Van Gaal era starts with a whimper
Louis van Gaal came to Bayern Munich because the Bavarians were looking for a “soccer teacher“, someone who would rid the club of former coach Juergen Klinsmann’s experiments — the innovative training methods, the meditation sessions and the Buddha statues — and bring the club back to basics.
So far so good. By the time Van Gaal arrived in July, Bayern had already signed strikers Ivica Olic, Mario Gomez and defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Whether or not he would have agreed to all these transfers is unknown. But fact is Tymoschchuk, worth 14 million euros, would not be starting any time soon if captain Mark van Bommel had not been injured.
“My captain will always play,” said Van Gaal, pointing to the bench as the temporary place for the Ukrainian.
Van Gaal’s first Bundesliga match in charge was unimpressive. Mind you they were missing Franck Ribery, Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose and Martin Demichelis.
But apart from injuries there are other issues that come into play. Ribery is fuming for not being allowed to sign with Real Madrid, Toni could still leave in the hope of getting a starting spot at another team ahead of the 2010 World Cup while Demichelis has failed to recover his stinging form of the 2007/8 season. And Tymoshchuck doesn’t like the idea of the bench.
If anyone knows how to get the best out of a player is van Gaal. He did it in the mid ’90s with Ajax Amsterdam, though mainly with a group of talented youngsters, more open to the discipline of the Dutchman.
With Barcelona in the late ’90s he was successful only in Spain, failing to win any major European trophies. He flopped with the Dutch national team but again enjoyed domestic success last season with AZ Alkmaar, again with a group of relative unknowns.
Bayern is littered with big personalities. Ribery, van Bommel, Tymoschchuk, Toni and even Klose. Whether or not he will succeed in translating this energy into silverware looks to be this Bundesliga season’s most exciting story.
PHOTO: Bayern Munich’s coach Louis van Gaal looks up before their friendly match against Schalke 04 in Gelsenkirchen July 19, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen