Tag: Mark van Bommel

PSV needs to renovate

The season has started in Holland. Belgium was even earlier and the qualification games for the European competitions is upon us too, while Spanish and English clubs still have weeks of prep ahead of them. Weird.

The issues have been widely discussed already. Ajax is playing their CL qualification game tomorrow, while David Neres only returned to the club some days ago. And with the transfer window still open, Ajax might well end up having to deal with the exit of players like Ziyech, Neres and Van de Beek while Lasse Schone already took the bus to Genoa earlier last week. Strange times.

In England they will close the transfer window in the coming week! Well done Poms. Why can’t we do this in Holland too? It’s frantic for the clubs and highly annoying for the supporters. And it’s competition fraude too, in a way!

It really annoys me, every year again.

And thus, Ajax and PSV dropped points already in their first match of the competition while PSV couldn’t get past Basel and will have to forget playing Champions League football this season.

In a way, I don’t think it should be considered to be too negative for PSV though. They do seem a tad light this season and might do much better in the Europa League.

After all the news from Amsterdam in the past months, it’s time to focus a bit on that other big club in Holland. Mark van Bommel’s PSV.

Guti is in charge

PSV over the past seasons (5 under Cocu) used different midfield players and different midfield systems to find the ideal structure. In Cocu’s title winning last season he used 7 players for the 3 spots: Siem de Jong, Pereiro, Van Ginkel, Hendrix, Ramselaar, Propper and Guardado.

Van Bommel directly went for a 4-2-3-1 system with two defensive / holding mids. Pablo Rosario and Jorrit Hendrix were Van Bommel’s go to guys, but they copped a lot of criticism for not offering up enough creativity. Rosario seems to be above criticism with the former Bayern midfielder as he is made one of the captains (with Afellay Van Bommel’s first choice, but the former Barca man is still not 100% fit). Hendrix might be on his way out (with Bologna from the Serie A close to a deal) and it seems Erick Gutierrez (Guti) will claim his spot, finally. The Mexican midfielder needed a full season in Holland to adapt to Van Bommel’s style of play but he’s with the pace now it seems and was one of the more positive players in the past weeks.

Gutierrez and Rosario have developed a good understanding while his passing capabilities work well with the dynamic trio / quartet up front. The question is: will his old friend Lozano be part of that? Luuk de Jong made a move to Spain and Lozano would love to follow him to either Spain or Italy. Rumours abound that the Mexican forward will move to Napoli soon.

Skipper Pablo Rosario against his old club

The PSV fans won’t be too disappointed as the Mexican winger has agitated most of them with his petty behaviour at times, his egotistical performances and his spoilt brat behaviour and ridiculous red cards.

And with Portuguese rocket Bruma in the team, Lozano might not be needed anymore. The left winger demonstrated his skills in the pre-season and does seem to be more lethal in front of goal than – for instance – Malen who does miss more chances than needed.

The analyses and passing maps show clearly that with Guti in midfield, PSV does get to play more football. The forward pass is coming quicker and more precise and with Malen on the #9 position, PSV aims to have 3 quick artists up front with Sam Lammers in the false striker role behind Malen, that used to be Luuk de Jong’s.

Lammers is sadly injured for a while (operated on his knee already) but Malen will stay in the 9 spot with Pereiro coming in as the #10 shadow striker.

Michal Sadilek normally is also a contender for a midfield spot. The young Czech international is seen as a carbon copy of Mark van Bommel and not coincidentally, Van Bommel is a fan of the terrier. With Angelino back to Man City and no real replacement for him at left back, Sadilek is currently a place holder on that position but probably not for long. Van Bommel will be making some tough decisions soon but it seems Guti / Rosario will form the engine room with young Ihattaren a potential dark horse even.

Michal Sadilek – Mark van Bommel Mark 2

Van Bommel will be headstrong in his vision. This much we know. “Football is a game of space. We need to have dominance in the key spaces. I don’t care who takes the space. As long as it’s one of my players.”

Van Bommel wants to see less predictability and he wants to see a mentality of unperturbedness (if that is English). He wants his team to stick to the fundaments and work from that perspective, while at the same time being able to add some variance to the team. “Gakpo can play left wing, but also #10. Bergwijn can play #10 and winger, but also out and out striker, like Malen.”

With the transfer market still open, Mark van Bommel will not sleep too well. The former AC Milan midfielder knows that scouts are still keen to check out Bergwijn and Dumfries, while Jeroen Zoet has announced he will be ready to leave PSV at some stage. The latter doesn’t seem to be in top form by the way, so an exit might not even be that bad (with Unerstahl now as second goalie).

PSV wanted to lure Steven Berghuis from Feyenoord to Eindhoven (as they did successfully in the past with Ruud Gullit and Gini Wijnaldum) but the Feyenoord star has signed a new deal in Rotterdam this weekend and was never seriously considering a move to Eindhoven.

Donyell Malen

Toni Lato is the new left back who will replace Sadilek at some stage, while Derrick Luckassen gets the chance to prove his worth as centre back. Obviously, Van Bommel does have a spot in mind for Ibi Afellay too, once he’s fit. We might see Guti move a spot up to the #10 role potentially, with Rosario and Afellay taking the engine room. Lots of options for PSV but they might still want to make a move or two on the transfer market. A central defender would not be an overly luxurious thought, while an extra striker is definitely needed, even if just as a pinch hitter.


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Oranje’s future: Steven Bergwijn

Last time Ronald Koeman called up Holland’s best players, Steven Bergwijn wasn’t part of it. The youngster was flabbergasted. But Koeman felt he was needed for Young Oranje, while the seniors had players like Promes, Babel and …eh… Vormer… Bergwijn didn’t say anything untoward, but ended up canceling his Jong Oranje match due to an “injury”.

I don’t think Koeman will make that mistake again.

Steven Bergwijn has demonstrated yet again, in the first matches of this season, that he is a talent to be reckoned with. Probably in the same category as Memphis Depay. PSV this season has a perfect score (not taking into account the thrashing vs Barca). But the attacking intentions of coach van Bommel are clear: 6 goals vs Willem II, 7 against ADO Den Haag, 3 against Ajax… PSV is on a roll!

