Michels had won it all in club football but had an agonizing defeat as an international manager in the 1974 World Cup final
European Championships 1988
After leaving FC Köln, Michels began a second spell as boss of his national team. He was only in charge for one season before he was replaced by Leo Beenhakker. However, his third spell in charge began a year later when he took the reigns back from Beenhakker.
It was in his third spell as boss, which lasted from 1985-88, that Michels won arguably his most important trophy. Fourteen years after losing the World Cup final, Michels returned to West Germany for Euro 1988 with a Dutch team brimming with quality. World class players like Ronald Koeman, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten made up the spine of the team.
They lost their first game of the tournament 1-0 against the Soviet Union but managed to qualify from their group with victories over England and the Republic of Ireland.
It set up a semi-final against their old foes, West Germany. After going a goal behind, the Netherlands won 2-1 thanks to a penalty from Koeman and a last minute winner from van Basten. There was a bitter rivalry between the two teams and after the game, Koeman shocked spectators by pretending to wipe his backside with the shirt of Olaf Thon in front of the German supporters.
Euro 1988 Final
The Netherlands met the Soviet Union in the final. It was their chance to avenge the defeat the Soviets inflicted on them in the first game of the tournament. The Dutch were favourites to win the match and lived up to the billing with a 2-0 victory.
Gullit scored the first goal with a header but the game is still remembered today for the spectacular second goal, scored by van Basten. A cross had been floated over from the left of the pitch that forced van Basten wide. He struck a volley from an acute angle, just inside the area and close to the touchline. The ball looped over the goalkeeper with great pace and into the far top corner of the goal.
It was worthy of winning any tournament and is now one of the most famous goals of all time. After the match, Michels commented: “We won the tournament, but we all know that the semi-final was the real final.”
Final years of Michels’ career
After the glory of the Netherlands’ Euro’88 triumph, Michels went back into club management with Bayer Leverkusen. He spent a season with the club but failed to take them forward as they finished 8th in the table.
His last job in management was his fourth spell as the Netherlands’ national team boss. He gave a debut to future Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp in 1990 and took the Dutch team to Sweden in 1992 to defend their European crown.
The Netherlands had a decent tournament, the highlight of which was a 3-1 victory over Germany in the group stage. However they were knocked out on penalties in the semi-final by eventual winners, Denmark after Peter Schmeichel saved from van Basten in the shoot-out.
FIFA Coach of the Century
In 1999, Michels was honoured by FIFA who named him their ‘Coach of the Century’ both for the collection of trophies he won throughout his career and the genius of his Total Football innovation.
Since the 2003-04 season, the Dutch manager of the Year award has been known as the Rinus Michels Award.