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Rinus Michels

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Title: Rinus Michels  
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Subject: Johan Cruyff, Louis van Gaal, Marco van Basten, Danny Blind, Dick Advocaat
Collection: 1. Fc Köln Managers, 1928 Births, 1974 Fifa World Cup Managers, 2005 Deaths, Afc Ajax Managers, Afc Ajax Players, Bayer 04 Leverkusen Managers, Dutch Expatriate Football Managers, Dutch Expatriates in Germany, Dutch Expatriates in Spain, Dutch Expatriates in the United Arab Emirates, Dutch Expatriates in the United States, Dutch Football Managers, Dutch Footballers, Eredivisie Players, Expatriate Football Managers in Germany, Expatriate Football Managers in Spain, Expatriate Soccer Managers in the United States, Fc Barcelona Managers, Knights of the Order of Orange-Nassau, La Liga Managers, Netherlands International Footballers, Netherlands National Football Team Managers, North American Soccer League (1968–84) Coaches, Officers of the Order of Orange-Nassau, Sportspeople from Amsterdam, Uefa Champions League Winning Managers, Uefa Euro 1988 Managers, Uefa Euro 1992 Managers, Uefa European Championship-Winning Managers
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Rinus Michels

Rinus Michels
Michels in 1984
Personal information
Full name Marinus Jacobus Hendricus Michels
Date of birth (1928-02-09)9 February 1928
Place of birth Amsterdam, Netherlands
Date of death 3 March 2005(2005-03-03) (aged 77)
Place of death Aalst, Belgium
Height 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)
Playing position Striker
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1946–1958 Ajax 264 (122)
National team
1950–1954 Netherlands 5 (0)
Teams managed
1960–1964 JOS
1964–1965 AFC
1965–1971 Ajax
1971–1975 Barcelona
1974 Netherlands
1975–1976 Ajax
1976–1978 Barcelona
1979–1980 Los Angeles Aztecs
1980–1983 1. FC Köln
1984–1985 Netherlands
1986–1988 Netherlands
1988–1989 Bayer Leverkusen
1990–1992 Netherlands

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Marinus "Rinus" Jacobus Hendricus Michels OON (Dutch pronunciation: ; 9 February 1928 – 3 March 2005) was a Dutch association football player and coach.[1] He played his entire career for the club Ajax Amsterdam, which he later coached, and was a member of the Netherlands national team both as a player and as manager.

Michels became most notable for his coaching achievements, having won the European Cup with Ajax and the Spanish league with Barcelona, and having had four tenures as coach of the Netherlands national team, which he led to reach the final match of the 1974 World Cup and to win the 1988 European Championship.[1] He is credited with the invention of a major football tactic known as "Total Football" in the 1970s,[1] and was named "coach of the century" by FIFA in 1999.[1]


  • Playing career 1
    • Ajax first team 1.1
    • National team 1.2
  • Coaching career 2
    • 1974 World Cup 2.1
    • Later years 2.2
    • European Champions 2.3
  • Death 3
  • Personality and legacy 4
  • Quotes 5
    • About Michels 5.1
  • Career statistics 6
  • Honours 7
    • Player 7.1
    • Manager 7.2
    • Other 7.3
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Playing career

Michels was born in Amsterdam and grew up at the Olympiaweg, a street near the Olympic Stadium. He celebrated his ninth birthday on 9 February 1936, when he received a pair of football boots and an Ajax jersey. Moments later he was playing with his father at a small field near their home.[2] Via Joop Köhler, a friend of the family who was commissioner at Ajax, Michels was introduced to the club and became a junior member in 1940.[2] When World War II started, and specially during the Dutch famine of 1944, Michels' career was set on hold.[2]

French club Lille OSC had also wanted to contract him, but an international career did not go through as the Dutch Army did not let him go because he had to go on duty.[2]

Ajax first team

Rinus Michels (1954)

On 9 June 1946 Michels was invited into Ajax' first team squad to replace the injured Han Lambregt. In his debut, Ajax beat ADO 8–3 and Michels scored five times.[2] That season Ajax won their fourteenth division championship and a year later they won the Dutch national championship.[2] Although there were doubts about Michels' technical skills, team members like Cor van der Hart and captain Joop Stoffelen were enthusiastic about his strength and heading capabilities.[2] Indeed, Michels was characterized for his hard work rather than for his technical qualities.[3]

He went on to become a regular for the club, and between 1946 and 1958, he appeared in 264 league matches for Ajax, in which he scored 122 goals.[2] In 1958, four years after the introduction of professional football in the Netherlands and one year after winning his second league title he was forced to end his career due to a back injury.[2]

National team

Michels' international playing career with the Dutch national team lasted five matches, making his debut on 8 June 1950 away to Sweden, losing 4–1.[4] He also lost all of his remaining matches as an Oranje player, 4–1 to Finland, 4–0 to Belgium, 6–1 to Sweden and 3–1 to Switzerland.[4]

Coaching career

Michels returned to Ajax as head coach in 1965. Under his tenure and along with great players such as Johan Cruyff and Johan Neeskens, Ajax went from relegation candidates to a team that won the national championship four times and the KNVB Cup three times in the following six years. In 1969 they reached the final of the European Cup for the first time, being defeated 4–1 by Italian side A.C. Milan. In 1971, he managed Ajax's to the first of three consecutive European Cups, a feat only achieved previously by the great Real Madrid team of Di Stefano and Puskas. While at Ajax, Michels modernized the game by introducing what became known as "Total Football" and using the Offside trap. He then moved to Barcelona in the second part of 1971, being joined by Johan Cruyff in 1973. With Michels and Cruyff, the team won the Primera División title in 1974, before Michels became manager of the Dutch national team.[1]

1974 World Cup

Michels was appointed national coach by the KNVB after the Netherlands had qualified for the 1974 World Cup. His first game as Dutch coach was on 27 March 1974, in a 1–1 draw against Austria. At the finals tournament in Germany, their third ever World Cup participation, the Dutch impressed many observers with their style of play which was backed up by their results; they won their first round group, then in the second round group they defeated Argentina and the defending world champions Brazil, and reached the final after five wins and one draw, with 14 goals scored and only one conceded in six matches. At that point, Michels was undefeated in nine matches as the Netherlands coach. The Netherlands scored first against Germany in the final, but the host team came back to defeat them 2–1, ending their run. That match was the last of Michels' first tenure in charge of the Dutch team, which he would return to coach ten years later.

