Giovanni van Bronckhorst can win finals
VA few years ago, Giovanni van Bronckhorst almost ended up at Borussia Dortmund. Apparently anyway: The French sports newspaper “L’Équipe” wanted to know at the time that the Dutchman was to replace Thomas Tuchel, who had just been released, at BVB. That was in the summer of 2017, at the time van Bronckhorst had just two years of experience as head coach with the professionals at his hometown club Feyenoord Rotterdam.
But there was a good reason why the media still associated his name with Borussia – and it was quite credible at that: the young coach had won the Dutch Cup with Feyenoord in this short time and his first championship the following season of the club for 18 years.
As is well known, Van Bronckhorst did not move to Dortmund. He stayed at Feyenoord for two more years, winning the cup again but not renewing his contract, which expired in 2019, in order to gain new experience. To do this, he first sat in on the City Football Group for a few months, where he learned from Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola.
In January 2020 he went to Guangzhou in China, but was not happy there because of the effects of the corona pandemic. After almost a year he left China to return to his family in the Netherlands. He didn’t make the decision easy for himself, he said at the time: “But my family comes first.”
Van Bronckhorst’s great success
On the other hand, it was much easier for him to decide on his next job. He has been the coach of Glasgow Rangers since last November, for which he was a player for a number of years as a youngster. And on Wednesday (9:00 p.m. in FAZ live ticker for the Europa League and at RTL) he is with the Scots in the biggest game of his coaching career so far: the final of the Europa League against Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville.
Rangers’ unlikely entry into the final is already a major achievement for van Bronckhorst. The Guardian wrote that while Rangers genuinely deserved their place in the final, they really had no business there given much more prestigious competition from Barcelona, London and Lyon.
Their long road to Sevilla began with a failed Champions League qualification against Malmö FF and spanned a bumpy Europa League group stage with two wins, two draws and two defeats before back-to-back Dortmund in the knockout rounds , Red Star Belgrade, Sporting Braga and RB Leipzig overcame. “The only thing you shouldn’t do,” the BBC warned Frankfurters, “is underestimate them.”
But there is also the truth that the spectacular European Cup nights – especially those at home at Ibrox Stadium – are a welcome distraction for van Bronckhorst from the less glamorous aspects of his previous work in Glasgow. When he took over from his predecessor Steven Gerrard, the team were top of the Scottish Premiership table. At Christmas they were six points ahead of city rivals Celtic. But due to unnecessary point losses, they soon lost first place to Celtic.
Gerrard had won the league with Rangers last season – their first after being relegated to the fourth tier in 2012 – but on Wednesday Celtic conceded a draw against Dundee United to claw back the title with a match to go . It’s about more than prestige and local dominance. The Scottish champions automatically qualify for the group stage of the Champions League this season.
This means significant additional income and thus in turn an advantage in the traditional duel for the championship. The Rangers’ entry into the Europa League final is also noticeable, but much less so in the books. In order not to let Celtic pull further away, they need to win Wednesday’s final to get their hands on the lavish pots of money that way as well.
Van Bronckhorst has proven that he knows how to win a final by winning two cups with Feyenoord. As a professional, he won leagues and cups with Rangers, Arsenal FC and FC Barcelona, with whom he also won the 2006 Champions League. He played 106 international matches for the national team of the Netherlands and finished second in the 2010 World Cup as captain.
As a coach, he is considered to be tactically variable, which he proved in the semifinals against Leipzig, when his best strikers Alfredo Morelos and Kemar Roofe were missing due to injuries and he was therefore forced to improvise. He could also start again with a defensive formation against Eintracht and leave the game to the Frankfurters. To put this into perspective: In the second leg of the semi-finals, Leipzig had 63 percent possession of the ball, but Rangers won the game 3-1.
Australian goalkeeper Brad Jones met van Bronckhorst during their time together in Rotterdam. He told BBC Scotland that van Bronckhorst is a coach who is always on the training ground and who, because of his young age – he turned 47 in February – has a lot of understanding for the players and thus makes young professionals better.
“He’s very authentic, you get along well with him,” Jones describes the nature of the coach: “But at the same time he demands the respect that a coach needs.” His greatest strength is his inner calm, even in tense situations . At Feyenoord, this meant that all players in the squad, even those with more difficult characters, stood behind the “cool, calm Gio”.