Bergwijn: “There is a good and positive vibe in this squad. The technical staff is responsible for this. And everyone is happy with this coach. Van Bommel talks to all the players and all players feel they’re part of it. But Van Bommel is no softie, he can be very strict and clear in what he expects. They’re open but also very serious when they need to be.”

The Ajax game last week was a special one for Bergwijn (and for Pablo Rosario). Both players started their youth career in Amsterdam with Ajax and both were basically told they weren’t right for Ajax. “I am no longer concerned with that, it’s been a while now. I left Ajax behind me. Sure, it’s going to be a super to play agains them, as it was last season when we won the title against them, hahaha. But other than that, no hard feelings.”

“But Ajax, they will always be good, always have great players. But so do we. And you need to with all these matches in the different competitions. And we have a tough group with the CL right? But I’m cheering inside. I mean, you wanna play at the top of your game, well… Barca, Spurs, Inter… there you have it. You can’t complain man, it’s awesome. I think people see us as the underdog. Fine. We’ll show them on the pitch.”

The match vs Barca was special for Bergwijn. His big idol was on the pitch: Lionel Messi. Once, Bergwijn was on  holiday in Spain and happened to be going to a Barca match with his dad, his uncle and little brother. And they ended up in the same hotel as Barcelona. “Not only that, in those days to get some internet, the players had to rely on the business centre in those hotels. And I was there with my brother, when Messi and other Barca players walked in to check some stuff online. Ha, so I got my first picture with him, and now we’re in the same group in the Champions League. How cool!”

The youngster is already one of the key players in this PSV. Last season, he had to wait for Locadia to move on and for Lozano and De Jong to allow Steven a place in the sun. “Last season, I was playing in service of them, this season we’re all similar I suppose, in terms of hierarchy. And the expectations are higher now, sure. But that is cool, I want that. I need to defend more now, as we play more dominant and higher up the pitch, so I have a role to play when we lose possession. I defend more, but still, run less yards, as we are so high up.”

Usually, when a player like Bergwijn breaks into the first team, the bigger clubs in Europe start to circle. But Bergwijn won’t leave PSV for any amount under 20 Mio euros. Last season, Bordeaux had the check book out and this summer Arsenal, Tottenham and PSG have enquired about Steven’s contract status. “That’s nice, it gives me confidence but I haven’t thought about leaving, not one second. I want to stay here, I won’t go for the quick buck. When I keep on developing, the money will follow. I want to be important for PSV, score a lot of goals, play well in the CL and make my mark in Oranje. I can develop and grow here. I recently extended my deal until 2022 and that gives me peace and quiet in my head. I don’t think anyone expects me to stay until the end, to be honest, and I have a plan moving forward, but for now it’s all PSV. I want to make a move at some stage, but I want to enter a new club with some status. At PSV, I will make my minutes, play for trophies and play in Europe. So I am not in a hurry to leave now and end up on the bench. But yes, one day…Spain or England….”

Bergwijn is seen as a new super talent and experts and analysts all are in agreement, this lad will go far. He’s got the skills but also the power. He’s explosive, doesn’t shun the hard work and is a beast on the training pitch. “This summer I had two weeks of nothing and I got bored senseless. I called my uncles and decided to start training. I won’t do a lot of weights though, I don’t want to bulk up, that is not good. But core stability training and a lot of boxing.”

All is going well for Steven, but there is a dark spot on his heart and he is keen to talk about it when he can. Abdelhak Nouri, the Ajax talent who sadly ended up in coma after his heart malfunction last year, was Steven’s best buddy. “We met at Ajax when we were little kids. And we were so close. And we still are. Life is quite hard since that dreadful day. I still talk to his brother every day. I guess I can handle it better now, but it’s still super tough. His parents tell me he is slowly improving. I pray every day, and believe in the power of the Lord. Appie always wanted for me what was best for me, and he is now also a silent motivator for me, I need to get everything out of my career, for him as well.”

Bergwijn has always been compared to Memphis. Not a fair comparison of course, but a logical one. Both are explosive, good dribblers, unpredictable and playing from the wing. Now, Memphis has had a fair share of developments (lessons) already, while Bergwijn only now seems to have the status of a key player for PSV.

His strengths…

Ball skills. Bergwijn has amazing ball skills, the ball is always on a string with him. There are not many players who are capable of taking a man on and leaving him behind to create a man more situation (like Arjen Robben can). This is a quality that is worth millions in football. It mostly makes the difference. And this is why Messi, C Ronaldo, Mo Salah and Eden Hazard are paid the big bucks. And why Memphis is currently the key man up front for Oranje. Bergwijn’s dribbles are testament to the fact he might well be our next key man up front!

Shooting qualities. Memphis was only 17 years old when Holland witnessed that sensational weapon that is his right foot. Memphis can place them, curl them, hit a rocket or hit a swirling ball. Bergwijn needs to work on his shooting technique. The stats show that Bergwijn is making good progress. In 2016/2017, he had a return of 5% (shots vs goals). In 2017/2018, that % went up to 11% and in this current season, he is already at 24%. So every fourth goal attempt is a goal. Only Klaas Jan Huntelaar does better ( 46%!!) while Bergwijn is in the same league as top players like Tadic, Van Persie and Lozano.

Tactical smarts. Players like Messi, Hazard and Griezmann are adept in finding the space in between the lines or in the half spaces. This is a skills Bergwijn still needs to work on. But he is developing well in that respect. A big plus for Bergwijn, he is happy to run in behind and get the ball in front of him, while most forwards in Oranje (but in general too) want the ball in their feet: Berghuis, Promes, Babel, Memphis… Kluivert and Bergwijn both love running without the ball, a very hard to defend weapon.

Eye for his team mates. Bergwijn is not an egotistical player but he can still improve here. Steven Berghuis for instance, created 22 chances for team mates, Robin van Persie 10. Tadic of Ajax, 17. Bergwijn is stuck at 7, one less than Luuk de Jong.

