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Rinus Michels RIP

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From www.soccernet.com

Pioneer of 'Total Football' Michels dies


Tottenham sporting director Frank Arnesen has hailed Rinus Michels as one of the greatest characters in Dutch football following the death of the former national team boss today at the age of 77.

Rinus Michels: Guided Netherlands to their only trophy to date in the 1988 European Championships. (NealSimpson/Empics)

Michels, who will be remembered as the man who pioneered `total football', passed away in a hospital in Aalst, Belgium, after complications resulting from heart surgery two weeks ago.

Known as the 'Sphinx' in his homeland, he led Holland to the 1974 World Cup final where they were defeated by Germany while he was also manager when the Dutch claimed the 1988 European Championships - the country's only major trophy.

Arnesen has a number of personal memories of Michels, who plucked the current Spurs supremo - then a fledgling amateur with Danish side Copenhagen - from relatively obscurity and signed him for Ajax.

'It is a big, big loss,' admitted Arnesen. 'He was one of the greatest personalities of Dutch football. 'He was very progressive in every way he thought about football - he developed total football in the late 60s.

'He was an amazing man. He didn't need to speak to get your respect. When he came into a room, everybody respected him.

'When I first went to Ajax, I couldn't bear to look at him he had so much respect. He took Ajax over when they were nearly at the bottom in the mid-60s.

'With him passing away, Holland have lost one of their biggest personalities in sport.'

Arnesen revealed Michels, who led Ajax to European Cup success against Panathinaikos at Wembley in 1971, played a major part in his spell as a youngster at the Amsterdam club.

'He was very important to me because he signed me when I was 18 from an amateur in Copenhagen to my first professional contract with Ajax.

'I went in December 1975. He was my first coach, he saw me play and he took me to Ajax.

'I had him as manager for half a year before he went to a second spell with Barcelona but I always kept contact with him, he had a lot of humour.'

Michels played for Ajax in the 1940s before returning to the club as head coach in 1965.

During the following six years, Ajax won the national championship four times and the KNVB Cup three times before they picked up the first of three consecutive European Cups in his final year in charge in 1971.

The 2-0 victory over Panathinaikos was his last match in charge at the club.

Michels then enjoyed a brief but successful spell in charge of Spanish giants Barcelona, whom he helped to the Primera Liga title in 1974 before taking charge of the national team.

The Holland of the mid-70s, which featured the likes of Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Ruud Krol, were remembered for playing `fantasy' football during Michels' reign.

The term 'total football' was coined to describe how all 10 outfield players seemed comfortable and creative with the ball at a time when defenders were not generally renowned for their skills.

In 1988, a 2-0 victory over the Soviets by a Michels-led Dutch side saw them lift their first major prize - the European Championships.

Marco van Basten, the current Holland manager who was one of the scorers that day, also paid tribute to Michels by comparing him to Nestor, a figure from Greek mythology renowned for his wisdom.

'The death of the Nestor of the trainers guild, the father of Dutch football, is an enormous loss for the football world,' said the former AC Milan striker.

'Michels was a man who had all the qualities of a top coach. He could motivate a group and could at the right time ease the pressure because of his special humour.

'But he could, on the other hand, also be tough while at other times he showed his warmth.

'It's not for nothing that he is the only coach who picked up a real prize with the Oranje.

'As for me personally it was a very special thing that Michels gave me the license to be a coach in Holland.'

Ajax director Arie van Eijden added: 'Rinus Michels has been a key figure for the club (Ajax) and international football. A big Ajax man and a club honorary member has left us and that gives us enormous sadness.'

UEFA officials also paid their respects, and president Lennart Johansson said: 'Rinus Michels was an excellent coach and a great manager.

'Not only the KNVB but also the European football family has lost a personality who devoted a large part of his life to our sport.

'We will always remember him for his outstanding contribution to our game.'

Chief executive officer Lars-Christer Olsson added: 'Rinus Michels dedicated an important part of his life to football and contributed to the game's development and history.

'We send our sincere condolences to his family and many friends. He will really be sadly missed by the KNVB and by us at UEFA.'

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