|Full name||Marinus Jacobus Hendricus Michels|
|Date of birth||9 February 1928|
|Place of birth||Amsterdam, Netherlands|
|Date of death||3 March 2005(aged 77)|
|Place of death||Aalst, Belgium|
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|1979–1980||Los Angeles Aztecs|
|1980–1983||1. FC Köln|
|*Club domestic league appearances and goals|
Marinus Jacobus Hendricus Michels (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmɪxəls]; 9 February 1928 – 3 March 2005) was a Dutch football player and coach. He played his entire career for AFC Ajax, which he later managed, and played for and later managed the Netherlands national team for four spells. He is regarded as one of the greatest managers of all-time. 
Michels became most notable for his coaching achievements; he won the European Cup with Ajax and the Spanish league with Barcelona, and had four tenures as coach of the Netherlands national team, who he led to reach the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and to win the 1988 UEFA European Championship.
He is credited with the invention of a major football playing style and set of tactics known as "Total Football" in the 1970s. He was named Coach of the Century by FIFA in 1999, in 2007 the greatest post-war football coach by The Times and in 2019 the greatest coach in the history of football by France Football.
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 1937, 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. 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. When World War II started, and especially during the Dutch famine of 1944–45, Michels' career was set on hold.
Ajax first team
On 9 June 1946, Michels was invited into Ajax's first team squad to replace the injured Han Lambregt. In his debut, Ajax beat ADO 8–3 and Michels scored five times. That season, Ajax won their 14th division championship and a year later they won the Dutch national championship. 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. Indeed, Michels was characterized for his hard work rather than for his technical qualities.
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. 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.
Michels' international playing career with the Netherlands national team lasted five matches, making his debut on 8 June 1950 away to Sweden, a 4–1 defeat. 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.
Early years in the Netherlands, Ajax, and Barcelona
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 Milan. In 1971, he managed Ajax to the first of three consecutive European Cups, a feat only achieved previously by the great Real Madrid team of Alfredo Di Stéfano and Ferenc Puskás. 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.
1974 World Cup
Michels was appointed national coach by the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) after the Netherlands had qualified for the 1974 FIFA World Cup. His first game as the Netherlands' 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 West 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.
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 1988 UEFA European Championship.
Michels returned to coach the team for the Euro 1988 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 the 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." 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 Soviet Union, a rematch on the round robin game, through a header by Ruud Gullit and a remarkable volley by Van Basten. This was the national team's first, and to date only, 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 at a hospital in Aalst, Belgium, after a heart surgery in the hospital of Gareth, Spain (his second since 1986).
Style of management, personality and legacy
Regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time, Rinus Michels's tactics and Total football philosophy were influenced by his time playing under English manager Jack Reynolds at Ajax, who had implemented a similar playing style with the club to great success in the 1940s. When Michels himself later became manager of Ajax in 1965, he further developed this style around the team's main forward Johan Cruyff. Although Cruyff was seemingly fielded as centre forward, Michels encouraged Cruyff to roam freely around the pitch, using his technical ability, creativity, and intelligence to exploit the weaknesses in the opposition and create space and chances in addition to scoring goals. Cruyff's teammates also supported him by playing him in a similar manner, regularly switching positions to ensure that the tactical roles in the team were consistently filled. This role has retroactively been compared to the "false 9" position in contemporary football.
The major component of football was the use of space, and the need to consistently create it. Former Ajax defender Barry Hulshoff described it as "[the thing] we discussed the whole time. Cruyff always talked about where to run and where to stand, and when not to move". He further elaborated that position switching was only made possible due to apt spatial awareness. He also described Total Football being proactive, as well as highlighting the use of pressing, which would be used to win back the ball or put the opposition under considerable pressure. Another aspect of the system was the use of the offside trap. Under Michels's system, Ajax enjoyed a highly successful period, winning, winning four Eredivisie titles, three KNVB Cups, and one European Cup.