Mentality. Bergwijn is a young player who will make tactical mistakes, but lack of work ethics is not one of them. He was instrumental vs Ajax to keep Frenkie de Jong quiet for instance. Koeman will have enjoyed his game, and will have seen that Stevie is capable of fitting in the defensive shape and playing with his head, not just his feet.

It is highly likely that Bergwijn will be part of Koeman’s definitive squad this time around and make minutes for the senior Oranje, as Van der Looi already announced to select younger player for Young Oranje moving forward.


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New Season: PSV

This last title won by PSV appeared to be the closure of a era for PSV. Phillip Cocu decided to move on. He probably felt there wasn’t any more room for him to grow at the level of the Eredivisie, working with the confines the Dutch league brings. He wanted something bigger and Fenerbahce would be a logical next step for him. But the change in Eindhoven wasn’t limited to the coach, as the Technical Director was also lured away. Marcel Brands, serially successful, couldn’t withstand the opportunity to work in the Premier League. Everton had an interesting challenge in store for him. A bigger club on a bigger stage. Bigger budgets to work with. A rare opportunity for a technical director and Brands – former playmaker of RKC Waalwijk and Feyenoord – who had success in the managerial job with his old club RKC, AZ Alkmaar and now consistently with PSV also felt he was ready for a big step up.

These two exits forced PSV to make a big shift. Former PSV player John de Jong will take on the Marcel Brands role and another former PSV player has been prepped for the coach job. When Mark van Bommel made it clear during his playing career that coaching would be his next logical career move, PSV knew they wanted the former captain on the bench at some stage.

General Manager Toon Gerbrands, Technical Manager John de Jong and head coach Mark van Bommel

The ex Bayern Munich, Barca and AC Milan player was prepped in the youth academy for this role and last World Cup he assisted his father in law Bert van Marwijk with Australia.

Is he ready already? Is he forced into the job too soon with Cocu leaving?

Who knows, but I think not. Mark van Bommel was already a coach as a player and the first signs are positive for PSV.

At his introduction press conference, Van Bommel was clear in his football vision. “I want to be in control, of the game and of the ball. We want to be the boss on the pitch. preferably with ball but if need be without the ball. We want to play further up the pitch and taking advantage of the weaknesses of the opponent.”

Where Cocu was criticized for playing a bit passive, a bit counter-attacking style, Van Bommel wants to impose the Barcelona / Bayern Munich philosophy onto his team.

PSV’s pre-season was quite a success. The hand of Van Bommel was visible in the first games already and Gaston Pereiro in particular was the most remarkable player (Hirving Lozano returned late to PSV due to his contributions to Mexico’s World Cup campaign).

Van Bommel: “Every one can see Pereiro is a special player. Even non-PSV fans will like to see him play. I use him in the #10 role. He’s not a winger for me. Yes, he still has his moments where he seems to be dreaming a bit, we’ll work on that.”

Luuk de Jong decided to stay in Eindhoven and said no to several offers from Mexico, France and other competitions. The striker is scoring prolifically and is currently PSV’s captain. Van Bommel will select his skipper for the season in the coming week.

Steven Bergwijn is already high on the hitlist of many big clubs in Europe, but Van Bommel is adamant. “I want to keep Steven at the club. There is still a lot to learn for him and I believe he can make a big move if he stays a bit longer here.”

Marco van Ginkel is not going to be part of the plans for now. PSV would have loved to have signed him but the poor bastard’s knees are giving him a lot of grieve again and he’s out for another 8 to 9 months most likely. Sad story. Will he ever get back to 100% fitness?

Van Bommel is building his foundation at PSV and it seems he’s doing good business. Jeroen Zoet is the number 1 goalkeeper of course. Nick Viergever seems to be the left central defender, with either Schwaab or Luckassen as his partner on the right. Denzel Dumfries came from Heerenveen and the assist king will take the spot on the right, with Arias most likely moving up to Atletico Madrid. Angelino, the former Man City man, will take the left spot at the back.

Ramselaar and Hendrix will be the two holding mids in the middle of the park with Pereiro the playmaker, attacking mid. Van Bommel has a couple of tremendous talents available to him as alternatives of course, such as Mauro Junior and Pablo Rosario.

Mark van Bommel is still looking for a replacement for Van Ginkel though and is also still a bit concerned that there will be a mega offer for Lozano or Bergwijn. But otherwise, these two with Luuk de Jong will be the front men. Sam Lammers is off to Heerenveen to get some playing time there, will young talents like Romer0, Gudmundsson and Malen are chomping at the bits for playing time as well.

In the pre season, PSV beat three serious opponents and seems to be ready for the season opening vs Feyenoord for the Johan Cruyff shield. PSV beat Galatasaray, Panathinaikos and Valencia (the latter finishing third in La Liga last season!).


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Arjen Robben, from "Loser" to Legend

I remember the little lad making his first steps on the field of FC Groningen. 16 years old. Didn’t look like a football player. More like a chess afficionado or a math expert. In a time when most if not all talents was developed by Ajax and to a lesser extend, PSV or Feyenoord, it was vv Bedum that developed this player. Or should we say that actually no one really developed him?

So much skills and feeling and intuition on that left foot.

A comment Johan Cruyff made, when Robben was still at Groningen, playing as a left winger. “Very talented, but sadly he only uses his left foot. He will never get to the top if he doesn’t learn to utilise the right foot too.”

And indeed, I vividly remember seeing him dribble past opponents to end up in a scoring position… But, what happened? He took the ball, went all the way back to the other side, past flabbergasted opponents, only to enable his left foot to take the shot.

Robben only stayed at Groningen for two years. The fast and highly skillful dribbler was bound for greatness. The headstrong player was invited to come to Amsterdam and Eindhoven many times in his youth, but his dad (and manager) kept the clubs at bay until after he finished high school. He picked PSV as Guus Hiddink was to be his manager there.

