To talk about another manager as openly and wistfully as I am about to do whilst Tim Sherwood is still in charge of Spurs is ultimately disrespectful. Yet when the man at stake is Louis Van Gaal, a man who has rather openly flirted with the idea of becoming Spurs manager, I could perhaps be forgiven. Whilst the younger managers available; Frank De Boer or even Mauricio Pochetinno would perhaps suit our style of play greater, managers in their style are plenty-some, managers like Van Gaal are unique.
Van Gaal is a stern figure, often touted as almost dictator-like by the media who he has come into conflict with several times during his illustrious career, stemming from his own philosophy that the media know nothing about the internal runnings of a club and therefore shouldn’t speculate on it. Watch out Neil Ashton. Whilst the press may present him as a figure of complete discipline perhaps better suited to running a Gulag behind the Iron Curtain, the fact that Patrick Kluivert, the De Boer twins and Jari Litmanen all expressed such a keen desire to re-join him at Barcelona perhaps breaks down this created wall of arrogance and sheds light on an individual, although lacking the outspoken egotism of Brian Clough, is nonetheless, more than confident in his abilities. Whilst stories of him branding his genitals to the Bayern Munich team at half-time to prove he was ready for a fight and holding striker Luca Toni upright as he ate his dinner so as not to ruin his posture only serve to enhance the myth surrounding Van Gaal his style of management brings around almost impeccable conditions to achieve. As such his record reflects this.
LVG has had immeasurable success at clubs including the likes of Barcelona, Ajax, Bayern Munich and Az Alkmaar. Whilst it’s easy to dismiss his success in the Dutch League given the overall standard of competition, was this not the same premise ignored when both us and Chelsea appointed AVB as manager? Moreover his success at Ajax was not just on a domestic scale; in the season they won the Champions League they were unbeaten both domestically and in Europe. BANG. Even at AZ Alkmaar, the Spurs of the Netherlands perhaps given league standing, after a poor first season he turned them into title winners above the likes of Ajax and Feyenoord. Yet, rather boldly speaking the managerial spell we should be looking most closely at is his at Bayern Munich. Although it ended with his sacking, it did bring immense success. What we should perhaps more carefully focus on is this idea of a project, a vision which I personally bought into under AVB.
Whilst at 64, Van Gaal would be unlikely to around for a long period of time he would set us up for the future. At Bayern, he pushed through Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber and withdrew Bastian Schweinsteiger from a winger to one of the greatest box-box midfielders in Europe. The youth is there at Spurs in abundance, one of the most telling factors for Van Gaals success will be his relationship with Daniel Levy. Van Gaal’s reign at Bayern ended due to the intrusive boardroom; Franz Beckenbauer, Rummennigge and Hoeness – all ex-players all show little reluctance as performing as a media outlet and voicing their opinions on club affairs. Whilst Levy will be more an interior interference, a man who hasn’t been completely honest with previous managers, as interviews with AVB and Juande Ramos has proven. Van Gaal will not be a man to take any nonsense from players or chairman alike. The match-up has the potential to be just as explosive as The Expendables 12.
Although a somewhat patronising comparison to make, given that LVG won more in 1995 than the pairs combined honours throughout their entire careers (Swivel on that Redknapp lovers), something that will perhaps appease our divided fanbase is that in terms of style of play, LVG incorporates features of both Redknapp and AVB. Whilst favouring the organisation of AVB as a means of establishing a playing style, in terms of attacking he is much more cogent and fluid – much like Redknapp was. Whilst it’s perhaps not Total Football reincarnated it’s by no means defensive as the Dutch have about as much tolerance for that as we did for Gregor Raziak – Tomislav Ivic was sacked as Ajax coach in 1977 despite winning the league for playing too defensive and Alkmaar under Van Gaal had the best defensive record and second best goal-scoring record in the Dutch League.
Van Gaal is a manager who virtually guarantees success. He has pushed through youth players who have gone on to dominated European football and he has won the highest honours in European football. To even be linked with him is an honour in its own right. To totally dismiss Sherwood would be harsh, an assistant managerial role would perhaps prove the best option for him, particularly given the way Van Gaal pushed through a certain Jose Mourinho at Barcelona…