IN PROFILE: Ronald Koeman – the player

By SFC Media time Mon 16 Jun Men's First team

Following Ronald Koeman's appointment as Saints' new manager, takes a look back at the Dutch legend's playing days...

Ronald Koeman arrives at St Mary’s with a wealth of top-level footballing experience, having played and managed at the highest level during an already-distinguished career.

Koeman was born on 21st March 1963 in Zaandam, a city just north of the Dutch capital, Amsterdam. 

He is the second son of the late Martin Koeman, also a footballer, and the younger brother of fellow Dutch international Erwin Koeman.

A few months after Ronald was born, the Koeman family relocated two-or-so hours north-east to Groningen, where Martin had just signed for GVAV.

When Ronald was five and Erwin two years older, the brothers joined the youth ranks of local amateur outfit VV Helpman as they began a journey that would see them both follow their father in building a career in football.

The siblings would go on to join Martin’s team, who became known as FC Groningen in 1971. By the time their father departed for Heerenveen in 1973, he had made more than 500 appearances for the club as well as winning his one-and-only Holland cap in 1964.

Ronald would make his professional debut for Groningen at the age of 17, in 1980, by which time PSV Eindhoven had already snapped up his brother after just six appearances for the side.

The younger brother quickly began to build an exciting reputation as an attacking centre-back, scoring six goals in 27 appearances during his first professional season.

Ronald’s second and third campaigns were even more fruitful, as he plundered an incredible 29 goals in 71 appearances across the 1981/82 and 1982/83 seasons.

Erwin had rejoined Groningen in 1982, and both brothers were handed their senior Holland debuts in the same game – a 3-0 defeat to Sweden on 27th April 1983.

That summer, Ronald was signed by Amsterdam giants Ajax, who had just won back-to-back Dutch titles as well as the 1982/83 KNVB Cup. However, despite nine goals in 38 appearances, his new team ended the 1983/84 season without a trophy.

On the international stage, Koeman continued to pick up caps and scored his first goal for Holland in a 3-0 victory over Iceland in December 1983 on his old stomping ground, Groningen’s Oosterpark Stadion.

His second campaign in Amsterdam was far more successful. 13 goals in 36 appearances helped Koeman win the first trophy of his career, as Ajax won the 1984/85 Eredivisie title.

The following season, Ajax won the KNVB Cup but were pipped to first place by PSV Eindhoven – who would soon move for Ronald’s services.

Aged 23, after three seasons, 114 appearances and 30 goals, Koeman departed Amsterdam to join the newly-crowned Dutch champions.

His first season with PSV was a resounding success, as his new side retained their title and the defender furthered his incredible scoring record with 19 goals in 39 appearances, leading to him being crowned Dutch Footballer of the Year.

It was the 1987/88 season, though, that is almost certainly the most fruitful of Koeman’s career to date.

Not only did PSV win their third successive Eredivisie title and their first KNVB Cup in more than a decade, but they were crowned European champions for the first time in their history, with Koeman scoring the first penalty in a 6-5 shootout final victory over Benfica after it had ended goalless in Stuttgart.

Along with four other PSV players, and brother Erwin, Ronald was named in Holland’s squad for the 1988 UEFA European Championships in West Germany.

After negotiating their way out of their group with wins over England and the Republic of Ireland, plus a draw against the Soviet Union, Holland found themselves up against the hosts in the semi-finals.

Holland were a goal down in Hamburg when they were awarded a penalty, which Koeman duly dispatched before Marco Van Basten’s late winner sent them through to the final against the Soviet Union, which they would win 2-0 to lift the European Championship trophy for the first and only time in their history to date.

The 1988/89 season would be Ronald’s last with PSV as they won their fourth back-to-back title and retained the KNVB Cup. 

Midway through the campaign, the Koeman brothers came head-to-head as PSV faced European Cup Winners’ Cup holders KV Mechelen, where Erwin had been playing since 1985, to contest for the European Super Cup. Mechelen won 3-1 on aggregate.

PSV also played for the Intercontinental Cup, facing Copa Libertadores winners Nacional of Uruguay in Tokyo. The game went to penalties, with Koeman scoring in extra time and the shootout, which the South Americans won 7-6.

Ronald made 130 appearances for PSV, scoring 63 goals. His next destination would be the club with which he would spend his longest spell – FC Barcelona.

Koeman was signed by Dutch legend Johan Cruyff, who had been in charge of Barça since the previous summer. He would go on to enjoy an incredible six-year spell with the Catalan giants.

In his first year in Spain, Koeman scored 19 goals in 48 appearances as Barcelona lifted the Copa del Rey and finished runners-up in La Liga.

Koeman would travel to his first World Cup in 1990, with Holland having missed out on qualification four years earlier. However, the tournament would end in disappointment, as the European champions lost 2-1 to eventual winners West Germany in the round of 16, with Ronald scoring an 89th-minute consolation penalty.

In the 1990/91 season, Barça won their first title since 1985 as well as reaching the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, in which Koeman scored a consolation goal as his side were beaten 2-1 by Manchester United in Rotterdam.

In the early part of the following season, Barcelona lifted the Supercopa de España, which is contested between the champions of La Liga and the Copa del Rey winners – in this case, Atlético Madrid.

Barça won their second successive title that season, before what was perhaps Koeman’s finest moment. Deep into extra time, the defender scored the only goal of the game as Barcelona beat Sampdoria at Wembley Stadium to win the European Cup for the first time in their history.

Then came Euro 1992 in Sweden, where Holland were the defending champions. The Oranje won their group, only to lose on penalties to eventual winners Denmark in the semi-finals even though Koeman typically netted in the shootout. 

Ronald would not have to wait long for his next trophy, as Barça again won the Supercopa de España that autumn by beating Atlético 5-2 over two legs. They also lifted the European Super Cup in February 1993 with a 2-1 aggregate victory over Werder Bremen.

Back on the international stage, Koeman had become Holland’s captain as Ruud Gullit fell out of favour and was wearing the armband during a controversial qualifier for the 1994 World Cup against England as he escaped a red card for a last-gasp foul on David Platt before going on to score a free-kick that ended the Three Lions’ chances of reaching the finals.

He would continue to captain the side at the tournament, where they lost in the quarter finals to eventual winners Brazil.

The domestic honours continued to roll in during Koeman’s time at the Nou Camp, as Barcelona racked up a further two successive La Liga titles and one more Supercopa de España.

In 1995, at the age of 32, the Dutchman decided to return home. During his six years in Spain, Koeman scored 88 goals in 264 games, winning ten trophies.

Koeman joined Feyenoord, who had just won the KNVB Cup and finished fourth in the Eredivisie. During his two seasons at De Kuip, he scored 21 goals in 79 games before making the decision to retire in 1997, aged 34.

When the curtain came down on Ronald’s playing days, it was widely accepted that he was the highest-scoring defender in footballing history. 

During a 17-year club career, Koeman made 685 appearances and scored 239 goals. He also won 78 caps for Holland, for whom he netted 14 times. 

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