In a team with a young Mark van Bommel, Ji Sung Park, Johann Vogel and Mateja Kezman, Robben became the top scorer in the 2003 champions team. Many international clubs were on the prowl and despite a good conversation and contact between the Robbens and Man United Sir Alex Ferguson, Arjen didn’t end up at Old Trafford. ManU only offered 7 Mio euros. The PSV chairman quipped that they could just get a autographed jersey of Robben for that kind of money. When Chelsea interjected with an 18 Mio euros offer, the deal was swiftly closed.

In the summer of 2004, Robben went to Chelsea. Signed by Claudio Ranieri, but never worked with him, as Jose Mourinho made his way into the club that summer too. Robben was part of a squad with the likes of Makalele, Lampard, Terry, Drobga and Joe Cole. His first season there was amazing. He started late due to injury but ended that season as number 2 on the “Young Player of the Year” list, behind Wayne Rooney. Robben won two league titles with Chelsea and there is a tremendous video with highlights of the winger of those Chelsea days. Amazing stuff. The speed, the skill and the courage.

Robben won everything with Chelsea, bar the European title. In 2007, Real Madrid courted him. Coach Schuster actually wanted Michael Ballack, but the Real Madrid chair pushed for Robben. His exit was abrupt at Chelsea and he never got to say farewell to the fans. Real Madrid allegedly paid 35 Mio euros for the former Bedum talent.

At Madrid, his first season won him the Spanish title. He owned the left midfield spot and played 28 games as a starter. He would be instrumental in the 2008-2009 season,playing 25 games and scoring eight goals. At the start of the 2009-10 season however, Real Madrid wanted to sign C Ronaldo and Kaka and needed to free up some cash. Bayern Munich wanted to spend 25 mio euros on the winger and Madrid struck a deal. Robben was pressured to move, against his will. To this day, he claims that life was good for him in Madrid and he never wanted to leave if the club hadn’t forced him to.

Robben started on fire for Munich, wearing the number 10 jersey worn by Roy Makaay before. He would win the title in The Bundesliga too (after Dutch, English and Spanish palmares) and he won Footballer of the Year, in Germany. The first ever Dutch player to do so.

In 2010, after the World Cup, Robben returned injured. According to the Bayern medical staff. This situation resulted in quite an upset, as the Dutch federation didn’t think he was injured and Bert van Marwijk played Robben at the World Cup (where Robben was a key figure for Holland).

It took 6 months for Robben to get back to fitness.

When Oranje came and played Bayern Munich for a friendly, the home fans booed Robben while off the pitch the Bayern management started to comment on his egotistical style of play. All his injuries and these shenanigans had quite an impact on him, and he even tried to change his playing style. Losing the World Cup finals with Oranje and losing two CL finals (one against Mourinho’s Inter and one against his old club Chelsea, with Robben missing a key penalty) gave him the stigma of a loser. How many times does one player have a shot at winning the CL in his career? You’re lucky if it’s once. Robben had three nips at it and eventually got it right.

Jupp Heynckes knew that his counterpart at Dortmund knows everything about Bayern there is to know. So he had to come with a trick. And the tactical trick was: play Robben centrally.

In the first half, most of the Bayern team played too slow and without real drive, allowing Dortmund to dominate proceedings. It was clearly visible however, that Muller was moving from the wing while Robben played in the shadow striker role.

As such, he had two massive opportunities in the first half. In both cases, it was the Dortmund goalie who got the better of him.

In the second half, he was able to escape the offside trap and offered Mandzukic a chance he couldn’t miss (although we have seen them missed…).

And late in the game, at 1-1, it was Robben with his vision, speed, velvet touch and alertness who sealed the deal. He was Man of the Match. He won it for Bayern. And for himself.

Next up, the Super Cup game, against his old chums and his former coach Mourinho. “I already got warm but also taunting texts from JT (John Terry) and Lamps (Frank Lampard)… And we have the Fifa World Cup game too. Life will only get more interesting from now on. As if it will start now.”

Asked if he will stay at Munich, despite his success, Robben is flippant. “I love this club. I love playing at Bayern, we have a lot to win still… I still have a two year deal, so who knows…”

With Pep Guardiola coming in and the likes of Mario Gotze and Lewandowski making the trip from Dortmund to Munich, one wonders….

Johan Cruyff might have some influence on this topic. The Ajax and Barca icon now sees Bayern Munich as a role model club for Ajax, more so than his second love Barcelona. “Bayern has been able for decades to operate financially sustainable and they engage many ex players. That is exactly like I see it for Ajax.” Cruyff highly enjoyed the CL finals and in particular Robben.

“Some months back, when Robben was benched I already predicted that this period of rest would do him and Bayern good. And in the last months, Robben was constantly involved with all chances. He either prepares them, from corner kicks to set pieces or he gives the assist, like with Bayern’s first goal. That last goal was a superb example of his strength: intuition, technical skill and his forward thrust. He is an amazing player!”.

And so the CL party on Wembley (and Dutch grass, for that matter) became Robben’s party. One Marc van Basten had said in 2006, that Robben could turn out to be the planet’s best player ever. And when you score the winning goal in the dying minutes of a game, you are certainly top class.

The player Robben has now thrown off his trauma. His lost finales, his missed opps, the dramatic penalty kicks, the injuries, the unhappy face, the looks at the refs… Robben, the boy with leggings and gloves became a man.

He is typical a star who divides the masses, like C Ronaldo does as well. Some love him, others hate him. The play-acting, the dives, the complaints to the ref, the disappointments when he is not a starter…. Robben is beyond frustration now. He can enjoy, finally.

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Clarence Seedorf, King of the Champions League

While Europe is preparing for a German CL and Arjen Robben is trying to talk some bravado into himself (he really really wants it) and even the most optimistic Oranje supporter can find some reason to see a Dutch feint stripe of glory in Borussia Dortmund ( Bert van Marwijk had something to do with the Dortmund’s current success as he turned the club around in the mid naughties when the Borussen were out of money and Bert had to rely on the youth system to survive) and while we will look at the result tomorrow, it is fun – I thought – to focus on the most successful player Holland ever had.

