From steering Ajax to the Champions League trophy in 1995, to winning multiple league titles in Germany, Spain and Netherlands, to almost taking the Netherlands to World Cup Glory in 2014, Louis Van Gaal has achieved almost everything in his illustrious management career. His accolades speak for itself and his ability as a manager puts him right up there among football’s most decorated managers. One of his most revered characteristics was his ability to seek promising young talent, something which he has always maintained to be a part of his philosophy. In light of recent speculation surrounding his retirement, this feature brings to light some of the players brought up by Van Gaal, who turned out to be world class players.
A player of Iniesta’s ability who has won everything world football has to offer, needs no introduction. Iniesta has made a name for himself as one of the finest creative midfielders of the generation and is already regarded as one of Barcelona’s greatest ever players. But few will know of the fact that Iniesta was first brought to light by Louis Van Gaal when the Dutch manager was at his second spell as Barcelona’s manager in 2002. Although his second stint at Barcelona was not his greatest, he was lauded for his recognition of Iniesta’s talent. The Spanish maestro made his debut as an 18-year old and would go on to win four Champions League medals, eight La Liga titles, two European Championships and one World Cup.
Another Barcelona prodigy, who made his debut under Louis Van Gaal is Xavi Hernandez. The legendary midfielder made his league debut in 1998 during Van Gaal’s first spell with Barcelona. Like Iniesta, Xavi was brought through the youth rankings at La Masia, the training academy of FC Barcelona. Xavi formed a deadly partnership with Iniesta, with the two Spanish midfielders steering Barcelona to a period of World Dominance. Renowned for his precise passing skill and ability to control the tempo of a game, Xavi is regarded by some as the greatest central midfielder of all time.
The only player to win the Champions League with three different teams, Clarence Seedorf is a household name in Dutch football and one of the finest midfielders to have graced the game. Ajax’s youngest ever debutante, Seedorf was handed his first appearance as a sixteen year old by Van Gaal. Three years later, the Dutchman would go on to lift his first Champions League Trophy for Ajax in 1995 under the guidance of LVG. Known for his strong running and devastating shooting ability, Seedorf grew into a world class talent and was one of the most wanted players in Europe. The Dutch Legend would go on to win three more Champions League medals with AC Milan and Real Madrid.
Louis Van Gaal enjoyed a trophy laden career during his three year spell at Bayern Munich. But, he will also be remembered for his role in bringing up some of the youth players at the club, in particular, Thomas Muller. The German was handed his debut under LVG and has never looked back since. The young forward has proven himself to be a highly influential player, for both club and country with his goal scoring abilities and his intelligent positional sense. Van Gaal remains in close touch with Muller and even tried bringing the German to Manchester United, but Muller proved his loyalty by remaining with Bayern Munich.
One of the deadliest strikers in the era of modern football and greatly admired by some of the world’s best including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrick Kluivert was another one of the great talents spotted by LVG at Ajax. Kluivert scored in his league debut for Ajax in 1995 and also netted in the winner in Ajax’s 1995 Champions League triumph. Kluivert’s most fruitful spell came during his time at Barcelona where his deadly finishing ability helped Barcelona to the La Liga title in 1999. He also made a name for himself at the International stage, forming a wonderful partnership with Dennis Bergkamp, especially during the 1998 World Cup.