum output. but mourinho and van gaal are different; and, to a certain agree, alike.

both had great success early in their career, with clubs that shouldn’t had it. mourinho formed a great fc porto team, which one the uefa cup and the champions league in the early 2000s; van gaal won the uefa cup and the champions league with ajax amsterdam almost a decade earlier. both counted on young and still unknown players, which all became pretty famous in their later career. both used the chance to get to a bigger club; mourinho joined english giants chelsea, van gaal went to fc barcelona. both had immediate national success, but difficulty to repeat european glory. this is were the career parallel ends. and where their story begins.

van gaal and mourinho working together at barcelona.

when van gaal was in barcelona, he made his translater josé mourinho his assitance coach. how were these two ego-maniacs able to work together? well, one was the boss, and in the position to be generous – van gaal loves to be generous, and he even gave mourinho full coaching opportunities. the pupil went on to work for fc porto, and the “master” was called by the dutch federation when barcelona didn’t want him anymore. we’ll come back to that, later.

mourinho beat van gaal in the champions league final last may.

van gaal had a historical football disaster as holland’s chef coach, and the netherlands didn’t qualify for the 2002 world cup. for van gaal, it was back to the beginnings after a few years out of business. he started at az alkmaar – and got them very close to the title in 2008, and to the title in 2009. there was no doubt, he was a fantastic football teacher. and he got his dream job back to a top club, at bayern munich, where they were looking for a football teacher.

mourinho was still having national success, now with inter in the serie a, but not in europe. little did the two men know that they would meet in may 2010, in the bernabeu, where mourinho now works.

one can say that the pupil has surpassed the master. career-wise, having coached chelsea, inter and now real madrid. in the champions league final, beating bayern 2×0. the duel is still on, but what do these two friends have in common?

mourinho, a winner for fc porto, too. and beloved!

mourinho and van gaal are completely convinced of their superior knowledge in all things football. everyone around, including journalists, get the idea that they’re amateurs, compared to these one-man-shows. real madrid is a huge club with gigantic history, and has stars like cristiano ronaldo, kaká, casillas and özil, but they are completely overshadowed by mourinho. he is the club, and he needs it to be that way. when something doesn’t work his way, be it outside or inside the club, the press will know. and the power is in his hands.

van gaal tends to make everyone around him feel a little dumber, too. he has that effect on people, since he is very convinced of his vision of football and of all of his decisions. he listens to others, but at the end he’ll do what he thinks is right, which normally remains unchanged. this is what he has in common with his former protegée – a high opinion of his abilities, with results to back it up. these coaches are becoming rare, but both van gaal and mourinho dominate their respective scenes.

but this is where we come to the differences, which are quite a few. it starts with the view of the sport: mourinho is more pragmatic and wants to win at any cost, even at cost of “beautiful football”; of course, he too likes the game played well, but he prefers to just simply win matches. both chelsea and inter got a reputation for playing defensively, on the fast counter-attack – and that’s how inter beat bayern in the 2010 champions league final. some say that he can’t do that in real madrid. mourinho says that will work with whatever player material he has, but at the end, real is mourinho – until he leaves (which he loves to play with, the idea of leaving). van gaal, on the other hand, wants to win and dominate; he is always in search of the perfect game, his teams always play with ball possession and try to attack. the normal system is to tire the opponents in the first half, and to finish off the match in the second.

another philosophical difference is that of players. mourinho is confident enough that he will remain to be the main star, so he is always in search for players that are ready to go in and win titles. van gaal prides himself in giving young players their first chances, many times against public and even internal opinion. the list of players he’s put on the pitch first is very long and extremely prominent. it’s part of what he does best. so he doesn’t really like big stars in his club, some say because he has to be the biggest star.

another difference is the leadership style. although both are absolute aplha-types, it seems that mourinho gets along better with the players; he seems to be able to communicate with them better, speak their language, motivate and convince them. he’s from portugal (were the wanting to win gene was developed), van gaal is dutch (domination and beautiful game); the success gives van gaal reason, the actual playing, not the communication off-field. van gaal is funny in his own way, but he has no closeness to players, simply because he’s not good at it. they all respect him, but they don’t love him like mourinho’s players do. this might be the biggest difference. both have total support within their squads currently, but everyone who leaves bayern has no warm words for van gaal (mostly players from southern countries).

having problems with his boss: van gaal and uli hoeness.

