Ronald Koeman is a Dutch manager who previously played as a defender and a midfielder. He was born on 21st March 1963 to Martin and Marijke Koeman in Zaandam, North Holland. Martin Koeman played semi-professionally, most notably for GVAV, the predecessor of FC Groningen. Koeman senior would go on to win a single cap for The Netherlands, a 1-1 draw with Austria on 12th April 1964. He passed away on 18th December 2013 at the age of 75, suffering a heart attack. Ronald's older brother Erwin Koeman would also go on to play and coach professionally.
Koeman spent the early part of his life in De Wijert, a village in Groningen. The neighbourhood was dominated by former footballers, including GVAV stars Ferry Petterson, Dick van Vlierden, Dick Bosschieter, and Henk Meuken. Koeman and brother Erwin were rarely seen without a football, even before they started at the Bredero Elementary School. When playing fields were occupied the Koeman brothers and the other kids in the neighbourhood would improvise, using poles or garage doors as targets. Mother Marijke said years later that she would often have to throw bread down from the balcony at dinner time, because her boys were so reluctant to come inside and quit playing football. Martin Koeman juggled his semi-professional career with his work in a butcher shop. Ronald would later attribute his impressive physique to all the good meat he ate as a youngster from his dad's shop.
The brothers developed a competitive spirit from an early age. Ronald was said to be the more volatile of the two, chasing brother Erwin with a pool cue on more than one occasion. When the Koeman's visited their aunt in Heiloo, they would often take the opportunity to travel to watch AZ Alkmaar train. The knowledge they picked up on those trips would soon be put to good use. Ronald and Erwin joined amateur side VV Helpman.
Helpman quickly realised they had two special talents within their ranks, with the Koeman brothers shining in midfield. They soon made the move to GRC Groningen. Erwin was reluctant to make the switch, but Ronald was keen, with father Martin insisting either both went or neither did. The Koeman's credit GRC coach Ronald Van Gelder for helping them to develop into the professionals they would become. Van Gelder was described by the brothers as years ahead of his time and very thorough in his approach to the game. In 1973 the Koeman family moved to the town of Horen, which meant the boys had to cycle for 30 minutes to get to training at GRC. Traipsing across town in all weathers was said to have strengthened their mental resolve.
Ronald joined FC Groningen at the end of the 1978/79 season, quickly working his way up from the C team to the second team. Even at the age of 17 Koeman was eager and impatient to get his start in the senior side. He would eventually be handed his debut on 21st September 1980, a 2-0 win over NEC. Koeman kept his place in the team for the next few games, but was later dropped by coach Theo Desire. The player responded by calling his boss a bastard. Koeman was already proving to be very outspoken and stubborn. Desire challenged him to improve his fitness. Koeman was known to enjoy the occasional trip to the disco and his diet was said to be less than perfect.
Despite some personal differences, Koeman enjoyed Desire's training methods, and continued his rapid progress on the field. In 1981/82 he was crowned player of the year at Groningen. The highlight of his season came in a 4-0 win over PSV, where he scored two goals. In 1982 Erwin returned from a three year stint at PSV to re-join his brother at Groningen. The pair helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup. On 23rd January 1982 Ronald caught the eye of Ajax, scoring in an incredible 5-5 draw. Koeman left Groningen a hero, having scored in his final home match, a 6-1 win over Twente.
In 1983, around the same time he completed his military service, Koeman moved to Ajax. The transfer was complex and protracted, but eventually went through for a fee of 1,250,000 guilders, despite late interest from PSV. On April 27th 1983, just prior to the move, Koeman made his international debut for The Netherlands in a 3-0 defeat to Sweden.
Koeman came to Ajax as a midfielder, where he would line-up alongside Frank Rijkaard. Coach Aad de Mos would soon convert the player into a libero (sweeper) once he had settled into his new surroundings. Koeman found the adjustment difficult at first, but his intelligence and technique would eventually allow him to thrive in the new position. He scored his first goal for his country in a 3-0 win over Iceland on 7th September 1983.
Koeman suffered a rude awakening early on in Amsterdam, with Ajax crashing out of the European Cup at the hands of Olympiakos. The team finished 3rd, but although Koeman's performances were magnified to a greater degree than they had been at Groningen he did still enjoy some personal success at De Meer Stadion. He scored in the famous 8-2 win over Feyenoord, a match which also saw teammate Marco Van Basten net a hatrick. Koeman made a successful return to Groningen in March 1984, scoring twice in a 5-1 drubbing.
Koeman moved back into midfield for the 1984/85 season, following the arrival of veteran defender Ronald Spelbos. Ajax would go on to win the Eredivisie title that season, but the dressing room would still be fraught with tension. De Mos clashed with several high profile players, including Van Basten and Rijkaard. Koeman was criticised in some quarters for not performing to his maximum capabilities. The midfielder complained about de Mos adapting his tactics to stop the opposition, arguing that Ajax were strong enough to impose their style on anyone.
Johan Cruyff took charge of Ajax prior to the 1985/86 campaign. Koeman found it difficult under the new boss at first. Cruyff implemented a new 3-4-3 system and the early training sessions were said to be particularly arduous. Koeman would later say he longed for a return to Groningen, until Cruyff adapted his methods. The coach saw how his public criticism of the player had affected him and adopted a milder approach. Koeman was singled out for praise in training, and was named best player in a pre-season tournament. Ajax would finish runners up to PSV in the Eredivisie that season, but still caught the eye with some blistering attacking football. Cruyff refused to compromise style for results. His influence on Koeman had an everlasting effect.
Koeman left for PSV in the summer of 1986. Cruyff later said he was slightly regretful about the libero's departure, but added that Ajax's difficult financial situation meant that they were unable to match Eindhoven's offer of a four year contract.
Koeman scored twice in his first three games for the Rood-witten, but would suffer the ignominy of a 3-0 defeat on his return to Ajax on 31st August 1986. PSV also crashed out of the European Cup early on at the hands of Bayern Munich, but would go on to win the domestic title with ease, in spite of dressing room unrest. Koeman and Ruud Gullit would rotate positions from sweeper to midfield early on, until Gullit's controversial 1987 transfer to Milan. By that time Koeman had garnered a reputation as something of a set-piece expert, with many of the 19 goals he scored during 1986/87 coming from the spot or from free-kicks.
Guus Hiddink had taken charge of PSV in March 1987, and would go on to lead the club to an unprecedented treble, culminating in a European Cup final penalty shootout victory over Benfica on 25th May 1988. Koeman scored his spot-kick, but nearly didn't make the final, having initially been suspended for making what were deemed to be inappropriate comments. The player described a particularly brutal tackle from teammate Hans Gillhaus on Bordeaux's Jean Tigana as "an act of pure class". Koeman was banned for both semi-finals against Real Madrid and the final, but would have his suspension reduced to just one match on appeal.
Koeman picked up more silverware on June 25th 1988, helping Netherlands win the European Championship in West Germany. The PSV man scored a penalty in a heated semi-final match against the host nation, and infuriated the crowd at full-time by pretending to wipe his backside with the shirt of German Olaf Thon.
PSV were strengthened further prior to the 1988/89 campaign with the capture of Romario. Koeman said in an interview years later that he did all he could to help the Brazilian forward settle, by inviting him and his wife round for dinner. Romario preferred to mainly stick with his own company however, although the pair did hit it off on the pitch, helping PSV to a domestic double.
On New Year's Eve 1988 Koeman was contacted by Barcelona manager Johan Cruyff regarding a potential transfer. Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Napoli also showed an interest, but the lure of the Nou Camp was too much to resist. Koeman would eventually complete his move to Spain in time for the 1989/90 season.
Koeman was mobbed at the airport when he flew to Barcelona to sign his contract on April 22nd 1989. Thousands turned up for his presentation at the Nou Camp too. The Dutch international took part in his first public training session on 29th July 1989, but would suffer a slightly unfortunate start at the club.
There was a brief dispute between Koeman's former club and Barcelona which delayed the player's debut. PSV were late to receive a further payment of 12.5 million guilders. Koeman and his wife had started taking Spanish classes in January 1989, but still found the language difficult to pick up at first. He spent most of his time with fellow new boy Michael Laudrup early on, conversing in English. Koeman also had to adapt to the intensity of the Barcelona fans. He was forced to leave an amusement park on more than one occasion after he and his family were swarmed by supporters.
Back on the pitch Koeman found it slightly difficult at first too. He received criticism from the media and struggled to adapt to the heat and unfamiliar training methods. There were also rumours that some of Koeman's teammates were resentful of his hefty salary. Koeman was shifted around midfield at first, but found life more comfortable as a libero. He ended his first season at the Nou Camp with a more than respectable tally of 19 goals. Barca would only finish 3rd however, although Koeman did play a big role in the team's run to Copa del Rey glory.
Koeman and the Netherlands were unable to replicate the success they had achieved at Euro 1988 during the 1990 World Cup in Italy. Unpopular coach Thijs Libregts was replaced by Leo Beenhakker before the tournament. Ruud Gullit had been the most vocal opponent of Libregts (who had been quoted making racially offensive comments) but Koeman was another player who didn't see eye to eye with the coach. Preparation for Italia 90 was said to be poor, and Koeman did not escape criticism for his substandard performances, with the Netherlands crashing out in the 2nd round to rivals West Germany.
Fortunately for Koeman things did improve for him at club level. Barcelona continued to evolve under the guidance of Cruyff, adding Hristov Stoichkov to an already star-studded line-up. Koeman missed nearly 5 months of the 1990/91 season, tearing his Achilles tendon in a match with Atletico Madrid. He had been troubled by the injury to a lesser degree for about two years prior to the tear, but had ignored the warning signs, electing to play through the pain barrier.
Koeman returned to pick up a league winners medal in spring of 1991. He also scored in the Copa del Rey final defeat to Atletico, and the Cup Winners Cup final loss to Man United. The player grew closer to Cruyff during this time, as the Barcelona manager underwent heart bypass surgery. An international call-up meant Koeman missed Barca's 1992 title celebrations, something he was regretful about later. Fortunately he was afforded all the time he needed to take in Barcelona's first ever European Cup victory at Wembley. Koeman scored the only goal of the game against Sampdoria from a free-kick.
Koeman helped the Netherlands reach the semi-finals of Euro 1992, scoring in the penalty shoot-out defeat to eventual winners Denmark. He won another title at Barcelona in 1992/93. On 13th October 1993 Koeman was unlucky not to be sent off in a World Cup qualifier against England. The sweeper pulled back David Platt, who was clear through on goal. Koeman somehow escaped with just a booking when he really should have been sent off. The Dutchman rubbed salt into England's wound by scoring a free-kick in a 2-0 win. Netherlands would go on to qualify for USA 1994, with England missing out.
Koeman won yet another league championship with Barcelona in 1993/94, but only just, with title rivals Deportivo missing a crucial last minute penalty on the final day of the season. Koeman was reunited with former PSV teammate Romario at the start of the campaign. Both scored in the famous 5-0 win over rivals Real Madrid on 8th January 1994. Two months earlier Koeman had clashed with Stoichkov, calling the Bulgarian "a nasty, cowardly man who is poor in the group". The domestic season ended on a slightly sour note for Koeman and Barcelona, with the team losing 4-0 in the Champions League final to Milan.
Koeman closed out his international career with the Netherlands at the 1994 World Cup. He made his 75th and final appearance in the 2-0 quarter-final defeat to Brazil on July 9th. Koeman was given the unenviable task of marking club teammate Romario. His lack of pace eventually caught up with him.
Koeman finally returned to Holland to sign for Feyenoord in 1995, following one final underwhelming campaign for Barcelona, who finished 4th in 1994/95. Aad De Mos had been interested in taking Koeman back to PSV, but when he was replaced by Dick Adovact plans changed. Koeman was also linked with a return to FC Groningen, but eventually opted for de Kuip after receiving a personal phone call from coach Willem van Hanegem.
Koeman was welcomed by thousands of fans on his first Feyenoord training session. His form was so strong early on that Netherlands coach Guus Hiddink tried unsuccessfully to tempt him out of international retirement. Feyenoord would be unable to keep the pace at the top, finishing a distant 3rd, but Koeman's popularity remained intact. The player was not quite so welcome in England. Koeman was given a frosty reception at Goodison Park in a Cup Winners Cup match, where the fans had yet to forgive him for his previous indiscretions against Graham Taylor's national side.
Koeman clashed with Feyenoord coach Arie Haan prior to the 1996/97 season when he missed a curfew on a pre-season tour. The player would return for the Eredivisie season in a new look side which contained fresh young talent like Jerzy Dudek and Marek Saganowski. Feyenoord would finish 2nd with Koeman deciding to call it quits after the final match of the season on 1st June 1997, a 2-1 defeat at Utrecht.
Koeman was granted a farewell match at de Kuip on August 9th 1997 against Lazio. The stadium was adorned with banners paying tribute to the libero. Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Guus Hiddink and Leo Beenhakker were among the famous names in attendance. Koeman looked visibly emotional when he was replaced by Paul Bosvelt.
Koeman jumped straight into coaching following the conclusion of his playing career, despite previously stating he had no desire to do so. He joined an accelerated training course alongside the likes of Ruud Krol, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Johan Neeskens. As part of the programme Koeman took a few training sessions with Chelsea's reserves under Gullit. He received his coaching diploma in May 1998.
Hiddink invited Koeman to join the Netherlands' coaching staff for the 1998 World Cup. He helped the team reach the semi-finals of the tournament in France. Koeman took charge of Barcelona's B team for the 1998/99 season, where he oversaw the early development of Carles Puyol, Xavi and Luis Garcia. He rejected offers to become head coach at both AZ and Twente before moving up to Barcelona's senior setup to work under Louis Van Gaal and alongside Jose Mourinho at the start of 1999/2000.
In November 1999 Koeman accepted an offer to become head coach at Vitesse. He had been impressed by the club's ambition. Vitas had just built a state of the art training facility at Papendal and had aspirations to make the top 4. Koeman helped them achieved their dream with a 4th place finish for 1999/2000. Players were quickly won over by the Dutchman's methods. Even the notorious difficult Pierre van Hooijdonk remarked on how refreshing Koeman's training was: "It sounds amateurish, but football has become fun again. We have gone back to basics. This was necessary". Van Hooijdonk was less enthusiastic about his role as lone-striker in Koeman's 4-4-3, but still netted 25 goals.
Things at Vitesse would soon unravel, when the club was plunged into financial ruin and president Karel Aalbers left on suspicion of fraud. Koeman guided the club to a passable 6th place finish for 2000/01. He remained at Vitesse until November 2001 when he was approach by Ajax.
Koeman became Ajax first team coach on Monday 3rd December 2001 following the resignation of Co Adriaanse. He finished the season with an impressive league and cup double. Koeman made a few subtle changes on arrival at the Amsterdam Arena, most pertinently recalling Jan van Halst back into the first team. The former Barcelona man had to work hard to tame unpredictable young talent like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mido.
The likes of Rafael Van Der Vaart, Steven Pienaar, Nigel de Jong and Wesley Sneijder were nurtured by Koeman during 2002/03, with Ajax missing out on the title to PSV. The coach had to contend with a dressing room scrap between Ibrahimovic and Mido, but still managed to take Ajax to the quarter finals of the Champions League. Koeman's men were seconds away from reaching the last four, with Jon Dahl Tomasson scoring for eventual winners Milan deep into stoppage time.
Technical director Leo Beenhakker left his post prior to the 2003/04 season, having aided Koeman throughout his tenure at the Amsterdam Arena. Julien Escude, Wesley Sonck, Zdenek Grygera and Anthony Obodai arrived to boost the squad, while others like Cristian Chivu, Mido, Aron Winter, Richard Witschge and Andy van der Meijde departed. Louis van Gaal arrived in October 2003 to fill the role vacated by Beenhakker.
Koeman found it difficult working with van Gaal, especially when he started turning up to training sessions to hand out advice to players. The coach spent much of 2003/04 putting out fires and dealing with issues behind the scenes, but still somehow led Ajax to another title triumph.
Tension between Koeman and van Gaal persisted throughout 2004/05. Technical director van Gaal advised Koeman at a pre-season training camp in England that he would be evaluating his performance as manager. Koeman responded by telling van Gaal he was only contractually accountable to the CEO.
Koeman and van Gaal also clashed over the sale of Ibrahimovic to Juventus. The conflict rumbled on until October 2004 when van Gaal resigned when it became clear that their working relationship was unworkable. Back on the pitch Sneijder threw his middle finger at the dugout following a 4-2 loss in the Johan Cruijff Shield against FC Utrecht.
Ajax had a miserable Champions League campaign, losing to Maccabi Tel Aviv and crashing out at the group stage. Koeman resigned from his post following a loss to Auxerre in the UEFA Cup on 24th February 2005. Ajax would go on to finish a distant 2nd to PSV in the 2004/05 Eredivisie.
Koeman took a few months off to go skiing with his family before joining Benfica. Valencia and Olympiakos had also shown an interest prior to the Dutchman's move to Lisbon. Koeman's Benfica were unable to retain the title, finishing a disappointing 3rd behind Porto and Sporting. They did fare much better in Europe however. Benfica knocked out English opponents Man United and Liverpool before falling to eventual winners Barcelona in the quarter-finals. Koeman picked up just one piece of silverware at the Stadium of Light, a Super Cup at the start of the season. Simao, Petit, Geovanni, Nuno Gomes, Fabrizio Miccoli and Luisao were among the names in the Benfica team at the time.
