Louis van Gaal declared on Monday that his 26-year coaching career had come to an end. “I thought it would be a sabbatical, but now I do not think I will return to coaching,” said the 65-year-old, who left Manchester United last summer. So what better excuse to recall what happened next to the star-studded team that was responsible for the Dutchman’s finest hour – Ajax’s 1-0 defeat of Milan in the 1995 UEFA Champions League final.
Louis van Gaal
Steered Ajax to the UEFA Champions League decider in 1996 too, but they lost to Juventus on that occasion. Van Gaal went on to win domestic titles with Barcelona and Bayern München, had two spells in charge of the Netherlands – taking them to third place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup – and concluded his career at United, where he lifted the FA Cup last year.
Edwin van der Sar
Just 24 at the time of Ajax’s triumph, Van der Sar went on to earn a record 130 caps over 13 years. Stays at Juventus and Fulham followed before the keeper joined United in 2005, landing another UEFA Champions League title three years later. “I have made better saves but this was the most important,” he said after denying Nicolas Anelka in the shoot-out victory over Chelsea. Van der Sar retired after the 2011 UEFA Champions League final defeat by Barcelona and is now a cornerstone of Ajax’s technical department.
The 1996 European Cup final loss prompted the full-back to swap Ajax for Milan, where he endured an injury-hit season before departing for Barcelona in 1997. During seven years with the Blaugrana, Reiziger won a UEFA Super Cup, two Spanish titles and the Copa del Rey. He finished his playing days with fleeting stops at Middlesbrough and PSV. Currently operates as assistant coach at Sparta Rotterdam.
One of the golden generation’s older heads, defender Blind served Ajax for a further four years – by which time the captain had five Eredivisie championships and four Dutch Cups among other trophies. Capped 42 times by the Netherlands, Blind was appointed the national team’s assistant coach in 2012 after honing his technical talents at former club Sparta and serving under Frank de Boer at Ajax from 2008–11. Now has the Oranje top job after succeeding Guus Hiddink in July 2015.
The Netherlands midfielder immediately called time on his glittering career after claiming his third European Cup from six attempts. Rijkaard turned his hand to coaching three years later, steering the Netherlands to the UEFA EURO 2000 semi-finals. He was named Barcelona boss in 2003 despite failing to maintain Sparta’s top-flight status less than 12 months before. There he picked up back-to-back Liga crowns and the 2006 UEFA Champions League trophy. After leaving Barcelona in 2008, he had unsuccessful stints as boss of Galatasaray and Saudi Arabia.
Frank de Boer
A defender renowned for his technical proficiency, Frank followed twin brother Ronald to Barcelona in 1999. After five trophy-less campaigns at Camp Nou, he turned out for Galatasaray, Rangers and Qatari outfits al-Rayyan and al-Shamal. Frank then took his first steps in coaching as part of Ajax’s youth set-up in 2006 and assumed first-team duties from Martin Jol in 2010, directing the Amsterdam club to four consecutive championships. Left in May 2016 and had a brief spell at the Inter Milan helm which ended in November.
The midfielder carved out a prodigious career after quitting Ajax at the close of 1994/95. A single season at Sampdoria ensued before Seedorf headed to Real Madrid where he tasted European glory for a second time. He was transferred to Inter in 2000 and two years later switched to Milan. Seedorf again collected Europe’s biggest club prize in 2003, becoming the first player to do so with three different clubs. Further glory came in the 2007 final – seven years before he retired to take the reins as Milan boss. He occupied that post for just four months and his tenure at Shenzhen in China last year was similarly short-lived.
The Nigeria winger made Real Betis his home in 1996, registering 38 times in 130 Liga outings before moving to Mallorca. Ipswich Town became his next port of call in 2001, yet the wide man returned to Mallorca two years later and eventually hung up his boots in 2004. “It was a wonderful time – from the moment I arrived at Ajax, things went well and we won trophies. We had great players,” said George, who has since earned his coaching badges.
Famed for those glasses, the tough-tackling midfielder departed for Milan in 1996, only to link up with Juventus the next campaign. During seven years in Turin, Davids amassed three Serie A crowns and lost two UEFA Champions League finals, before signing a six-month loan deal with Rijkaard’s Barcelona in 2004. Davids proceeded to represent Inter, Tottenham, Crystal Palace and English lower then non-league outfit Barnet, where he acted as player-coach from 2012–14.
Ronald de Boer
“I have never been so happy. Winning the championship is nothing compared to this,” said the Netherlands midfielder back in 1995. Ronald swapped Amsterdam for Barcelona 12 months before his brother’s arrival in 1999, adding the Spanish title to his list of honours during his debut campaign. He acquired further silverware with Frank at Rangers and later followed his sibling to Qatar until retirement in 2008. Now assistant at the Ajax academy having first sampled coaching in the Middle East.
Regarded as Finland’s greatest-ever footballer, Litmanen signed for Barcelona in 1999 although his impact in Catalonia was softened by injury. The intelligent attacker was still able to produce glimpses of magic during 12 months at Liverpool, where he lifted the UEFA Cup in 2001. An Ajax comeback the next term did not produce a fairly-tail ending, however, and instead he would play out his career back home with HJK Helsinki.
Arsenal secured the winger’s services in 1997 and he soon repaid their faith, helping the Gunners to a league and cup double 12 months later. Overmars then became the most expensive Dutchman in history when opting to join Barcelona for around €25m in 2000, yet injury restricted him to just 97 Liga matches. He briefly returned to action with Go Ahead Eagles in 2008, later becoming the club’s technical manager, before his installation as Ajax director of football in 2012.
The Nigeria forward sealed a transfer to Inter shortly after winning the UEFA Champions League – but his three-year Italian sojourn was hampered by a heart defect. Arsenal took a gamble on Kanu in 1999 and were rewarded as the lanky attacker starred in two Premier League and as many FA Cups triumphs. He later spent two years with West Bromwich Albion after leaving Arsène Wenger’s men in 2004, before switching to Portsmouth and netting the winner in their 2008 FA Cup success.
The hero of Vienna struggled to make an impression at Milan after being lured to Serie A in 1997. He recaptured his form at Barcelona, though, plundering 90 goals in 181 games. Less prolific intervals at Newcastled United, Valencia, PSV and LOSC followed before he stopped playing in 2008. Kluivert has since been Oranje assistant coach under Van Gaal, managed the Curaçao national team and worked within the Ajax academy. Now director of football at Paris Saint-Germain.