The rise of Total Football and its attacking qualities were also linked with the demise of the more defensive–minded Catenaccio, a system reliant heavily on man-marking and counter–attacking, which was promoted most prominently by Italian sides Internazionale and Milan during the 1960s under Helenio Herrera and Nereo Rocco Respectively. Unlike previous systems, in Total Football, no out–field player was fixed in their nominal role, which exposed weaknesses in the catenaccio tactical system; any player could assume the role of a forward, midfielder, or defender, at any given time depending on the circumstances. Due to players often switching positions with one another, man-marking strategies, such as catenaccio, were no longer effective at coping with this highly fluid tactical system. Despite previously losing out 4–1 to Milan in the 1969 European Cup Final, who were managed by Rocco, a manager known for his defensive catenaccio strategy, in 1972, Michels's Ajax defeated Inter 2–0 in the European Cup final, and Dutch newspapers subsequently announced the "destruction of Catenaccio" at the hands of Total Football. The following year, Ajax defeated Cesare Maldini's Milan 6–0 in the second leg of the European Super Cup, in a match in which the defensive catenaccio system employed by Milan was unable to stop Ajax, which saw the Dutch side win the title 6–1 on aggregate; this was the worst defeat for an Italian team in an UEFA competition final.
Total football also had some weaknesses, however, which were notably exploited in the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup by West Germany. Michels and Cruyff saw their ability to introduce playmaking stifled in the second half of the match by the effective marking of Berti Vogts. This allowed Franz Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeneß, and Wolfgang Overath to gain a stronghold in midfield, thus, enabling West Germany to win 2–1. Moreover, as man-marking alone was insufficient to cope with the fluidity of total football, Italian coaches consequently began to create a new tactical system that mixed man-marking with zonal defence in order to counter this strategy, which came to be known as zona mista ("mixed zone," in Italian), or gioco all'italiana ("gameplay in the Italian manner," in Italian), in Italian football, as it mixed elements of Italian catenaccio (man-marking) with elements of total football (zonal marking), with Giovanni Trapattoni as one its main and most successful proponents from the 1970s onward.
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 those days was, "Does anybody actually know the color of Michels' wallet?". His IQ was high and during foreign trips he always brought a book with him, which he wanted to have read completely before coming home. He was known as someone who did not need anybody and who felt happy on his own, but sometimes he joined his teammates and shared their enthusiastic friendships. At the celebrations of Ajax' 50th birthday in 1950, he was the organizer of the humoristic show that was held and during traditional parties he and his friend Hans Boskamp climbed up the stages to sing some duets. After matches, he was always soaping himself down in the showers of the changing rooms as well, even when the match was lost.
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 teammates. During a training session in Lille, the players went fishing and Michels, who did not enjoy himself, jumped into the water.
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." This has often been misquoted as "Football is war." Michels felt the quote was taken out of context as he did not intend to equate war with football. Michels was named coach of the century by FIFA in 1999.
- Professional football is something like war. Whoever behaves too properly, is lost. Often misquoted in the form "Football is war".
- 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.
- "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 Cruyff
|Ajax||1945–46||Football League Championship||12||13|
|Ajax||22 January 1965||30 June 1971||288||207||41||40||71.88|
|Barcelona||1 July 1971||30 June 1975||174||88||43||43||50.57|
|Netherlands||27 March 1974||7 July 1974||10||6||3||1||60.00|
|Ajax||1 July 1975||30 June 1976||43||27||8||8||62.79|
|Barcelona||1 July 1976||30 June 1978||94||47||25||22||50.00|
|Los Angeles Aztecs||1 July 1978||13 October 1980||?||?||?||?||?|
|1. FC Köln||14 October 1980||23 August 1983||116||58||26||32||50.00|
|Netherlands||14 November 1984||23 December 1984||2||1||0||1||50.00|
|Netherlands||29 April 1986||25 June 1988||22||12||6||4||54.55|
|Bayer Leverkusen||1 July 1988||13 April 1989||31||10||11||10||32.26|
|Netherlands||26 September 1990||22 June 1992||19||11||4||4||57.89|
- Eredivisie: 1965–66, 1966–67, 1967–68, 1969–70
- KNVB Cup: 1966–67, 1969–70, 1970–71
- European Cup: 1970–71; Runner-up: 1968–69
1. FC Köln
- Invested as a Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau: 1974
- Elevated as an Officer of the Order of Orange-Nassau: 1988
- Named World Soccer Awards Manager of the Year: 1988
- Named Berlin-Britz Manager of the Decade (1970s)
- Named FIFA Coach of the Century: 1999
- Named France Football Greatest Manager of All time: 2019
- Named World Soccer 2nd Greatest Manager of All Time: 2013
- Named ESPN 2nd Greatest Manager of All Time: 2013
- Named Dutch manager of the century: 1999
- Named Knight of the KNVB: 2002
- UEFA Lifetime Award: 2002
- Best Manager in 50 years of professional football in the Netherlands: 2004
- Scholten, Berend (3 March 2005). "Michels – a total footballing legend". UEFA. Retrieved 29 January 2007.