a further and final difference is the clubs their working for. real madrid has had lots of success with the philosophy of building up and international star team and winning glorious titles. it was like that in the 50s, and it still is like that now. so there is no “real” philosophy outside of buying, and the buying of mourinho is another example for that. this allows mourinho to totally dominate the team, since it has no historical values or traditions, per say – besides winning at any cost. bayern munich is very different, and quite unique in europe. club president uli hoeness, bayern president karlheinz rummenigge and manager christian nerlinger are all ex-players at bayern and for germany. hoeness has been at the club since the 60s, and the club is not used to having someone from the outside being a “one-man show”. louis van gaal is always very direct about his thoughts, and journalists, although slightley afraid of him, know how to take advantage. hoeness and van gaal will never become friends, and it might seem that the german is preparing a premature exit for his great dutch coach if the results don’t come. van gaal has become a coach that will only be able to stay if he has success – exactly what happened to him at barcelona. that’s spain’s only team with a tradition of how they want to play football, and some other values. they didn’t like van gaal’s natural arrogance, but he won them two la liga titles in a row. when it seemed who wouldn’t manage a third, he was fired; and that after bringing forth andres iniesta, carles puyol and victor valdez, amongst others. he did make the mistake of bringing in a bunch of dutch players and fighting with the biggest star (rivaldo), which he didn’t do at bayern. and i, as a bayern fan, would like van gaal to stay as long as possible. he’s just that good, and the players know it, too. but it seems that he can’t really control his ego in moments he should.

the funny thing is that both mourinho and van gaal are really nice guys, and most journalists will confirm this. funny, interesting and extremely capable of doing their job. but where for one, the one-man-show is part of his success story, for the other, it might be, once again, his downfall.

mourinho = real madrid

bayern will meet inter in the round of 16 of this season’s champions league. real madrid will try their revenge on olympique lyon, who eliminated them last season. interesting matches, for sure. and maybe a next step to a revenge in the final, between van gaal and mourinho?

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thomas müller – what a career!

 

thomas müller has had quite the career so far...

the day is friday, august 15, 2008. jürgen klinsmann is bayern munich’s new coach, but the team is having some injury problems right in the beginning of the season, after a pretty successful euro 2008 for the germans. bayern had played the uefa cup in the previous season, for the first time since the 1998/99 season – and they’d lost in the semifinal against tymoshchuk and his zenit st petersburg. klinsmann was supposed to give the team some new inspiration after the end of the second ottmar hitzfeld era. that era ended with tears for the old “general”, tears of emotion at his and oliver kahn’s departure. klinsmann came to make all things new.

but on said friday, the first matchday of the brand new bundesliga season, some players were still not fit, and others are injured. klinsmann invites 18-year old thomas müller to sit on the bench. lucio still plays for bayern, so does zé roberto. toni kroos is younger than müller and hasn’t moved to leverkusen yet, and lukas podolski is still at bayern. all of them start in the season opener, at home against hamburg. schweinsteiger and podolski, germany’s best known friends at the time, score for bayern, but hamburg ties the game before an hour is over. 2×2 seemed like a pretty unsatisfying result. klinsmann reacts – after 79 minutes, miroslav klose goes out, and thomas müller comes in.

thomas who? another young talent to fail at bayern, or one oif the few who make it? he didn’t really make an impression in his first bundesliga match, and he didn’t play for the the first team again until his much more memorable appearance almost seven months later; bayern thrashed sporting lisbon 7×1 at home in the champions league round of 16, and müller came in at the end, assisting to a van bommel goal a minute after he entered, and scoring the last goal of the evening. this time, fans and media had noticed him somewhat.

 

louis van gaal and his protegee thomas müller, early in the 2009/10 season.

klinsmann was soon sacked, and former bayern and real madrid coach jupp heynckes took over for the remaining matches. he too gave thomas müller some playtime, in the two final matches, decisive for bayern’s ambitions to clinch a champions league spot and even rally wolfsburg for an unlikely title. thomas müller was made a pro (he was a regular and a goal scorer in the amateur team) and began the new season under louis van gaal as the number five striker.

van gaal was not the first one to see the talent – klinsmann and heynckes had played müller in some big matches, despite his young age. but he was the first one to bet on it, and after just a couple of weeks, müller was the favorite to play the “10” position schweinsteiger wanted – and so did ribéry and josé ernesto sosa. it became clear that van gaal was totally convinced of müllers exceptional talent: he played him as a “10”, as a right winger, as a left winger, as an attacker – müller was put in every position but the bench. he started every single game under van gaal, in cup, champions league or bundesliga matches. and he trully showed his value, even at such a young age (19 to 20). his momentum was so incredible that müller only played once for the national team before the world cup, in a friendly against argentina. maradona, the gaucho coach, even thought that the guy next to him in the press conference was some ball boy. how ironic, since it was müllers 2nd minute strike against argentina which defined the coach’s destiny.

