The Belgian, who has connections at both Sheffield United and Leeds United, is already involved with the Blades.
Jan van Winckel will be involved in the new Sheffield United regime, Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdul Aziz has revealed to Sky Sports News. However, the Blades owner, Abdullah, insisted that Van Winckel will not interfere with Chris Wilder’s job as manager. Some Sheffield United fans will already be familiar with the Belgian, but what are the things they might not know – like his connection to their Yorkshire namesakes, Leeds United? HITC Sport has the lowdown below…
Who is Van Winckel?
A football coach by trade, Van Winckel win invited onto the Sheffield United board in December 2017.
He has also been director of the Belgian Professional Football Coaches and a FIFA Technical Expert.
And on top of that, the Belgian graduated with a Master of Physical Education and a Master in Business Economics from the University of Leuven – the city in which Stella Artois is made.
Why are some Sheffield United fans concerned about his influence?
According to The Daily Mail, the Blades’ decision to bring Van Winckel (quite literally) on board was “not well received” by the club’s coaching staff, and was a “key factor” in Prince Abdullah’s split from Kevin McCabe, his former co-owner.
What’s his connection to Prince Abdullah?
Van Winckel was assistant coach at Al-Hilal for part of the Sheffield United owner’s reign as chairman. He has also worked for the Saudi Arabian Football Federation and K Beerschot VA – one of Prince Abdullah’s other clubs.
The Saudi royal told Sky Sports News earlier: “He’s one of the best people I know and has a good eye for talent. He told me to buy Yaya Toure for Al-Hilal for $800,000 when he was in Belgium, before he went to Barcelona and Manchester City. We will use him in the club, but Chris is the face of the club and his decisions on the first team are the decisions we’ll go with. He’s busy with Beerschot and I can’t think he can spend a lot of time in Sheffield, but he’ll be involved.”
Was it Van Winckel who recommended the summer Blades target, Sander Berge, perhaps? The Norwegian midfielder is currently with Beerschot’s Belgian rivals, KRC Genk.
…Through the Whites manager, Marcelo Bielsa. Van Winckel was Bielsa’s right-hand man at Marseille and refers to him as the ‘Professor’.
Speaking to Om4ever.com, Van Winckel said: “The Professor is endowed with incredible intelligence and he dedicates it entirely to football. I do not have this gift, I also have other interests. I will never reach his level of excellence. Only the one who devotes all his energy and soul to a cause can be a true master. During the 16 months I worked for Marseille, we took only four or five days off. The rest of the time we were still at the club to work.”
So why didn’t he join Bielsa at Leeds?
According to Voetbal Belge, Bielsa phoned Van Winckel before he took the reins at Leeds, enquiring about a reunion. But it is claimed the 45-year-old turned down the approach.
Could the lure of the Premier League tempt him this time? Or will his other commitments deny him the opportunity, as Prince Abdullah suggested?
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