- "Rinus Michels; Dutch coach who invented 'total football'". The Independent. Retrieved 17 February 2021.
- Matt Dickinson, september 2007, http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/football/article2437525.ece
- "Coaching greats in profile". UEFA. 13 January 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2017.
- "Top 50 des coaches de l'historie". France Football. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
- "Droomland". rinus-michels.info. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
- The Times Online (4 March 2005). "Rinus Michels obituary". The Times. London. Retrieved 1 February 2007.
- "Rinus Michels – 09 februari 1928" (in Dutch). voetbalstats.nl. Archived from the original on 28 January 2007. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
- Shetty, Sanjeev (2018). Total Football - A graphic history of the world's most iconic soccer tactics. London: Aurum Press. p. 64. ISBN 9781781318225.
- "Classic Coach: Rinus Michels". Classic Football. Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Archived from the original on 4 March 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- 'FIFA Classic Player: The Netherlands' Grand Master. FIFA.com. Retrieved 14 July 2014
- Rainbow, Jamie (25 November 2012). "In Search Of Johan Cruijff..." WorldSoccer. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
- Sindhu, Anand (22 February 2014). "Johan Cruyff: The making of generations in football". Sportskeeda.com. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
- Nobles, Kevin (2 March 2016). "The False Nine Explained". The Onefootball Magazine. Archived from the original on 2 October 2016. Retrieved 22 September 2016.
- "Johan Cruyff: The Total Footballer". Sport Academy. British Broadcasting Corporation. 10 December 2003. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- "Ground Breaking Team: Ajax 1973". Football Culture. The British Council in Japan. Archived from the original on 17 December 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- Wilson, Jonathan (11 July 2010). "World Cup 2010: Dutch were pioneers of Total Football, but after exporting it to Spain must now stop opponents at their own game". The Scotsman. Retrieved 24 July 2010.
- "We are the champions". FIFA.com. 11 December 2005. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
- "Season 1971-72". European Cup History. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- "Storie di schemi: l'evoluzione della tattica" (in Italian). Storie di Calcio. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
- Liew, Jonathan (27 November 2015). "From 2-3-5 to gegenpress: how football's tactical fads have come and gone". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- Siregar, Cady (13 December 2018). "What is Total Football? Famous tactics explained: the clubs, countries & players to use it". Goal.com. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- Wilson, Jonathan (23 December 2009). "The Question: How will football tactics develop over the next decade?". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- "Milan 4–1 Ajax". UEFA. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- "Il mondo ai piedi del Milan di Rocco". La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian). Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- "1972 final highlights: Ajax 2-0 Inter". UEFA. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
- "Ajax enjoy early success". UEFA. Archived from the original on 3 March 2008. Retrieved 14 March 2008.
- "1974 FIFA World Cup Germany: Dutch take plaudits but Germany take the prize". Previous FIFA World Cups. Fédération Internationale de Football Association. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- "World Cup Final, 1974: West Germany vs. The Netherlands". The Making of a World Cup Legend. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 13 June 2008.
- In Dutch: "Topvoetbal is zoiets als oorlog. Wie netjes blijft, is verloren".
- "NRC Handelsblad". NRC Handelsblad. Retrieved 1 December 2007.
- "Rinus Michels". FIFAworldcup.com. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
- Paul Gallagher (4 March 2005). "Father of Dutch soccer dies". The Age. Australia. Retrieved 30 January 2007.
- "The Netherlands' Grand Master". FIFA.com. Retrieved 15 May 2014
- "World Soccer Awards – previous winners". World Soccer. 14 December 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- "Messi and Ronaldo: Equal!". UPL. 8 November 2017. Retrieved 25 December 2019.
- Skorobahatko, Anatoliy (25 October 2013). "Berlin-Britz Greatest XI by Decade". No. № 88. newspaper Ukrainskyi Futbol.
- "Michels and Houllier receive UEFA awards". UEFA. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Sven Goran Erikson's tribute to Rinus Michels (3 March 2005)
- The Times ranking of the 50 greatest post-war coaches
- France Football ranking of the 50 greatest coaches in football history
- Rinus Michels at Wereld van Oranje (in Dutch)