Gaizka Mendieta has praised his former Barcelona coach Louis van Gaal ahead of the Netherlands’ semi-final clash with Argentina, hailing him as a great and daring tactician.
Set to depart for Manchester United after the World Cup, Van Gaal has received numerous plaudits for his management during the side’s run to the final four, including his decision to bring on backup goalkeeper Tim Krul for their quarter-final shootout win over Costa Rica.
‘I'm sure Manchester United fans will be happy to see Van Gaal there,’ he said. ‘He's a great tactician and understands that side of the game so well. He deserves credit for that.
‘If he has to drop someone he will. Look at the Netherlands, he's got a new team of young players but he's kept two or three senior ones.
‘He doesn't mind if he has to drop van Persie or whoever. He has a clear view and he doesn't care about the big names.’
Having been brought to Barcelona on loan from Lazio in 2002 by Van Gaal, Mendieta went on to describe his first-hand experience of playing under the Dutch boss, further lauding his man-management but also warning that his approach may not be to everyone’s liking.
‘I played under van Gaal at Barcelona and he was great in terms of explaining things,’ he stated. ‘He had a way he wanted to play, which kind of worked. But it was difficult with the players we had.
‘He involves the players in his decisions and his office door was always open. That's good, he listens. He even got Pep Guardiola into the tactical side of things'.
'But he's the boss, he makes that clear,’ added Mendieta. ‘The way he is he's going to have enemies but in general terms most players will say good things about him.’
Replacing Bert van Marwijk in the wake of Euro 2012, Van Gaal is in his second spell as Netherlands manager, having previously been in charge for the side’s ill-fated 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign, when they failed to even make it to Japan and South Korea.
The legendary coach is better known, however, for his Champions League-winning success with Ajax in 1995, as well for clinching back-to-back La Liga titles with Barcelona in 1997-98 and 1998-99.
Signing a three-year deal in May to replace the disappointing David Moyes, Van Gaal will arrive at United after the World Cup, having already named Ryan Giggs as his assistant, and is set to join up with his current national team captain Robin van Persie.
With the Netherlands looking to make amends for their 2010 final defeat to Spain, success this summer would certainly be a fantastic way for the 62-year-old to bow out of international football, while no doubt fulfilling fans at Old Trafford with newfound optimism for the upcoming season.