Football Features

The Louis van Gaal legacy: Every youth player the ex-Man Utd & Barcelona boss ever promoted

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 14:04, 2 April 2019

Last month Louis van Gaal brought the curtain down on what was largely an outstanding 24-year managerial career.

Across five clubs, based in four different countries, the Dutchman won 20 pieces of silverware, including the Champions League title with boyhood club Ajax.

It was at the Amsterdam giants where he made his name as a champion of developing youngsters, handing out numerous first-team debuts to several prodigious talents from their esteemed academy.

He took that mentality to Barcelona, AZ, Bayern Munich and more recently Manchester United. Not all enjoyed stellar careers, though a few did, so that alone cements his legacy in the history of football.

Aside from revolutionising the beautiful game at Ajax – where he conquered Europe with his modern brand of total football – Van Gaal is synonymous with youth development.

Below are 45 players who owe the beginning of their footballing journey to the 65-year-old Dutchman.

David Alaba

Club: Bayern Munich
Year: 2010
The defender-cum-midfielder is the pre-eminent left-back in European football today, and has regularly praised Van Gaal for shaping him into the footballer he is.

Holger Badstuber

Club: Bayern Munich
Year: 2009
Unlucky with injuries in recent years, the German international was a regular steady presence under Van Gaal.

Milan Berck Beelenkamp

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
Berck Beelenkamp’s time in Amsterdam was brief, and before retiring in 2013 enjoyed spells at De Graafschap, Haarlem and Genoa.

Tyler Blackett

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2014
A lot was expected after showing early promise, but Blackett couldn’t make the grade at United and promptly represented Celtic, before settling at Reading.

Cameron Borthwick-Jackson

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2015
The full-back was a bright spot in the final days of Van Gaal’s tenure at Old Trafford.

Job Bulters

Club: AZ
Years: 2006
Bulters would only play three matches for AZ before moving on to Telstar and then MVV, before representing EHC as recently as 2016.

Diego Contento

Club: Bayern Munich
Year: 2010
Contento’s time with Van Gaal was brief, as well as his period with Bayern. Today he’s plying his trade with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Edgar Davids

Club: Ajax
Year: 1991
Dubbed “The Pitbull” by Van Gaal, the Dutchman was one of the most celebrated and revered midfielders of his generation.

Timothy Fosu-Mensah

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2016
The former Ajax youth player was regularly trusted by Van Gaal, but was on the periphery under his successor Jose Mourinho.

Gabri

Club: Barcelona
Year: 1999
One of the many products of La Masia brought through by Van Gaal, though his career at Barcelona wasn’t as illustrious as some of his contemporaries.

Andres Iniesta

Club:Barcelona
Year:2002
Arguably the finest midfielder of the last decade, Iniesta has previously described Van Gaal as his most important coach.

Saidy Janko

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2014
Janko left United as soon as he arrived, but not before playing for the Red Devils. Today he’s on loan at Nottingham Forest from Porto.

Jofre

Club: Barcelona
Year: 1998
Much was expected of Jofre when he emerged in the late 1990s, but has since enjoyed a journeyman career. He’s currently with FC Goa in India.

Patrick Kluivert

Club: Ajax
Year: 1994
Ajax’s failure to sign Ronaldo saw Kluivert promoted from their academy, and he would end his debut season scoring the winning goal in the Champions League final.

Thomas Kraft

Club: Bayern Munich
Year: 2010
Kraft spent one season at Bayern before establishing himself at Hertha Berlin.

Denny Landzaat

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
It never worked out for Landzaat at Ajax, but he’s enjoyed a stellar career including reuniting with Van Gaal at AZ.

Jeremain Lens

Club: AZ
Year: 2005
It was in Alkmaar where Lens made his name, and has since turned out for PSV, Sunderland, Fenerbahce and Besiktas.

Eli Louhenapessy

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
Louhenapessy never made the grade at Ajax, and spent the final nine years of his career in Italy, most notably with Salernitana Calcio and Carrarese Calcio.

Paddy McNair

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2014
Another defender brought through from United’s academy by Van Gaal, but has since departed for Sunderland and is now at Middlesbrough.

Mario Melchiot

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
The full-back was part of the Ajax squad that reached the 1996 Champions League final, and would enjoy spells at Chelsea and Wigan Athletic.