 

müller scores for germany in the world cup 2010, where he became the golden boot winner.

müller played and played. he won the german cup, scored 13 goals in his first real bundesliga season from the right midfield position (and inumerous assists added to that), and after the quarterfinal against argentina, one of the main discussing points in the brazilian media (!) was thomas müller missing the semifinal due to a yellow card, and germany’s lesser chances against spain because of it. that’s what i call a career on the fast lane!

thomas müller came back for the 3rd place match and scored the first german goal, winning himself a trophy last won by gerd müller, his name-buddy and former coach in the amateur team: the golden boot of best striker of the world cup was his.

he got it today. congratulations, a physical evidence of his fast rise to the top.

 

müller with his golden boot, alongside forlan and casillas, who also won prizes from fifa.

by the way, everyone was curious to watch him play in his first match for bayern after the whole world cup and incredible first career season, where the lad got to play a champions league final! if you haven’t gotten the chance to see his goal against wolfsburg in the first matchday of this bundesliga season, check this out. two years after his appearance in he bundesliga opener, he produces this after only 8 minutes of new season football.

 

Published in: on December 15, 2010 at 15:32  Leave a Comment  
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the beginning of an era for bayern munich

in 1988, i became a bayern munich supporter. I already liked to play football, but i didn’t really follow the sport – there was no such culture in my family. actually, I don’t really know how i came to fall in love with the game, playing it. but i do remember when I started watching it. the euro 88 was held In germany, where I had been living for three years. I followed the national team closely, and i still remember the first game against italy, with andreas brehme’s goal to tie it up, 1×1. i still remember the 2×0 victory over denmark, with olaf thon scoring the decisive second goal with his head – being the shortest man on the team. the semifinal loss against the netherlands, with the classical matchup kohler against van basten went to the dutch attacker and best player in the world of his time. van basten scored two minutes from time, and germany, who had lead by a matthäus penalty, was out.

and i was in. since that tournament, i remember almost all of germany’s matches in euros and world cups. and i became a bayern-fan under the influence of my best childhood friend, who oddly enough lived not too far away from  dortmund – and i grew up close to hamburg.

the past of bayern: mehmet scholl

bayern had painfully lost the 1987 european cup final to porto, their second defeat in a final, in the decade. at the time, of course, only champions participated in the champions cup, and bayern represented germany pretty frequently in the 80s, mostly reaching the semifinals. my first favorite player was andreas brehme, who played for bayern at the time. after he left for inter milan, olaf thon was my number one; and then, with the arrival of mehmet scholl, he became my favorite player for over a decade. bayern always had pretty good teams and did win the bundesliga quite a few times in these 22 full seasons of being a fan. but there was really never on as good as the current team.

after scholl ended his exciting and somewhat tragic career, i kept looking for a new favorite player. i finally made my decision in the preseason before 2009/10. a young attacker i was following in bayern’s second team had been offered a pro contract; he’d been at the club since he was a young teenager, and the had a certain style to his play that i liked. before the first game of the season, i bought a jersey with the number 25, from the up to then unknown thomas müller. and what a run he has had.

the future of bayern: müller & badstuber...

müller is an important piece of the current team. he represents bayerns strengths quite well: confident without being cocky, intense, willing to play for the team (including defensively), ready to risk – and pretty successful, to say the least. when i first put on my jersey in august 2009, i couldn’t have imagined that he would become the world cup top scorer in south africa, and probably the most exciting german player in an exciting german team.

the question is, though: were should müller play? with his stamina and creativity, the winger postions seem to suit him well – but bayern has maybe the best wingers in the world: arjen robben at the right and franck ribéry at the left! so the middle then, right behind the attack? bayern has toni kroos, only 20 and probably even more talented than müller, technically. he seems like the more typical “10” player. so maybe into the center of the attack? well, besides bayern having players like miroslav klose, mario gomez and ivica olic there, it would seem a waste of creativity and good ideas to let müller play upfront. which basically means that bayern have a very strong offensive game, with great players sitting on the bench and able to bring quality into the game, if they have to. even hamit altintop, a hero in the turkish national team, can’t get a starting spot.