Later years

Michels later moved on to the United States where he coached in the ill-fated North American Soccer League. He ended his club coaching career with Bayer Leverkusen in 1989. He had his jour de gloire however, when he coached the Dutch team to European glory at the Euro 88.

European Champions

Rinus Michels (right) with his assistant manager Nol de Ruiter at UEFA Euro 1988

Michels returned to coach the team for the Euro '88 tournament. After losing the first group match against the Soviet Union (1–0), the Netherlands went on to qualify for the semi-final by defeating England 3–1 (with a hat-trick by the tournament's top scorer Marco van Basten), and Republic of Ireland (1–0). For many Dutch football supporters, the most important match in the tournament was the semi-final against West Germany, the host country, considered a revenge for the lost 1974 World Cup final (also in West Germany). Michels said, after the match,"We won the tournament, but we all know that the semi-final was the real final". Marco van Basten, who would later become national team coach, scored in the 89th minute of the game to sink the German side. The game is also remembered for its post-match shenanigans, including Ronald Koeman, who, in front of the German supporters, provocatively pretended to wipe his backside with the shirt of Olaf Thon as if it were toilet paper, an action Koeman later did not regret. The Netherlands won the final with a convincing victory over the USSR, a rematch on the round robin game, through a header by Ruud Gullit and a volley by van Basten. This was the national team's first major tournament win and it restored them to the forefront of international football after almost a decade in the wilderness for almost three years to come.


Michels died, on 3 March 2005, in the City of Aalst hospital in Belgium after a heart surgery in the hospital of Gareth, Spain (his second since 1986).

Personality and legacy

Michels became known as a person who was keen on his money and did not want to spend much of it. A common joke in the Ajax changing rooms in these days was: "Does anybody actually know the color of Michels' wallet?".[2] His Hans Boskamp climbed up the stages to sing some duets.[2] After matches he was always soaping himself down in the showers of the changing rooms as well, even when the match was lost.[2]

Michels was also known as a practical joker. At a hotel he once borrowed a fur coat of a lady and pretended to be a lady to his team mates.[2] During a training session in Lille the players went fishing and Michels, who did not enjoy himself, jumped into the water.[2]

Due to his authoritarian style as coach, Michels was called The General. He said "Professional football is something like war. Whoever behaves too properly is lost."[5] This has often been misquoted in the form "Football is war". Michels felt the quote was taken out of context as he did not intend to equate war with football.[6] Michels was named coach of the century by FIFA in 1999.[1]

The Rinus Michels Award, which rewards the best managers in Dutch football, is named in his honour.


  • Professional football is something like war. Whoever behaves too properly, is lost. Often misquoted in the form "Football is war".[1][6]
  • It is an art in itself to compose a starting team, finding the balance between creative players and those with destructive powers, and between defence, construction and attack – never forgetting the quality of the opposition and the specific pressures of each match.[7]

About Michels

  • "Both as a player and as a trainer there is nobody who taught me as much as him. I will miss Rinus Michels. ... I always greatly admired his leadership." Johan Cruijff[8]

Career statistics

Club performance League
Season Club League Apps Goals
Netherlands League
1945–46 Ajax Football League Championship 12 13
1946–47 28 14
1947–48 5 3
1948–49 20 7
1949–50 26 16
1950–51 14 5
1951–52 19 15
1952–53 20 8
1953–54 26 12
1954–55 33 14
1955–56 30 8
1956–57 Eredivisie 29 7
1957–58 2 0
Country Netherlands 264 122
Total 264 122





1. FC Köln[9]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Scholten, Berend (3 March 2005). "Michels – a total footballing legend". UEFA. Retrieved 29 January 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Droomland". Retrieved 30 January 2007. 
  3. ^ The Times Online (4 March 2005). "Rinus Michels obituary". The Times (London). Retrieved 1 February 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "Rinus Michels – 09 februari 1928" (in Nederlands). Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2007. 
  5. ^ In Dutch: "Topvoetbal is zoiets als oorlog. Wie netjes blijft, is verloren".
  6. ^ a b "NRC Handelsblad". NRC Handelsblad. Retrieved 1 December 2007. 
  7. ^ "Rinus Michels". Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  8. ^ Paul Gallagher (4 March 2005). "Father of Dutch soccer dies". The Age (Australia). Retrieved 30 January 2007. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "The Netherlands' Grand Master". Retrieved 15 May 2014
  10. ^ "World Soccer Awards – previous winners". World Soccer. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  11. ^ "Michels and Houllier receive UEFA awards". UEFA. Retrieved 18 March 2015. 

External links

  • Sven Goran Erikson's tribute to Rinus Michels (3 March 2005)
  • Rinus Michels profile and stats at Wereld van Oranje (Dutch)
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Ernst Happel
European Cup Winning Coach
Succeeded by
Ștefan Kovács
Preceded by
Michel Hidalgo
UEFA European Championship Winning Coach
Succeeded by
Richard Møller Nielsen
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