Families in Football: Ronald and Erwin Koeman

Ronald and Erwin Koeman
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Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Families in Football’ series. Over the next few weeks, we take a look at siblings, cousins and even parents and children that have played the beautiful game. Some have played cup finals together while others have been on opposing sides. Today, we look at Dutch brothers Ronald and Erwin Koeman.

Families in Football: Ronald and Erwin Koeman

Ronald Koeman

Ronald, the younger of the Koeman brothers began his career in 1980 at Groningen. It was here that the defender, who could also play in midfield, began to show his eye for goal. His long-range shooting skills, free kick and penalty accuracy would bring him much success in his career. 34 goals in 98 appearances for his first club saw the Netherlands’ most successful team Ajax come calling.

In Amsterdam, Koeman would win his first title and continue to score on a regular basis. When Ajax failed to win the title for a second consecutive season, Koeman would shock the club and make the move to the newly crowned champions PSV Eindhoven.

It was a move that paid off for Koeman as it saw his trophy cabinet swell with three more title wins, two cup wins and a European Cup victory – PSV’s first and only triumph in the competition. The goals also continued to flow with 63 goals in 130 games in all competitions, a tally that most strikers would be happy with. It was during his time at PSV that Koeman would experience his greatest achievement with the national team.

European Championship Winner

In 1988, Ronald Koeman was part of the Netherlands squad that would win its only trophy to date. Until Euro 88, the Dutch were known for their style of football called “Total Football” and their superstars; however, despite coming close, a trophy had eluded them. This was also their first major tournament since 1978 but despite this, Holland with their team of superstars that included Koeman, Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard, amongst others, were one of the favourites.

The Dutch reached the final after tough battles against the likes of West Germany and England and would face the team who beat them in the opening game of the tournament, the Soviet Union. However, there would be no repeat as the Netherlands won the game 2-0 thanks to Gullit and a van Basten volley that would go down as one of the greatest ever goals.

Barcelona’s Dream Team

Following his success at PSV and at Euro 88, Koeman left the Netherlands and headed to Spain. He signed for the Spanish giants in 1989 and would become part of the famous dream team that would lift the European Cup for the first time in its history. It was Koeman’s free-kick in extra time that would send the Barca fans inside Wembley wild with delight.

With the help of the likes of Barcelona greats Hristo Stoichkov, Romário, Pep Guardiola and Michael Laudrup, Koeman would also win four La Liga titles in a row alongside triumphs in the European Super Cup, Copa del Rey, and the Supercopa de España.

In every season in Catalonia, Koeman would impressively reach double figures for goals scored. In total, he scored 88 goals in all competitions in six seasons.

Following his tally of goals in 264 appearances, Koeman returned to his native Holland and signed for Feyenoord. In doing so, he became one of just a few players to play for all the “big three” teams in his home country. After two seasons with the club, Ronald Koeman called time on his impressive playing career.

Top Scoring Defender in History

To this date, Ronald Koeman holds an impressive record: the top-scoring defender in history. 193 goals in 535 league appearances easily beats any other defender. In all competitions, he scored 239 goals. Until Lionel Messi arrived on the scene, Koeman also held the record of scoring the most free kicks for Barcelona with 25. Despite being primarily a defender, Koeman even topped the scoring charts in the 1993/94 European Cup tournament, scoring eight in 12 games.

Management

Since retiring from playing, Koeman has gone on to manage 11 teams. He has also managed all but one of the teams he would play for, his first club Groningen. Beginning at Vitesse, Koeman would move to Ajax where he would add another two league titles to his silverware collection. More success followed at the likes of Benfica, PSV, Feyenoord, and Valencia before moving to the Premier League, first with Southampton where he took the Saints to sixth place before joining Everton.

As coach of the Dutch national team, he led them to a runners-up spot in the Nations League and the finals of Euro 2020. Before the finals, which were delayed by one year, Koeman accepted the manager’s job at Barcelona. He. would win the Copa del Rey but a poor run of form at the beginning of the 2021/22 season saw him relieved of his duties.

Erwin Koeman

Erwin is the less remembered Koeman brother, not because he was unsuccessful but he was the brother of one of the greatest ever defenders. The elder of the Koeman brothers, Erwin, just like his younger brother, began his career at Groningen. The midfielder would have three separate spells at the club over a 20 year period.
His first two spells at the club were either side of a move to PSV Eindhoven; however, it was a move to Belgium that would be the beginning of a very successful several years.

European Glory

In 1985, Koeman became KV Mechelen’s major signing as the ambitious club looked to not only establish themselves as a dominant force in their own league but also in Europe. For the next five seasons, Koeman was Mechelen’s main creative force, helping them to Belgian Cup success in 1987 and also the European Cup Winners Cup in 1988.
Like his brother, Erwin was an integral part of the Dutch national team that ended their long wait for a major trophy when they won the European Championships in 1988.
Following Euro 88, Koeman returned to Belgium and continued where he had left off before the summer. Mechelen would win the European Super Cup, a first league title prior to an impressive run in the European Cup. However, in 1990, the high-earning Koeman would be allowed to leave the club as financial issues began to come to light.
A return to Holland with PSV brought the creative midfielder a further two league titles in four seasons before returning to Groningen to see out the rest of his playing career. Koeman retired in 1998 after playing almost 500 games and scoring over 90 goals. A further 31 appearances were made representing his country.

Management

Following retirement, Koeman returned to PSV to become a youth coach before being promoted to assistant manager. His first role as manager came at RKC Waalwijk before heading to Feyenoord. Following his first full season in charge, Koeman left Feyenoord after a frustrating seventh-placed finish.

Spells with the Hungary national team, FC Utrecht, and PSV followed. Time in England being an assistant manager at Southampton and Everton came along before returning to management at Fenerbache as caretaker then Oman and Beitar Jerusalem.

Koeman retired from football management in 2021 citing personal reasons. He said: “With all the will to continue, I have to stop now due to personal circumstances. It was difficult for me, but I recently spoke with the president of the club, Eli Ohana, and I informed him of my decision. It is also time to retire permanently as head coach.”

Ronald and Erwin Koeman: Never Played Together at Club Level But Worked Alongside Each Other in Later Years

Although they played together for the Dutch national team as they helped win their first and only major tournament to date, the brothers Ronald and Erwin Koeman, despite playing in Eredivisie at the same time, never played together at club level. They would have to wait until after their retirement from playing before working together for a league club.
In 2014, when Ronald was appointed the manager of Southampton, Erwin joined him as his assistant. The brothers led the Saints to seventh and sixth-placed finishes, resulting in qualification for the UEFA Europa League. Their success led Ronald to accept the manager’s job at Everton and, once again, he appointed Erwin as his assistant. Another Premier League finish resulted in a Europa League qualification followed; however, the following season saw Everton struggle despite spending big in the transfer market and Ronald and Erwin Koeman were sacked.
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