CL Debate: Will The Experience Of Louis Van Gaal Or Young Pretender Ciro Ferrara Triumph?

As the two European giants prepare for their Champions League tie, looks at the two coaches on the touchline…
When Bayern Munich and Juventus lock horns on Wednesday evening in arguably this week’s most exciting clash, Louis van Gaal and Ciro Ferrara will match wits against each other for the first time as coaches. The two have previously met in 1996 when van Gaal was coach of Ajax. The Dutch side had made it to the Champions League final for the second year running, but were defeated on penalties by Juventus. The scorer of the first penalty? Ciro Ferrara.

It was a heart-breaking moment for Van Gaal, who was looking to win back-to-back Champions League titles with Ajax as Stefan Kovacs had done in the early 1970s. The previous year, his side, including the likes of the De Boer brothers and Jari Litmanen, had beaten AC Milan through a late Patrick Kluivert goal to add the Champions League trophy to their league title.

The 1995 Champions League was the pinnacle of Van Gaal’s success with the Godenzonen, who also won three league titles, one UEFA Cup, one Dutch Cup and one UEFA Super Cup under his tenure.

However, his success in Holland has not always been replicated elsewhere. Although he won successive league titles with Barcelona, his persona did not go down well either with the Blaugrana fans or the Spanish press. In addition, their record in Europe was distinctly poor as they failed to progress from the first group stage in both 1997-98 and 1998-99.

Van Gaal’s spell in charge of the Dutch national team was also nothing short of a disaster as they failed to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. His time with AZ Alkmaar also threatened to be similarly disappointing. Van Gaal blamed all and sundry for his side’s failings as they finished 11th in 2007-08 and dropped out of the Dutch Cup and UEFA Cup early on. Despite this, he was persuaded to stay on by the players for the following season and the rest, as they say, is history. AZ went on to win the title for only the second time in their history and the coach’s excuses from the previous season were forgotten.

On being appointed Bayern Munich manager earlier this year, Van Gaal told Bild that both he and Bayern were “self-confident, arrogant and dominant” – a far cry from the more modest personalities of the next generation of coaches such as Ferrara or Pep Guardiola. The tactician has even revealed that his daughters must address him as formally as his players do in order that they respect him.

Formidable Ferrara - Ciro directs his troops

In the other dugout is Ciro Ferrara. The Juventus coach is only just starting out on his coaching adventure, but has already shown a character that is far removed from Van Gaal’s. Italy coach Marcello Lippi and Bianconeri full-back Fabio Grosso have been among those to praise the young tactician’s approach to the game, while the former Juventus and Napoli defender has always been relaxed and affable in his press conferences.

Perhaps this is youthful inexperience. Ferrara’s frustrations were clear after the Old Lady were held to a draw by Genoa in midweek before his side conceded a last minute equaliser at home to Bologna. Juventus have won just one of their last four fixtures – hardly ideal form before they face Bayern Munich, Palermo and Fiorentina.

The quality that Ferrara has at his disposal is undoubted. Diego and Felipe Melo were acquired at great cost over the summer, while the defensive experience that he and Fabio Cannavaro have under their belts will be a great asset to the younger generation.

Where do Juventus go from here? More and more clubs, such as Milan, are looking to ‘do a Barcelona’ and appoint a former player to guide them to glory. While Guardiola achieved unprecedented success with the Blaugrana, serious questions are being raised over Leonardo’s abilities at the Rossoneri. Is Ferrara going to be another Guardiola and wrestle the Scudetto off Inter as well as challenge in Europe, or should the Bianconeri hierarchy have hired a brash but proven coach like Van Gaal?

Of course, Wednesday night’s encounter is more than just a clash of coaching personalities. However, we will also learn much about Ferrara’s tact and mentality when he comes up against the wily old Van Gaal. “Fortunately we have Juventus on Wednesday, when we can start winning again,” the Bayern coach recently stated. Time will tell.

Anthony Wright,