Clarence Seedorf. Master midfielder. CL record holder. Serial trophy winner. Entrepreneur. Humanitarian. Sports ambassador. Cosmopolitan. Penalty choker. Global Brand. Wise guy.

When he visited Brazil some time back with (now) King WA and Maxima, one camera team followed the royal couple, while the rest followed the King of Panna.

I have never been a huge fan of Seedorf. But secretly I wanted to be him.

When he was 13 years old, his name went was whispered in the streets of Amsterdam. The supporters visiting De Toekomst on a daily basis, knew it. “There is another one coming…” Since the days of Jopie Cruyff, that little sentence holds so much promise…

“There is another one coming…”…. Louis van Gaal, Dennis Bergkamp, Martin van Geel, Rob Reinders, Marco van Basten, Gerald Vanenburg, Dick van Burik, John van ‘t Schip, Cedric van der Gun, Tarik Oulida, Frank Rijkaard… Sometimes they’d make it, sometimes they didn’t….

Clarence Seedorf was lucky that no one compared him to Cruyff (as was done with players like Van ‘t Schip). A comparison no one can carry, really. But if comparison was needed, I believe Brazilian legend Pele would be more relevant.

Physically strong, with a truly positive outlook on life and attitude, extremely skilled (although Pele could head the ball and I don’t think I ever saw Clarence do this) and very smart (not sure about Pele on this one…).

But comparisons fall short.

With 37 years on the clock and another title in the backpack (Botafogo in Brazil), Clarence is now looking at the next step in his career. Winning another CL is probably not happening for him, although Ancelotti might try and sign him for one more season at Real Madrid? Who knows…

Seedorf’s name, however, is being linked to AC Milan again. This time, not as a player, but as Allegri’s successor. Seedorf, who was just offered a sped-up training course with the KNVB, would take the reigns with Paulo Maldini, the rumour goes….

He looks back with a big smile on his year in Brazil. “What is not to like? The city of Rio is amazing! I had this appartment overlooking the Ipanema and the Copacabana. I’d drive to practice in the morning and felt like a tourist every day. What a city!”.

Seedorf used to be a late comer. Sleeping in, practice late in the day, late dinner in Milan and then some more hours spent with the family and good wine…

In Brazil, it works the other way around. To escape the tropical humidity, the Botafogo players train early in the morning and go to bed early at night.

“It took some adapting, haha, but I got used to it and it works well. Practice early in the morning was never my thing, but now I do have more time to do other things at the club.”


Yes. Apart from being their star midfielder, Seedorf is also management consultant. He trains from 9 to 11 am. Then it’s lunch with the players and while they go off to do their thing, Seedorf works at all other levels of the club. He walks around and goes from manager office to fitness center, from admin department to the website team…

“As you will know, I can’t sit still. I have too much energy for that. I have worked at top level in football for 20 years. At Ajax, Samp, Real Madrid, Inter and AC Milan I always had my eyes open. I asked questions. I’m inquisitive. I need to know things. And as such, I developed my own vision and Botafogo asked me to come and help them. So I do.”

Seedorf’s biggest interest lies in the physical body. Physiology. And the medical head at Botafogo is his biggest friend and fan. Altamiro Bottino: “Clarence has taught me a lot. His body is like a work of art. And he was a regular in the Milan Labs. I do graphs and stats for 20 years, but when Clarence came I had to redo the scales of the graphs. He was way ahead of all the others here. I received his stats from his ten years (!) at Milan and his physical condition now is as good as it was when he was 26 years old…. Amazing. And take into account that conditions are tougher here, with the humidity. So actually, he is fitter than when he was 26 years old….”

There many an experienced player who decided to have some fun in Brazilian football and most of them never produced. When Seedorf decided to go to the land of Samba, some were skeptical. But Seedorf delivered.

“Seedorf is a tsunami. When he came here, he changed everything,” says Bottino. “Before Seedorf, players left the practice when the coach blew the final whistle. Now, thanks to Seedorf, they hang around, they practice set-pieces, they do individual work, etc….. And you know what, I think Clarence has 3 more years of top football in him. It’s his mind that will determine when he stops, not his body.”

Seedorf’s decision to move to Brazil was quite a surprise for many. Not for the ones who know him. Tottenham Hotspur, Hiddink’s Anzhi, Fenerbahce and LA Galaxy were vying for his signature. He even spent a week with Galaxy and his buddy David Beckham but decided for Botafogo. “I never went to LA to check Galaxy out. I was there to keep myself fit for that period and to spend some time with Becks. But their management offered me a deal and I politely listened. But Brazil was always my priority. I love the Brazilian competition, I spent a lot of holidays in Rio already and love the city and Brazil is doing well as a country too. It has a buzz, I love it. And Botafogo allowed me a bigger role than just player.”

What has Clarence changed at the club, for instance?

“A couple of quick wins to start off with. After a game, the players would leave to go home. And the next morning, they’d go to do treatments of knocks and the likes and plan for the next game. Wrong! You need to do this immediately after a game. Once the game ends, the prep for the next one starts. Treatment is needed immediately, to improve fitness. Another example is the warming up. It was amateur hour. The players needed 5 to 10 minutes in the game to find their focus and rhythm. This is how you are constantly behind the 8-ball. Another little thing….when we walked into the dressing room, our jerseys were all lying about on a table. I needed those to be hanging on coathangers on the spots of the players. That gives a player a kick when he walks into the dressing room. It looks great. It gives confidence. Little things, maybe, but important….”

He goes on… “I also worked with a sports psychologist. We’d plan training camps and little workshops. We’d talk about tactics, about what we needed to improve, about each others strengths and weaknesses…. Simply trying to become more professional.”

Coach de Oliveira (52 years old) considers Seedorf to be one of his guides. “He is like a mentor to many here. I am his coach, yes. I am the man in charge of football, but Clarence is like a walking football seer, I would be stupid not to listen. My door is always open for him.”

