Ronald Koeman was born in Groningen in 1963. His family was a true footballing family as his father had played and his older brother, Erwin, had a real talent for the game. The family was naturally drawn to the local first division club, FC Groningen, where the brothers played at an early age. Ronald spent three years playing for the northern club, during which time his skills were noted by the big three clubs. It was not long before he was snatched up by Ajax. In Amsterdam he benefited from the tutelage of the great Johan Cruijff. Koeman was also playing alongside the rising stars of his generation such as van Basten, Rijkaard and Vanenburg. It was during his three year tenure at Ajax that Koeman began to build a reputation for his powerful kick, especially in set plays. His penetrating passes were also universally admired. Koeman was included with the most promising talents of his generation, such as his Ajax teammates and Ruud Gullit. His appearances on the national team were also becoming more frequent. Koeman was purchased by PSV, which was in the process of building a strong team, and there he played alongside the illustrious Gullit. Koeman would last three years at PSV as well, but it was during a time when they were the dominant club in Holland.
In 1988 Koeman’s PSV became the third Dutch club to win the European Cup. Within days Koeman had to report to the Dutch national’s training camp. There he joined his older brother and many of his current and former teammates to form the most collective Oranje seen for a decade. Koeman’s role was as the pivotal, play-making, attacking defender. The result was Holland’s well-known triumph in the 1988 European Championship, a tournament in which Koeman played an instrumental role. Aside from simply playing well, he scored the equalising penalty in the eventual victory over arch-rivals West Germany. Koeman had become one of the best known players in Europe. The power of his kick became his trademark.
After his success in 1988, Koeman signed with Barcelona where he was under the coaching of Cruijff again. Despite a bumpy debut, Koeman had six successful years with the Catalans. So much so that he became synonymous with the super club. During his tenure, Barcelona was Spanish Champion four times, European Champion once (he scored the winning goal with a free kick) and European Cup runners-up once. While at Barcelona, Koeman would attain more success with the national team. He is one of a handful of Dutch players ever to play in four tournaments, scoring penalties in three of them. His legendary “foul” and ensuing free kick against England in 1993 were key to Holland’s qualification for the 1994 World Cup. After reaching the Quarter-Finals in USA ‘94, Ronald Koeman retired from the national team.
At thirty-two years of age, when his six-year contract expired with Barcelona, Ronald Koeman returned to Holland to play for the new Feyenoord. The Rotterdam club was aiming to challenge the domination of Ajax. Koeman’s presence was felt immediately in Rotterdam and his return was a contribution to the overall level of the domestic game. His incredible free kick technique was still there, to the delight of the Dutch public. His leadership, field vision and incredible passes became the pivotal point for Feyenoord. In his first season, he led the team to the Semi-Final of European-Cup-winners Cup.
Even after having won almost all there is to win, Koeman will be remembered for a number of things: he was a tough player who intimidated his opponents, he had great vision and great passes, he was consistent, the sheer power of his shots, he never missed penalties, but most of all, Koeman’s legacy will remain that he had the best free kick of his generation, perhaps of all time.