LOUIS van Gaal is a 66-year-old who has been out of work for more than a year and has never coached outside Europe – but he could be an ideal short-term fit for Japan’s Vissel Kobe.
According to the Sports Hochi newspaper, Dutchman Van Gaal is at the top of Kobe’s shortlist following the departure of Nelsinho earlier this week.
The Brazilian, who had been in charge since 2015, paid the price after Kobe suffered a third consecutive loss last weekend, falling to 11th place in the 18-team J1 League.
Kobe were taken over by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten in 2014 and last season’s seventh-place finish was the best in the club’s history.
But progress has slowed this season, despite the arrival of German World Cup winner Lukas Podolski, who scored twice on his debut.
Van Gaal’s last role was at Manchester United, where he won the FA Cup in 2016 but lost his job as a result of not securing Champions League football for the following season.
Having managed Ajax, Barcelona (twice), Netherlands (twice) and Bayern Munich, Van Gaal is unlikely to be offered another top job in Europe.
And if a change of culture and a new challenge appeal to him, a move to Kobe could benefit both parties.
Four years from his 70th birthday, Van Gaal is not a long-term option for the Japanese club, but his arrival would boost Kobe and the J.League.
He fits the bill perfectly in terms of being someone who could steady the Kobe ship, organise the team, and get them heading in the right direction again.
Kobe remain ambitious, and the club are understood to view Van Gaal as the man to lead them to a first AFC Champions League campaign and then a J.League title.
While that may be a somewhat overambitious target, given Kobe are 12 points off the top three and a place in the AFC Champions League, Van Gaal would provide discipline and stability.
Many of the raw materials from last season’s encouraging season remain, while Podolski’s presence could act as a helpful recruiting tool for the club over the next few seasons.
The sacked Nelsinho said this week: “Unfortunately, I couldn’t achieve what we were aiming for, but I was able to see the team grow a lot toward earning a title in football.
“But as a professional, I feel greatly responsible for not being able to live up to everyone’s expectations.”
Given he felt the club was not reaching its potential under his leadership would bode well for Van Gaal to make solid progress over a period of two or three years.
The Dutchman’s last three jobs, with Manchester United, Netherlands and Bayern, have all lasted two years, and he has only held one job since 2000 that lasted more than two years (AZ from 2005-2009).
But Kobe, who have put coach Takayuki Yoshida in temporary charge, arguably need a fixer rather than a builder.
And that is why Van Gaal could be the ideal fit for a J.League club who have somewhat lost their way over the past month or two.