Seedorf likes his coach, a lot. “He is super intelligent, warm and open for outside influences. Not all coaches have that. Some would see me as a threat. Carlo Ancelotti is another man with whom I have that. He was a strong player himself, and he doesn’t mind players speaking their minds. Unlike other people I worked with…”

Despite his habit of winning trophies, it’s not winning that Seedorf is focusing on. “Winning? Is not what you focus on. Winning is simply the result of what you focus on. I focus on getting better every day. And if you do well, you’ll be better than the rest. If you work hard enough and are lucky.”

But, Botafogo won the title. For the first time since 2005. Back in the days, when Garrincha was Botafogo’s top player in the 1960s, Botafogo was a force to be reckoned with. The club desperately wants to get back to that stage and break the hegemony of Flamengo and Fluminese.

The Dutch National Team will be playing their football in June 2014 in Brazil. What will the climate impact be for that?

“Not too big. June is perfect. Probably 25 degrees all around. It’s winter in Brazil then. But still humid. But with the right nutrition, and rest periods, it should be fine.”

The KNVB and Louis van Gaal have expressed their wish to use Seedorf as an ambassador for Oranje in Brazil. That must be nice for the ex-international. “Funny that! I read that too. But Van Gaal was here, apparently, 3 months ago but never contacted me. As I’ve never heard anything from the KNVB either. But they have my phone number for 25 years or so. And Louis knows me. He knows I like direct communications. But I won’t go into it via the media myself. Next topic?”

Oranje and Seedorf….

A topic that deserves a book of its own maybe? A player who would easily fall in the same list of names as Cruyff, Van Hanegem, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Koeman, Van Basten… Why was his Oranje career such a disappointment?

The World Cup 2010 would have been the last tournament where he could have played for Oranje. Although according to this physiology, Brazil2014 is still an option….

“I believe the Van Basten period could have been a good one, potentially. I looked forward to the Euro2008 with him. But he was never convinced of me it seems. He didn’t see a pivotal role for me. I was one of the players…. Marco was too headstrong I think. Didn’t open up to other people’s opinions. I think this is why he clashed with Van Bommel and Van Nistelrooy too. Marco is too Dutch. I felt he never believed in me and I couldn’t pump myself up for a role on the sideline anymore. I am an all-or-nothing kinda guy.”

Bert van Marwijk never even called the midfielder up for a session. “He said in the media I was too good to be a benchwarmer…. Well…that said it all….”

Seedorf is clearly disappointed in Van Basten, more so than Van Marwijk. “Bert reached the finals with his squad in 2010. You can say that he did well. With Marco, I share the same football vision. I believe that with Mark and Ruud in the squad – and myself – he could have had an experienced ax in the team. Marco has the right attitude in terms of football tactics and technics, but he is too Dutch, too soft in his mentality. You need to be a killer and as a coach you need to be ego-less. I believe he was too….too Dutch… Weird, as he was at Milan where it’s all about the performance…but hey…. He was young and inexperienced, I’m sure he’ll look back at this and realise it could have been different.”

Seedorf believes Koeman is better equipped for National Team Manager. “You want to win silverware with Holland, you have to be realistic. Koeman was the last coach to bring Ajax far in the CL? And he was criticised for being too realistic in his tactics… Well…. what is it you want, right? I think Koeman mixes the Dutch style with South European shrewdness. He’d be a good team manager.”

Seedorf is really happy with the way Ajax is developing, with lots of his ex-mates now in the key roles. “That is just awesome. And you know what, apart from some little surprises, it was all predictable. These guys developed themselves apart from being a player and they are all where they are for a reason. Overmars was already active in business and with investing when he was a player. He belongs in the board room. Frank de Boer was a coach already when he played. Edwin van der Sar was a bigger surprise, but Edwin is the most pure, honest and loyal bloke you can find. If Ajax wants those values to reign, they picked the right guy. Dennis was a bit of a surprise. I have the highest respect for him. It was Dennis who took me under his wing at Ajax, when I was a youngster. Him and Aron Winter. Dennis is super intelligent, did you know that? I expected him to do something totally different outside of football. But as an assistant coach, I’m sure he is worth his weight in gold. Jaap Stam, haha, I never expected him to become a coach. I expected Jaap to sit on the sofa all day with his family and his huge dog, hahahaha. Don’t tell him I said this!”

Seedorf compares the Ajax direction with the way CL finalist Bayern Munich has been working for quite some time now. Is there a position within Ajax for Seedorf, maybe?

“You never know…. I have lots of energy still, so that won’t stop me….”

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Mark van Bommel retires…

Old soldiers never die, they just fade away. Well, Mark van Bommel took his curtain call in the only way fitting for the midfield warrior. Sent off with a red card. Jokingly, he predicted this before the game, says PSV winger Dries Mertens. “I tried to convince him to stay but he said he wanted to retire like Zidane.” (Jan: who played his last game and like Van Bommel was red-carded).

The 36 year old PSV skipper realises he could have gone on for another season. “But I wanted to keep the lead in my farewell. Didn’t want to push on one season too many. The fans made it hard enough but this is how it is. And this red card is probably symbolical for my season.”
The midfielder started his pro career at Fortuna Sittard in 1992. At 16 years old he made his debut and made his move to PSV 7 years later. Van Bommel was always seen as a huge talent. A highly dynamic midfielder, with the passing skills of a playmaker and the physical strength of a destroyer. In his Fortuna days, he scored many a goal penetrating into the opponent’s box.

Van Bommel was partly responsible for the positive surge of Fortuna and the championship in the First Division.
At Fortuna, he played under his future father in law Bert van Marwijk before he made the big move to PSV, in 1999. He won 6 titles at PSV before he made his way to Barcelona. He won the title and the Champions League under Frank Rijkaard but left after one season for Bayern Munich.

“My time at Barcelona was great. I enjoyed Spain as a country and competition but I couldn’t settle in that rotation philosophy. Rijkaard told me he didn’t see me as the starter in the strongest, ideal eleven. I knew I would play enough games anyway, but I need to be important for a team. When Bayern went out their way to sign me, I decided to go.”
Van Bommel played for Munich from 2006 till the winter of 2011. The midfielder became the undisputed leader at Bayern and won two Bundesliga titles and played the CL finals in 2010. He lost, under Van Gaal, against Sneijder’s Inter Milan.

The relationship between Van Gaal and Van Bommel deteroriated and the Bayern skipper decided to move on. At AC Milan, he also won the national title and was able to make himself important for the rossoneri. He became very popular there and could sign a new deal in 2012 but decided to keep his promise to PSV. He returned to Eindhoven to win the title again and break the Ajax hegemony.

But despite the presence of coach Advocaat, players like Strootman, Mertens, Lens and Wijnaldum, Van Bommel wasn’t able to win more than the Johan Cruyff schaal this season. Ajax beat PSV for the title and AZ beat PSV in the national cup final.

Van Bommel: “I played 21 seasons pro football. My family and my friends have suffered from this. All this time, my program and my needs were most important. I was hardly ever home. Always in training camp or traveling and minding my food intake and getting enough rest. It must have been very hard on them. It’s time for me to give back.”

Mark van Bommel will be remembered as one of Holland’s strongest midfielders. He did collect a lot of cards in his career, but he needs to be remembered for his important passing, his blocks and tackles and his thumping pressure play in midfield. In his career, he also scored a number of beautiful and important goals.
His international career was not all one big success story. It was quite clear from the outset that Bommel would one day wear the orange. He made his debut in 2000 under Louis van Gaal but missed the 2002 tournament as Holland didn’t qualify and missed the 2004 EC in Portugal due to injury.

When Marco van Basten took the job in 2004, Van Bommel looked forward to working with his former idol (Van Basten’s poster adorned Mark’s room as a kid) but the two did not get along too well. In a WC qualification game against Romania, won by Holland, van Bommel didn’t execute his tactical role too well (according to Van Basten) and he overlooked the midfielder for a series of qualification games. Van Bommel had the reputation to “let his man get away from him…”.

In the semi finals Champions League in 2005, AC Milan beat PSV thanks to a late Ambrosini goal, who sneaked away from Van Bommel. This further cemented Mark’s bad rep at this aspect of his game.

Despite this, he did get the invite to play at the World Cup 2006 and was yellow- carded in the infamous Battle of Nuremburg, against Portugal. Van Bommel was overlooked again in the first EC qualification games and when he was called up for the Bulgaria game, he stated – with Van Nistelrooy – that he didn’t want to play under Van Basten anymore.
Rumour has it that Johan Cruyff had something to do with Van Bommel’s position in Oranje. Sometime in 2004, Cruyff was in the tv studio with Van Bommel to analyse Oranje under Dick Advocaat. Cruyff was criticising Advocaat’s 4-4-2 system. The master is not used to having people disagree with him, but Van Bommel immediately stated to not agree with Cruyff and that many teams have played great football with the 4-4-2 system. He even mentioned AC Milan in the 1980s, who famously destroyed JC’s Barcelona in the European Cup.
Cruyff, allegedly, exploded after the tv program, stating he would not return for any tv program, if he had to share the screen with that football player. Apparently, Cruyff influenced Van Basten, just like people believe JC was the reason why Mark was not at Barcelona longer than one season.
Other added to that rift, that Van Basten wasn’t equipped to deal with the more mature Oranje players. Van Nistelrooy and Van der Sar were two other players who would open their mouths at tactical talks and make it hard for Van Basten. With regards to the Romania game, in which Van Bommel ruined it for himself, the players now say that Van Bommel asked out loud what he was supposed to do if his Romanian opponent drifted away. Van Basten said: “You can push up, I want Dirk Kuyt to pick up your man.”

But after the game, Van Basten blamed Van Bommel and something snapped…

Van Nistelrooy decided to return for the EC2008. Van Bommel made his comeback in Oranje under his father in law Van Marwijk and had a series of great games under him. Van Bommel’s highlight in Oranje was the finals against Spain, at the World Cup 2010.

Sadly for him, it was Van Bommel (with Nigel de Jong) who got the blame for the mess in midfield during the 2012 EC debacle, although the whole team dynamic was a mess, but it simply looked as if Van Bommel/De Jong simply couldn’t manage the space anymore. Optical illusion for sure.

After coming out of the dressing room for the last time, this season, he said “the beautiful memories are the ones that last…” Only to add: “Don’t forget, I had 20 minutes extra to think up this comment.”
Van Bommel is happy to have made the choice to return to his club. “PSV is in my blood and I made this deal with the supporters and I wanted to stick to it. Now, I will start my trainer course and will start my career at PSV. We haven’t decided exactly what I will be doing. But I’ll find something. 

Mark’s farewell game is already planed. On July 19, he will have former colleagues like Ribery, Ibrahimovic, Robben, Thomas Muller, Badstuber and Schweinsteiger in his farewell team, most likely to play against either PSV or a group of Dutch internationals. Van Bommel said these players will all come, unless they have a game planned, of course. Duty always before pleasure…

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Van Bommel talks!

Mark van Bommel has officially not yet resigned from Oranje. Not officially, but the most decorated active international ( not counting Seedorf in other words) did say after the Euros that “others should pick up the mantle”… The 35 years old returns to PSV this season and his only aim internationally now is to win the Europa League.

“Yes, it has come that far now. I remember crying in 2010, after the Spain final… It all came out. I didn’t have that this time around. It was more a numbness, I guess. Anger, despair, flabbergasted… But it’s over. I think I have maybe two good seasons left in me and I will give those to PSV.”

It does seem you have tendency to cry suddenly?

“Oh you mean the press conference at Milan? Well, the weird thing is, I have felt so at home there in such a short timeframe. I only played there 1,5 season and everyone at the club was asking me to stay. They even offered me a better deal for another season. When I finally told the people I wouldn’t stay, most of the cried. The laundry ladies, the physios… And when the press officer shed a tear at my press conference, I couldn’t keep it dry either, hahaha… It’s just so emotional you know….”

There were tears amongst the fans too, after the Euros…

“Sure… I know… It was a very bad experience, for us too… Really…I don’t know…unexpected…”

Some people, analysts, say they could see this coming. And they believe Bert van Marwijk – your father in law – saw it coming too?

