Rinus Michels is number 3 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.
Rinus Michels is the most influential manager there’s ever been. It’s that simple. In that vein, picking out the greatest eleven players from his 32-year career in management was not simple at all.
But, it had to be done, and with a heavy emphasis on those who not only conformed but excelled within his exacting Total Football ways, it eventually was.
Without further ado, here’s the father of Dutch football’s greatest XI in, yes, a 4-3-3 formation:
Goalkeepers & Defenders
Toni Schumacher: Pictured above with those unstoppable curls, holding aloft the DFB Pokal he won under Michels, Schumacher was the custodian for Koln during the boss’ three-year stint at the start of the 1980s. Still, he’s most famous for THAT collision with France’s Patrick Battiston in the 1982 World Cup semi-final.
Wim Suurbier: Ajax’s full back for 13 years, throughout Michels’ tenure and three-peating European Cup side after it, the pacy and indefatigable Suurbier later joined Johan Cruyff and Michels at the Los Angeles Aztecs.
Velibor Vasovic: A sweeper by trade, Vasovic operated largely as a Libero in Michels’ system, joining in the midfield when his side had the ball, and was probably the most effective man at doing so in Europe during his pomp.
Arie Haan: Another one who thrived in the fluidity of Total Football, Haan was originally a wide midfielder, but felt equally comfortable at the back. He was effectively Vasovic’s replacement, and arguably just as impressive.
Ruud Krol: Completing the backline is Rudi Krol, another generational talent and another man who could basically play anywhere you wanted him to.
Johan Neeskens: The best presser Michels ever had, and another man who played under him multiple times, in stints at Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national side. An underrated titan of the game. Now working with another Michels alum, Frank Rijkaard, at Galatasaray.
Willem van Hanegem: Spending most of his days at Utrecht and Feyenoord, van Hanegem never played for the big guy at club level, just the national side. Naturally, as a Michels player, he was adept at both sides of the game, and integral to the 1974 World Cup side. Went on to win the Eredivisie as a manager with Feyenoord as well.
Wim Jansen: Another Feyenoord player, Jansen was just as useful in the centre of midfield, though less ethereal than van Hanegem. However, he did move to Ajax at the end of his career – not Michels’ Ajax – under the advice of compatriot Cruyff. His first game was a snowy one against Feyenoord, in which a fan threw a snowball at him so hard he had to leave the field for treatment.
Johnny Rep: The Netherlands’ all-time record goalscorer at World Cups, with seven, Rep was a rapacious footballer, and scored the winning goal in the 1973 European Cup final against Juventus.
Johan Cruyff: Michels’ greatest player (and when that player is the fifth greatest player of all-time
Rob Rensenbrink: After just missing Michels at DWS, the two only collaborated in their time with the national team, but what a collaboration it was. Rensenbrink was on the fringes of the Oranje squad until Michels came in in 1974, and the rest is history.
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