Barcelona turns orange, according to a football cliché. As Alpe d’Huez is called an orange Tour mountain with a sense of exaggeration. In spite of all chauvinism, FC Barcelona is an orange-tinged club, above all from a numerical point of view. Memphis Depay becomes the 21st Dutch footballer at Camp Nou since Johan Cruijff made his debut there in 1973. Trainer Ronald Koeman is the fifth Dutch trainer, Rinus Michels was the first in 1971.
The question is whether Depay can dribble his new employer back to the European top. Anyone who has seen him so far at the European Championships has good reasons to doubt that. He is definitely technical and ball-resistant, but they have more of that in Barcelona.
Most of his twenty predecessors were praised to heaven in the Netherlands, yet they were not very decisive at the club. Frenkie de Jong is well on his way to following in the footsteps of ‘the big three’: Johan Cruijff, Johan Neeskens and Ronald Koeman.
In the two periods (1997-2000 and 2002-2003) under coach Louis van Gaal, there were only national successes, just like this season under coach Koeman. Despite all the screaming (Barça, Barça!) During his first employment, Van Gaal bought an entire army of Dutch players, none of whom left an unforgettable impression. The trainer did, if only because of the press conferences in which he competed with the critical media in his own way: “Siempre negativo”. – always negative.
It is the pitfall of many Dutch trainers in foreign service. They take Dutch players with them, under the guise of the ‘Hollandse School’ where football lessons are given. Winston Bogarde, Michael Reiziger, Marc Overmars, Frank and Ronald de Boer, Edgar Davids, Boudewijn Zenden and to a lesser extent Phillip Cocu and Patrick Kluivert: all good football players, but they are probably not accosted or stared at on the Ramblas by the average enthusiast.
Frank Rijkaard, the fourth Dutch trainer at FC Barcelona, was more successful than Van Gaal and won the Champions League in 2006 with assistant Henk ten Cate. But their Dutch players Mark van Bommel and Giovanni van Bronckhorst were also no more than auxiliaries for Brazilian star Ronaldinho – the very young Argentinian Leo Messi was not yet a basic player that season. Just like the Dutch goalkeepers Ruud Hesp and Jasper Cillessen were second choice. Richard Witschge, Jordi Cruijff and Ibrahim Afellay were also more often outside than inside the lines.
Of the twenty Dutch football players in Catalan service, three are standing on a pedestal. With dot on 1: Cruijff, not for nothing El Salvador (called ‘The Redeemer’). This is followed by his wildly popular teammate Neeskens (El Toro – the bull) and Ronald Koeman ( Floquet de Neu, snowflake). Real toppers have a nickname. Cruijff paved the way for his followers. Michels only celebrated success after he had brought in Cruijff two years later.
Cruijff introduced the attacking positional game that Barcelona is still famous for. As a trainer, he perfected that playing style with his Dream Team. And all this was accompanied by great (international) successes. Almost as important: Cruijff humiliated Real Madrid as a player, the club of the hated in Catalonia generalissimo Francisco Franco. Neeskens was a crowbar in midfield. Rock hard, also for himself. He brought balance to the total football that Michels and Cruijff had in mind.
Libero Koeman scored from 1989 on the assembly line at Barcelona, especially from free kicks. In 1992, for example, he helped the club to the first European Cup 1 in club history with a powder. Partly due to his merit as a player, he was attracted as a trainer in August 2020. And he still has credit, despite the mixed results last season.
For Memphis Depay the challenge at Barcelona to rise above itself. He disappointed at Manchester United. At Olympique Lyonnais he was the star player who scored and dragged. He will have to fight for a starting spot in Catalonia, probably on the left. The club wrote in a statement that his arrival will add “versatility, skill and strength in attack”.