“No, I don’t believe that. Ridiculous. This team reached the finals two years ago and we have an awesome qualifications again. We only lost our last game against Sweden in the second half as a result of personal mistakes. People who now say they saw it are not straight. I don’t think Bert saw it. I do believe he was concerned for our last line of defense, with Gregory injured, Pieters injured and Mathijsen not 100% fit. Obviously Robben had fitness issues in the start of the season, Sneijder, Afellay, so it’s quite normal that a coach has questionmarks… But we were honest to God pretty confident going into the tournament…”

Too confident? Complacent?

“In hindsight? Maybe… But I don’t think so… Most players came out of a good season. Robin, Klaas Jan, Rafael, myself… Ibi was fit again, Gregory had his games. Johnny Heitinga was man of the season… We had reasons to feel strong. Robben had a tough season but he’s strong and we counted on him taking revenge with Oranje, you know. But that complacency might have been there in the Denmark game. When we were 1-0 down, it did feel as if we all thought “we will turn this around”… We were playing well, creating opportunities. I never expected us not to score… When we had our half time talk, we knew we had 45 minutes to score two and with Huntelaar and Rafael coming on later, we felt we were going to. It was really weird that game…”

What went wrong?

“I think the answer is not that hard. If you look at the game, you see two faces of Oranje. In the first 20 minutes, we push forward, we play our game, we create opportunities and are confident. We pressed as a unit. But somehow we lost that “tightness” and while our forwards pressed high, our defence tracked back… The gap in midfield for Nigel and myself was getting too big. And there was no way we could change it around.”

Why did that happen?

“I am guessing, but I think Johnny was getting a bit concerned with Vlaar and Willems – new lads – close to him and maybe he senses Gregory not being in top form…. There was no cohesion… But we did create opportunities so I thought – like the rest – that we would turn it around… And suddenly, the game was over… That game, we simply should have won it. Even that hand ball was not seen by the ref… pfff… It was not brilliant, but it wasn’t that bad.”

And suddenly you had to play all finals to even get close to winning it.

“Yes and that sort of broke our confidence I guess. We got all that criticism and the lads at the back felt the pressure and Robin got all those questions about him not scoring… It didn’t work for us. I think we made the right decision to stick to our gameplan against Germany. We again started well, with a couple of good opportunities… ”

You could have been the Dutch Pirlo if Robin would have scored that ball alone facing Neuer…

“Well, that’s football. I could have been the man with that pass but I ended up the loser. And yes, I let Schweinsteiger get away, but we made these mistakes as a team. Sneijder let his man go, Willems lost his, Mathijsen made the wrong decision and Gomez did everything right. Bang. Another smack in the face. And that 2-0 was not helping either…”

Again, it felt like a 2-2 was possible.

“Of course. You know people like Van Persie, Robben and Hunter only need so much to score a goal. It takes seconds. We had a number of good plays in the second half and Germany really didn’t play that good. But it wasn’t to be.

And the criticism became stronger. Van Basten and Gullit were ruthless.

“And why? As if we enjoyed it? They know what it’s like. They had that 1990 World Cup. Why would they be so cynical. And they never explained what they thought we should do. It was only “Oh this was sooo bad…” Well, we know that! They were both great players and I didn’t expect this sort of attack.”

But it wasn’t good…

“It wasn’t but in both games, Denmark and Germany, we could have had a much better result. There was no team playing great the whole tournament. Spain played a tremendous finals, but their other games weren’t that good. We lacked luck, we didn’t have “it” at the right time. We deserved more against Denmark and we could have had a second goal against Germany. I accepted the criticism on the first goal Germany scored. But I was not ok with the people saying I didn’t have the legs anymore. That is simply unfair. If I would have played 4 or 5 games bad in a row, sure. Then I would say myself: maybe time to step down. But I played well against England in the friendly, I didn’t do too shabby against the other teams in the friendlies.”

Was it hard to hear from your father in law that you were benched for the Portugal game?

“That father in law thing…that hasn’t come up in four years but when I’m benched people suddenly call the coach “my father in law”… No, it was not hard. It was good for the team. I’m not here for me, but for the team and if it’s good for the result that I sit on the bench, I will. The team needed something and I wasn’t playing great against Germany. I totally accepted that. And again, despite Portugal’s dominance: we were close. Vlaar had an amazing opportunity and Rafael hit the post. We were very unlucky.”

And then it was over…

“Yes. With all the crap that goes with it. Suddenly all sorts of talking heads knew exactly what went on. I don’t know where they got it from, seriously. The vibe in a group is always good when you win and always shite when you lose. That is a given. We don’t have a bad group. We’re all professionals. We talk about stuff and we accept that we are not all the same. We don’t need to be friends. What Robben yelled at Bert or what Huntelaar did in the hotel is all stuff that is part of top sport. In the heat of the moment, things are said. Big deal. We had stuff going on in South Africa too! But, I guess the Dutch people needed to vent their disappointment. I get that.”

But mistakes were made, correct? Willems? Afellay? The Huntelaar situation?

“Well sure, in hindsight you know everything. When Bert selected Willems, everyone though that was ok. Cool and ballsy. Willems did well in my book. Played good against Denmark, didn’t do too badly against Germany… The Portugal game, well… Playing all those offensive players put a lot of strain on the defenders, but he has speed and he was simply a better option than Schaars. Afellay played a very good warm up and seemed fit. And Huntelaar…I think he was getting frustrated and you know what, these are tough situations. If we would have won the Denmark game, everything would have been different… It just went downhill from there… Sad.”

Did Bert discuss his resignation with you?

“No, why would he? He’s strong enough to take care of himself. I expected him to stay in the job. I haven’t really spoken with him. I’m on my holidays now and I’ll return to Eindhoven soon. Looking forward to that. PSV has always been my club. I promised them in 2005 I’d return and here I am. An emotional thing for me, as they were very good for me. And since then, I played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and AC Milan. Not bad….”

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