Michels had won the title for three years in a row for the first time in Ajax’s history
European Cup glory
The 1968-69 season was a rare one-off for Michels’ Ajax as they didn’t win a single trophy. They were beaten to the title by Feyenoord by just three points. That disappointment only served to make them more determined and the following season they won their second double under Michels, scoring 100 league goals along the way. They beat PSV 2-0 in the KNVB Cup final.
1970-71 was the last season of Michel’s first spell in charge of Ajax. They had a disappointing season in the league, finishing 2nd to Feyenoord. However, Michels’ departing gift was an even bigger trophy, the European Cup. Ajax beat Greek side, Panathinaikos, 2-0 in the final.
They also won the KNVB Cup two weeks earlier, beating Sparta 2-1 in a replay after the final had finished 2-2.
Struggling for success with Barcelona
Alax’s success and spellbinding style of play had won them many admirers and Michels had become one of the most sought after managers in the world.
He joined Spanish giants Barcelona in 1971. The Catalan club had been so close to winning the title the previous season. They finished level on points with Valencia but finished second because Valencia had a better record in the head to head games between the two clubs. It was the closest Barcelona had come to winning the title for 11 years.
Michels’ first two seasons at Barcelona were disappointing. Michels started to introduce his total football style of play but the team didn’t win a single trophy and they had to watch as their Madrid rivals, Real and Atletico won a La Liga title each.
While Barcelona failed to win any silverware in Michels’ first two seasons, the team he had built at Ajax went on to win another two European Cups, making it three in a row.
Ending Barca’s wait for La Liga title
He signed his protégé, Cruyff, from Ajax in 1973 and together the two Dutchmen helped to mastermind Barcelona’s first La Liga title in 14 years. They played irresistible football and won the title at a canter, finishing 10 points ahead of second placed Atlético Madrid.
First spell as national team boss
After winning the Spanish title, Michels’ country came calling. The Netherlands had qualified for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany but had parted company with manager František Fadrhonc. It was only the third time the Dutch had reached the World Cup finals and Michels didn’t have long to work with his players before the tournament started.
Fortunately, he knew many of the squad members from his time at Ajax and the national team had no problem adopting the total football style that had been so successful for Michels at Ajax and Barcelona.
The Netherlands took the World Cup by Storm. They had comfortable wins against Uruguay and Bulgaria and a goalless draw against Sweden to finish top of their group in the first round.
In the second group stage they beat Brazil and East Germany by 2-0 and hammered Argentina 4-0 to finish top of their group. It set up a final against their great rivals, West Germany. The greatest team never to win the World Cup