Louis van Gaal has been linked with the Tottenham Hotspur manager's job since the departure of Andre Villas-Boas in December. If reports over the months since then are accurate, the north London club could well be intent on landing the veteran coach.
The Mirror's Steve Stammers was among those reporting on it prior to Christmas. According to him, Tottenham were weighing up whether van Gaal would consider job-sharing while maintaining his ongoing commitments as Netherlands national team boss.
Once again, the same publication has joined others, like the Daily Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson and Matt Law, in bringing the Dutchman's name up. As speculation mounted on Monday about the future of Villas-Boas' actual replacement, Tim Sherwood, Mirror writer John Cross talked up the likelihood of van Gaal coming in:
Still, depending on who you believe, van Gaal becoming Spurs boss could be inevitable, or far from a sure-thing. Back in February, ESPN FC were just about in the former camp:
As too was van Gaal's fellow Dutchman, Ruud Gullit. Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live in March—here via BBC Sport—he said he knew "for sure he was at Van Gaal's house, the chairman [Daniel Levy]. I think it's a done deal, but you never know."
Sherwood was not so pessimistic last month, telling BBC Sport "I believe I'll be here next year." In an interview with Sky Sports' Monday Night Football this week, he was not willing to concede on the termination of his 18-month contract just yet. Then again, he might not have said even if he knew.
If there is no smoke without fire, though, it is hard to escape the conclusion Spurs have at least contemplated appointing, maybe even sounded out van Gaal.
Figuring out the club hierarchy's actual feelings towards Sherwood is hard to decipher with little or no comment from anyone since his appointment. While chairman Daniel Levy spoke well of him then—to his club's official website—it would not be out of character for him to change his mind.
The aforementioned Telegraph article also mentions Southampton's Mauricio Pochettino as a possible replacement. But if Spurs are to forsake their current chance at stability, the highly successful van Gaal is just about the only worthwhile choice.
With him leaving the Holland post after this summer's World Cup, his upcoming availability is naturally a prime reason. Even if other talented coaches would be interested—say Ajax's Frank de Boer, who has been mentioned by Sky Sports—van Gaal's resume and experience could likely put him ahead in the eyes of Levy and his fellow decision-makers.
In the 1990s, van Gaal was in charge of the last great Ajax side. He led them to the UEFA Cup in 1991-92, then the Champions League three seasons later. His three titles with the Amsterdam club have been followed up by championships in La Liga with Barcelona and the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich.
Most attractive to Tottenham might be van Gaal's fourth Eredivisie title in 2008-09, won during a reputation-restoring spell with AZ Alkmaar after a tough preceding four years with Holland and back at Barca.
The Dutch league's scale and style differs to the English Premier League. It too, however, has traditional powers who generally lead the way.
Heading into 2008-09, AZ were the last Dutch club to win the Eredivisie other than Ajax, Feyenoord or PSV Eindhoven. As Leander Schaerlaeckens pointed out writing for The Guardian in April 2009, their form the previous year did not suggest a historic year was forthcoming:
At the start of the season 12 of Holland's foremost football pundits were asked to predict the final standings of the season for Voetbal International's season guide. Ten picked Ajax to become champions and two backed PSV to win a fifth straight title. None chose AZ Alkmaar. In fact, none selected AZ to come second either. Varying from third to 13th, the sum of the pundits' votes predicted that AZ would come fifth or sixth.
While Ajax and PSV were weakening during transitional periods for each, AZ were good for their final 11-point advantage over second place Twente (another surprise package).
Schaerlaeckens also highlighted the sizable contribution of chairman and owner, Dirk Scheringa, in getting AZ to this point. Nonetheless, van Gaal proved he could work his particular brand of magic without the greater resources he previously had with Ajax and Barcelona.
Spurs would certainly love for van Gaal to do a similar job overhauling the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City. The immediacy with which he won with Bayern in 2009-10 after replacing Jurgen Klinsmann and his long-term vision would certainly appeal to the less-than-patient Levy (albeit, with players like Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribery, Bayern were a more talented bunch than Spurs' own current squad).
Somewhat eerily, in an interview with FIFA TV posted on the day of Villas-Boas leaving Spurs back in December, van Gaal laid out the ideas behind his coaching and management style. The below video—while backing up his reputation of having a(n) (un)healthy ego—could almost serve as him convincing Spurs why they should hire him:
The 62-year-old's talk of his "attacking...and technical philosophy" would appeal to Spurs' desire for a greater, overarching vision for the club. More pragmatically, his reiteration of his faith in a 4-3-3 formation, and his willingness to work with players of all ages, would lend itself to the squad he would work at White Hart Lane.
Van Gaal also stated his belief in maintaining a sense of stability at the club. "When I got to a new club I always want to keep one trainer/coach of the former team," he noted, going on to praise Bayern's Hermann Gerland in helping him get the lay of the land in Munich.
Former player and current Spurs coach Steffen Freund was kept over from the Villas-Boas regime when Sherwood was appointed. Long-time youth team coach Chris Ramsey was also promoted. Either could feasibly work alongside van Gaal.
According to The Independent's Sam Wallace, Spurs still have hopes of Sherwood remaining at the club in his former role:
Keeping Sherwood on to work with van Gaal would suggest Spurs believe they could have it all this summer. Even if the current boss does not stick around in this possible plan, the latter is the kind of proven coach Spurs could well be daring enough to go all out for.