In this series, I highlight a much-loved and talented footballer from the past. I’ll tell you a little bit about what I think their key qualities were that made them so special. We’ll go on to look at how best to re-live that legend in Football Manager, by naming a few current players who may be able to ‘mirror the magic’ of the superstar and potentially become your new FM20 hero. Episode one focused on Juan Román Riquelme, and is readable here.
Who is it?
In today’s post, we will highlight the top scoring central defender of all time, Dutch Barcelona legend, Ronald Koeman.
Current manager of the Oranje, Ronald Koeman was something of a phenomenon in his playing days.
Starting his career at Groningen in 1980 at the age of 17, Koeman moved on to join the iconic Ajax side of the mid 80s. He was in esteemed company; sharing the pitch with Frank Rijkaard, Aron Winter and Marco van Basten, no less.
Following the legendary Johan Cruyff to Barcelona, Koeman formed a key part of the Barca ‘Dream Team’ era in the first half of the 90s. The ‘Dream Team’ is covered succinctly in a piece on Barcelona’s official website. The article is linked here.
The wonderfully rich history of total football and in particular Cruyff’s 1980s and 90s Ajax and Barcelona has been covered beautifully on this site previously, by fellow Dictate the Gamer, Crusadertsar. Most notably in this article.
What made him so good?
A man with the unique achievement of playing and starring for all three of Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord, with a six year spell at the Catalan Blaugrana in between, Koeman bagged an obscene 239 goals from defence, in a record-breaking career spanning from 1980 to 1997. The two-time Dutch footballer of the year was also the UEFA Champions League top scorer in the 93-94 campaign. Not bad for a defender.
A composed, ball-playing centre back who could also play in midfield, Tintin had a devastating right foot he would regularly unleash at the terrified opposition goalkeeper. Not just from open play, but very frequently from set pieces, especially from the penalty spot. In fact, Koeman’s 46 converted penalties is the second highest in La Liga history (to a little-known Argentinian named Lionel Messi) and his 67 goals overall, mean that he is the second-highest scoring defender in La Liga history, behind the incredibly lockdown-bearded Sergio Ramos.
As a prolific defender, Koeman would often act as the sweeper or Libero of the sides he was part of. Driving from deep and smashing long range thunderbolts towards goal. His technique from free kicks and penalties was often complimented as he switched between the ‘sledgehammer’ approach and the deceptively graceful ‘dink’ after a terrorising, aggressive run-up.
How would he look in Football Manager?
If we are going to mirror the magic of Ronald Koeman in FM20, we need to determine the key attributes that could best recreate how the iconic Dutchman performed on the pitch.
Key Strengths – Free Kicks, Penalty Taking, Long Shots, Composure, Vision
Key Weaknesses – Jumping, Agility
Player Traits – Shoots From Distance, Brings Ball Out Of Defence, Hits Free Kicks With Power
Position – CB, ‘Libero – Attack’ role.
Who can ‘Mirror the Magic?’
I should be clear. Naturally there may very well be ‘better’ players to play in the ‘Libero’ position in FM20 than those I name below.
This is not about finding who is the best player in the game at playing in the same position and role, it is about analysing Ronald Koeman specifically. For all his gifts and faults, and seeing who matches most accurately, for better or worse.
In this case, anyone who had jumping or agility of over 15 were discounted. Koeman wasn’t a man mountain, and despite his penchant for getting forward, he wasn’t shimmying past defenders with a drop of the shoulder or a swivel of the hips.
1 – David Alaba
It’s hard to believe that Bayern Munich veteran David Alaba is still a couple of years away from turning 30. Alaba is arguably the best Koeman-esque defender you should or could have in your side. He has an accurate free kick and strong penalty taking, a keen eye for a pass and wonderful mental attributes. The Austrian stopper is the closest you can get to the Dutch legend in FM20. Or is he?…
2 – Aleksandar Kolarov
This one may seem like an odd choice, given that the ex Man City defender is more naturally considered a left-back, but bear with me! A devastating long shot, a near-perfect free kick, an accomplished spot-kick taker and a strong leader who loves to get forward. The 33-year old might not be the first name you think of when you consider Koeman-esque sweepers, but his attributes and traits don’t lie!
3 – Charlie Mulgrew
Before you ask if I have been drinking, the answer is
yes no. Well not yet today anyway. I always like to throw in a budget curve-ball option in these articles. This time, it’s 33-year Scotland defender Charlie Mulgrew. Mulgrew is a natural centre-back who tries killer balls and long range passes often. He has 16 for free kicks and is effectively a guaranteed penalty scorer, with an attribute of 18. If that’s not a description of Ronald Koeman, I don’t know what is. Valued at less than half a million quid, could the veteran Scotsman smash his way to a record number of goals for a defender in your side?
Do any of you have experience managing these three players? What are your thoughts on who could better ‘mirror the magic’ of Ronald Koeman?
If you liked the article you can find some more below, and our podcast on anchor and other platforms.
- Total Football Journeyman: Swiss Army Knife Method to FM Tactics
- From Kingston to Kirkcudbright | PART THREE | Acclimatising Nicely
- Total Football Journeyman: Le Carré Magique
- Recreating Guardiola’s Tactics in FM21
- The Five Channels: Attacking movement on Football Manager