Ajax legend Patrick Kluivert has opened up on how Louis van Gaal influenced his career, as well as a telling conversation his mother had with the iconic coach before the 1995 UEFA Champions League final.
Kluivert’s glittering career saw him score 206 goals in 479 games across spells with Ajax, AC Milan, Barcelona, Newcastle, Valencia, PSV Eindhoven and Lille.
His crowning glory arguably came early in his career, helping Ajax win the 1995 Champions League in his first year in the senior setup.
Kluivert scored the late winner against future side Milan and earned a fifth-place finish in the voting for that year’s Ballon d’Or.
Speaking on BT Sport’s Kings of Europe podcast with James Richardson, Kluivert revealed the influence of Van Gaal, who promoted him to the first team to rival PSV’s Ronaldo and later re-signed him at Barcelona.
“In the early days, he was quite a hard coach because he was at the beginning of his coaching career, he was quite spicy and quite particular, but also very funny. A real man who wants to say everything he thinks, it’s not always good, but he was an honest man,” Kluivert said of Van Gaal.
“For me, very important at that time. He brought me back from when I was playing for AC Milan to Barcelona. So for me, Louis van Gaal is a man, a coach, a father, a football father because he gave me the opportunity to come from the ‘A’ youth directly to the first team of Ajax.
“That was a time where PSV signed Ronaldo and Ajax didn’t really have a follow up for PSV signing Ronaldo. He bragged, but he actually put me [under] a little bit of pressure that I was the equivalent to Ajax. Ronaldo was the big talent in Brazil who went to PSV and I was just a little boy who came from the ‘A’ youth and joined the first team!
“So I’m very happy he had the guts to present me to the first team. I’m thankful for that.”
Kluivert then recalled a conversation he and Van Gaal had with his proud mother prior to the 1995 Champions League final.
“Before we left, my mother said ‘my son will score in the final, my son will score in the final, watch out, watch out!’ And I said, ‘Mum, shut up please!'” Kluivert laughed.
“At the end, when we came back, the elevator just opened up and my mother was standing there…I cried my eyes out. But it was a sweet moment, it was a sweet moment for me to bring back the biggest trophy and that was fantastic.
“I haven’t seen a more proud mother than I saw that day.”
Listen to the Patrick Kluivert interview in full in the latest episode of ‘James Richardson’s Kings of Europe’ – the latest podcast from BT Sport Pods out today across major podcast platforms.
Every Monday, journalist James Richardson interviews a Champions League winner from the past 30 years, providing unique insights into some of the biggest moments in European football history: btsport.com/pods