Kofi Mensah

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
The defender spent three years with Ajax, making just 21 league appearances.

Kiki Musampa

Club: Ajax
Year: 1995
After leaving Ajax for Bordeaux in 1997, the former winger enjoyed spells with Malaga, Atletico Madrid and Manchester City among others, before retiring in 2009.

Nano

Club: Barcelona
Year: 1999
The winger, who can also operate at left-back, hasn’t had the career he would’ve wanted after debuting in 1999, and is now plying his trade with Racing de Ferrol.

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Gregory Nelson

Club: AZ
Year: 2007
Nelson now plays for Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League after leaving AZ in 2009.

Tarik Oulida

Club: Ajax
Year: 1992
Spent three years with Ajax before departing for Spain for a spell at Sevilla.

Andreas Pereira

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2014
Still very highly-rated by those at Old Trafford, he’s was sent out on loan to gain more first-team experience with Valencia last season but could be the next big thing at Old Trafford if early signs under Solskjaer are anything to go by.

Carles Puyol

Club: Barcelona
Year: 1999
Arguably one of the best central defenders of his generation. Puyol was the rock behind the Barcelona and Spain squads that conquered the world domestically as well as internationally.

Marcus Rashford

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2016
One of Van Gaal’s biggest success stories was the breakthrough of Rashford in early 2016. The teenager is considered one of the best prospects in Europe right now, and can only get better

Martijn Reuser

Club: Ajax
Year: 1993
Perhaps more well known to English fans for his time at Ipswich Town between 2000-2004.

Mario Rosas

Club: Barcelona
Year: 1998
Another that failed to make the grade after coming through the Barcelona academy. Retired from football in 2014 following a spell with Eldense.

Dennis Schulp

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
Made his professional debut for Ajax by coming on for a young Patrick Kluivert. Last played for DOVO – an amateur football team in the Netherlands back in 2010.

Clarence Seedorf

Club: Ajax
Year: 1992
Considered one of the most successful players in UEFA Champions League history, as he’s the first, and currently only player to have won the competition with three different clubs.

Arno Splinter

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
Made just nine league appearances for Ajax in three years at the club.

Ignacio Tuhuteru

Club: Ajax
Years: 1993
Left Ajax in 1994 to join the Chinese Super League when it wasn’t as popular as it is today.

Rody Turpijn

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
After leaving Ajax for De Graafschap in 1999, he called time on his career four years later.

Víctor Valdés

Club: Barcelona
Year: 2002
Valdes went on to win numerous La Liga titles with Barca, as well as the Champions League three times. Was reunited with Van Gaal at Manchester United, but that experience wasn’t pleasant and went on to Middlesbrough before retiring last year.

Dick van Burik

Club: Ajax
Year: 1993
Made just three league appearances for Ajax, and retired from the game in June 2007.

Dave van den Bergh

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
Left Ajax in 1997, retired in 2009 and recently left his position as head coach of the United States U-19 boys’ national team.

Marko Vejinović

Club: AZ
Year: 2009
Has spent his entire career in the Netherlands, and has since returned to AZ following spells at Heracles Almelo, Vitesse and Feyenoord

Ruud Vormer

Club: AZ
Year: 2006
Spent four years with Roda JC, now with Club Brugge in Belgium.

James Weir

Club: Manchester United
Year: 2016
Made his debut as a substitute for Ander Herrera against Arsenal in February 2016, joined Hull City on a permanent basis on deadline day in summer 2017.

Clyde Wijnhard

Club: Ajax
Year: 1993
Spent almost a decade in English football with the likes of Leeds United, Preston North End, Huddersfield Town and Oldham Athletic. Now helps young Dutch footballers gain trials at English clubs.

Menno Willems

Club: Ajax
Year: 1996
Was advised to call time on his professional career at the end of the 2005/06 season because of a knee injury.

Nordin Wooter

Club: Ajax
Year: 1994
Once Watford’s record signing in 1999, he scored three goals for the Hornets during a three-year stint. Retired in 2008.

Xavi

Club: Barcelona
Year: 1998
Easily recognisable as one of the greatest central midfielders of all-time. Often regarded as the brains behind Barcelona and Spain’s tiki-taka passing style and a true proponent of Louis van Gaal’s style of play.