... breno...

so what about the defensive part? it starts in the attack, with olic and/or klose working extremely well to help the defense, and even ribéry / robben doing much more than they would be used to doing in previous clubs. this is how a total domination of a club like as roma was even made possible on wednesday – francesco totti wouldn’t help his defense at all. this really helps the two world class defensive midfielders schweinsteiger and van bommel to be in total control in almost every match. both of them give quality to the attacking game, and are close enough to the opponents to get into the man-to-man fights and win them: a near-to-perfect symbiosis between technical skills, strategic abilities and physical skills. this strong system will help the younger members of the four-man defensive line to grow over the years. holger badstuber has finally moved into “his” center back position, leaving the bench place to argentinian international martin demichelis. daniel van buyten could play out this season as the boss in the back, but i would love to see talented breno playing in that position and growing into it alongside badstuber – a duo for the future. another future talent has been at bayern since he was five: diego contento has gained coach louis van gaal’s trust and will be given time to grow into his left back position, to find the right balance between defensive work and positioning, and attacking skills. contento has it all: a classy technique, physical strength, speed and creativity. he is still lacking courage and total acceptance within the team, but that is only natural – since he, too, is only 19. on the other side, you have german captain philipp lahm, only 26 but already extremely experienced. he decided to stay at bayern instead of moving to barcelona, and the champions league title is all he really cares about. finally, we have jörg butt in the goal. he went from being an experienced number 2 to help michael rensings development to a world cup squad member last summer – his performances have been better than ever. but his career is coming to an end, and bayern is looking for a new keeper for 2011. manuel neuer (schalke) is the clear cut favorite, but a lloris (from lyon) or even an adler (leverkusen) could be options, too. all of these are young, and a new era seems to have started, with bayern reaching the champions league final in 2010.

... and toni kroos!

for 2011, this would be my dream team (with their respective ages):

neuer (then 25) – contento (20), badstuber (21), breno (20), lahm (27) – schweinsteiger (26), kroos (21), ribéry (28), robben (27), müller (21) – gomez (25)

this team could play for quite a few years…

Published in: on September 19, 2010 at 13:03  Leave a Comment  
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champions league – day 1 roundup

quite a few stories could be told about the first round of matches in the 2010/11 champions league season, which will end in the holy lawn of the wembley stadium in around eight months. for me, the main story is unveiled by a look at the bernabeu stadium.

real madrid dream of the champions league title. they won the first five editions, another one in 1966; and then it took them 32 years to get back on top. in 98, jupp heynckes (today trainer at leverkusen) brought the title back home, after a slim 1×0 final victory over juventus and zidane. in 2000, the “galacticos” didn’t give valencia a chance, and lifted the trophy for the tenth time. and the 2002 triumph had zinedine zidane written all over it, with his beautiful goal deciding a game that was actually more leverkusen’s match. since then, no tenth title. last year, cristiano ronaldo, karim benzema and kaká were supposed to “force” the title to the bernabeu, but the final on their home ground brought winner josé mourinho, who has generally been seen as the main new signing of the madrileños. until sunday.

mesut özil was going to shine in the world cup, basically any german knew that. but that he is shining this bright in such a short period of time is almost dangerous – but it is a tribute to his class and talent. özil has brought more hope to the madrid fans and even sports press in two games than kaká and cristiano ronaldo in a whole season. on sunday and yesterday, josé mourinho took him out of the game minutes from time, just to give him his deserved standing ovations. and standing ovations for a single player in the bernabeu are rare, let again twice in a week. real madrid’s 2×0 had özil show his fast thinking, easy-looking technique and physical endurance showcased, and the public was enchanted. it is too early, but it would be a great beginning for a new era in the club.

here are some other shorter stories of matchday one:

  • scored two goals for milan: zlatan ibrahimovic.

    manchester conceded two goals in over time on the weekend to tie 3×3 with everton, and now not even old trafford could give them  much needed victory over the rangers. scotsman ferguson will be mad.

  • arsenal did what they do best: play on one goal even if the scoreline is 3×0 already. 6×0 sounds harsh, tough luck for newcomers sporting braga.
  • messi is back to being messi, helping barcelona to victory; and ibrahimovic, his ex-colleague, is back o deciding matches, this time for ac milan. is milan back? let’s see.
  • bayern were as dominant as they have been this year, in terms of ball possession. and müller & klose picked up where they left off at the world cup: the first with a beauty of a goal, the second with a goal of pure will and experience. no chance for as roma and a horrible performance by francesco totti.
  • champions internazionale had their problems in holland and did not come home with 3 points in their luggage – a little bit surprising, to say the least, since it wasn’t psv, ajax or feyenoord, but champions twente enschede.
  • wherever there is werder bremen, expect excitement: 0x2 at home to tottenham after 12 minutes, 2×2 already at the beginning of the second half – and a dozen of lost chances to seal the match. bremen’s back, tottenham scored their first goals and first point in their young champions league history.
Published in: on September 16, 2010 at 18:33  Leave a Comment  
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