It was already written in the stars; it was only a matter of time. Ever since the early days of his playing career, no one doubted that Mark Van Bommel would one day become a coach. Or that it would be with PSV, the club he served for seven years in two spells, scoring 52 goals in 197 games.
The only surprise was the timing. But when Phillip Cocu moved to Fenerbahce, PSV’s board did not hesitate to appoint their ex-midfielder.
“Two years ago we started this route with Mark Van Bommel. He is now ready for it,” declared general manager Toon Gerbrands. “Mark is a winner when it comes to learning. He’s very determined to develop himself.”
And the club’s new coach could only agree, stating: “You can’t direct the moment but I’ve got the right equipment to start this challenge.”
Van Bommel is the latest in what is an interesting strategy from Holland’s top three clubs. Former national teammates Frank De Boer, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and Cocu have all been appointed as head coaches in recent
years despite having little experience. De Boer won four titles at Ajax, Cocu three at PSV and Van Bronckhorst one title and two national cups at Feyenoord.
The 41-year-old Van Bommel – who also played for Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Milan – coached PSV’s under-19s last year and was an assistant to Bert Van Marwijk, his father-in-law, with Saudi Arabia and Australia.
Van Marwijk will be on hand to offer advice to the new PSV coach – and that might not be a bad idea. Two years ago, Van Bronckhorst oversaw Feyenoord’s worst-ever run until the experienced Dick Advocaat came in to help him get the team back on track.
One thing is for sure – there will be a change of style in Eindhoven. Van Bommel likes to win at all cost and isn’t aiming to top any popularity polls. He will opt for a more aggressive style by putting pressure on opponents’ defences. And as a player that opposing fans loved to hate, he won’t get a warm reception in the rest of the country.
He will be helped by the fact that keeper Jeroen Zoet and striker Luuk De Jong have decided to stay at the club, as has Mexico’s Hirving Lozano – for now.
Some 85km north in Arnhem, Vitesse have taken a different managerial approach by appointing Leonid Slutsky.
Although the 47-year-old won three championships with CSKA Moscow and was a respected national coach in Russia, his travels to western Europe have not been very successful. His short spell at Hull City could be described as a failure, but that hasn’t scared off the Arnhem club’s board.
Vitesse, often seen as a satellite club of Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea, are under Russian influence and know who they are dealing with. And it was Russian director Valery Oyf, whose intervention was the main reason for previous coach Henk Fraser leaving, who cut the deal.
Referred to as “Hollywood on the Rhine” because the club is so often in turmoil, Slutsky will need all his experience to guide Vitesse to silverware. After all, a club with a 126-year history should have won more than just the 2017 Dutch Cup. But he won’t be able to call on Guram Kashia, who has gone to San Jose Earthquakes, while Matt Miazga and last year’s sensation Mason Mount both returned to Chelsea.
Even with the arrival of experienced Portuguese goalkeeper Eduardo from Chelsea and Slovakian striker Matus Bero from Trabzonspor it is hard to see Slutsky competing with Holland’s top three. And especially now that Robin Van Persie has decided to postpone his retirement for another year at Feyenoord, and Ajax have re-signed Daley Blind from Manchester United and bought Dusan Tadic from Southampton.
With PSV probably having the most balanced squad it could well be another year when the rookie beats the veteran in the Eredivisie.
“Two years ago we started this route with Mark Van Bommel. He is now ready for it” PSV general manager Toon Gerbrands
New approach... Mark Van Bommel
Staying... Luuk De Jong