Koeman was named PSV head coach for the 2006/07 season, replacing the popular and successful Guus Hiddink. Koeman started well enough, but his side struggled during the second half of the campaign. They went into the last game of the season behind AZ and Ajax, but managed to sneak ahead of both of them to claim the title with a 5-1 win over Vitesse. Koeman described his PSV squad as the most complete he had ever worked with. Heurelho Gomes, Alex, Philip Cocu, Arouna Kone and Jefferson Farfan shone in Eindhoven's Champions League campaign. Alex scored at Ashburton Grove to knock Arsenal out in the 2nd round, but Liverpool proved far too strong in the quarter-finals.
PSV were sat top of the Eredivisie in October 2007 when Koeman was approached by Valencia. The move to the Mestalla was completed fairly quickly. Valencia had approached the Dutchman at the end of the 2006/07 season, but ended up sticking with Quique Sanchez Flores for a couple more months. Koeman's spell at the Mestalla was a complete disaster. He ostracised club legends Santiago Canizares, Miguel Angel Angulo and David Albelda and couldn't halt Valencia's slide down the table. The club were also eliminated from the Champions League. Koeman received the white handkerchief treatment at the Mestalla before finally receiving his marching orders in April 2008. He did pick up one piece of silverware before departing, a Copa del Rey winners medal. Koeman fared better with younger players at Valencia, nurturing the likes of Juan Mata, David Silva and David Villa. Most were still glad to see the back of him, however.
Koeman took things easy during 2008/09, working as a TV analyst and spending his spare time playing golf. He received plenty of job offers, most notably for national team posts at Mexico and Austria. A return to PSV was also mooted. Koeman waited patiently for the right offer until 18th May 2009, when he succeeded his former rival Louis van Gaal at AZ.
AZ had won the title at a canter under van Gaal, but Koeman was unable to replicate that success. Things looked promising early on when RKC were dispatched 6-0, but Koeman would only last until December 5th 2009. He took his dismissal badly, claiming that some of the players lacked the necessary hunger to repeat their championship success.
Koeman took an extended break from football following his AZ departure, taking on more responsibilities at home and helping to nurse his wife Bartina back to health after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2010. Koeman's agent Ger Lagendijk had died of a heart attack two months earlier as well.
Koeman became Feyenoord manager in July 2011. Louis van Gaal and Co Adriaanse had been the preferred choices, but Koeman would prove a more than worthy appointment. Prior to his arrival Feyenoord had been at their lowest ebb. The club finished 10th in 2010/11, having lost 10-0 to Ajax in what was a dismal season. Finances were a mess, but Koeman somehow found a way to lift the club all the way to 2nd place in his first season back at De Kuip.
Koeman placed a huge emphasis on youth, largely out of necessity, with players like Leroy Fer, Jordy Clasie and Stefan de Vrij coming to the fore. Swedish striker John Guidetti also proved a revelation up front, having joined on loan from Man City.
Feyenoord had to contend with further departures prior to the 2012/13 season. Guidetti, Karim El Ahmadi, Otman Bakkal, Ron Vlaar and Ricky van Haaren were among the names that left. Koeman somehow still managed to put together a strong team. Joris Mathijsen, John Goossens, Lex Immers, Harmeet Singh, Daryl Janmaat and Ruud Creator were the new recruits who helped Feyenoord to a 3rd place finish.
Graziano Pelle - Who had briefly worked with Koeman at AZ - was recruited as Guidetti's replacement. The move had come about by chance when a friend of Koeman's son Tim bumped into Pelle on holiday in Spain. The Italian striker would see his career resurrected under Koeman, scoring 29 goals in 33 games during 2012/13. Feyenoord made an ambitious play for Bojan Krkic, but the deal never came off. Koeman would continue to develop more promising youngsters, with Jean-Paul Boetius and Tonny Vilhena stepping up.
Koeman left Feyenoord a hero, having masterminded another 2nd place finish in 2013/14. On 16th June 2014 he was appointed Southampton manager. Koeman had been clued in about Adam Lallana and Luke Shaw's probable transfers away from the club prior to signing his three year contract. One of his first acts was to bring in Dusan Tadic to replace Lallana. Pelle linked up with Koeman again, replacing Rickie Lambert, who had moved to Liverpool prior to Koeman's arrival.
Koeman oversaw a reasonably successful pre-season campaign. Saints won all but one of their friendly matches. On 15th July he took charge of his first match, a 4-0 win over Dutch amateurs EHC Hoensbroek. That was followed up by a 6-0 win over Sporting Hasselt two days later. Koeman had to contend with the departures of Calum Chambers and Dejan Lovren, but still guided Saints to comfortable wins over Swindon, Bournemouth and Brighton.