“Louis van Gaal: The Biography” by Maarten Meijer

This is a very interesting book because it is written from a Dutch perspective by somebody who understands Dutch football culture. It gives a voice to those who approve of van Gaal’s methods and those who don’t.

Whilst this is the first version of this book published in English, it appears to have been written some time ago, perhaps around the time van Gaal appointment as Dutch manager for the second time. It is well translated into English and it appears that some additional chapters have been added to both bring it up to date and to make it more relevant to a lucrative English audience.

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We sense that the book was conceived after van Gaal’s spell as Bayern Munich manager as there are six chapters on his two years at Bayern over a total of ninety pages whilst his two periods at Barcelona, which totalled four years are covered in 17 pages across only two chapters. The sections on his appointment at United won’t tell United fans anything they don’t  already know, in fact even at the time in was published, (late July), this content already seemed out of date.

Nevertheless the book offers significant insight in respect of van Gaal, the man and his methods.

Consider this quote from the man himself,

“Experience does not always mean much. You may be 30 and have participated in two World Cups, but maybe you only have experience of doing it wrong. You don’t unlearn that at such a late stage. In that respect, an 18-year-old boy may have more experience of the type we are looking for.”

Those four short sentences encapsulate van Gaal. A man sure of his own version of footballing life, a version based upon an emphasis on the team system, a system selected by the coach. As a player you must put aside your own ego, your view of yourself and your place in the team and work to fulfil a specific role in the system. If you fulfil this role well you will prosper within the van Gaal world no matter who you are, how experienced or inexperienced you are. Conversely if you do not, no matter who you are you will fall by the wayside.

The book covers his life as a players and his rise from a period as a school teacher in Amsterdam to coach of a Champions League winning side; it covers his relationship with his players, club directors and the media and his on-going feud with Johann Cruyff. The most interesting sections cover his first spell at Ajax and his period at Bayern, both his successful first season and his difficult second season leading to his dismissal. One gets the feeling that some within the Bayern hierarchy did not accept his methods, especially the president Uli Hoeness, even when things were going well. Van Gaal is a big character, he is very forthright and there is a sense that at Bayern ego’s collided. Despite this the book makes the case that van Gaal has learnt lessons from his experiences and mistakes throughout his career. Let’s hope then that United will get the very best of van Gaal. After a disastrous year under David Moyes you feel that players, directors and owners have come to realise that a successful future is dependent upon embracing the man and his methods.

 “Louis van Gaal: The Biography” by Maarten Meijer and is published by Ebury Press. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Louis-van-Gaal-Maarten-Meijer/dp/0091960142/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406584959&sr=1-1&keywords=louis+van+gaal