Bayern Munich, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSV Eindhoven all felt the full force of the Mark van Bommel effect in years past. bundesliga.com presents 10 things on the tough-tackling midfielder turned Wolfsburg head coach...
1) Make a life, take a wife
Van Bommel was a bit-part player when Fortuna Sittard were relegated from the Eredivisie at the end of his first season on the pro circuit, but he had become a veritable general by the time they were promoted back to the top flight two years later, in 1995.
During van Bommel’s final season at Fortuna, the club reached the KNVB Cup final, a game which he missed through suspension and, surprise, surprise, ended in a 2-0 loss to Ajax. It was also the first time he worked with future father-in-law, Bert van Marwijk.
2) Captain Fantastic
Silverware followed at PSV. Van Bommel helped the club win back-to-back league titles, and even served as captain in his second campaign, at the tender age of 23. Playing alongside the likes of Arjen Robben and Philip Cocu, the Maasbracht native added another two Eredivisie crowns to his collection, and the Dutch Cup. He also enjoyed a run to the 2003/04 UEFA Champions League semi-finals, where PSV lost out to future employers AC Milan on away goals.
3) Iniesta's Kryptonite
Van Bommel joined Barcelona on a free transfer in 2005, winning a La Liga-Champions League double in his only season at the club. Upon his unveiling at Camp Nou, van Bommel asked journalists to field questions in Spanish. Prior to his move, he had been learning the lingo in a convent.
An extended campaign included three 2006 FIFA World Cup appearances with the Netherlands. The Oranje bowed out after losing a tempestuous last-16 fixture with Portugal, dubbed 'The Battle of Nuremberg', 1-0.
Van Bommel won a runners-up medal fours years later, despite his best efforts to rough up Spain heartbeat Andres Iniesta in the final. "This is the first time I've been pushed over the limit," said Iniesta of a contest which produced a record 14 yellow cards.
4) 'The Punisher'
"I never really liked that label, but I never got rid of it," recalls van Bommel of a hard-man reputation that spawned nicknames such as 'the Punisher' and 'the Destroyer' - but masked a transition specialist. "You enjoy it when you intercept play and play a good pass for a goal. It’s not so noticeable, but it is important for the team to intercept passes."
5) The Bayern Years
Van Bommel had a direct hand in over 200 goals for club and country - including 36 in Bayern colours.
"We brought someone back with us from Barcelona," commented Uli Hoeneß, general manager at the time, following Bayern's pre-season Joan Gamper Trophy meeting with the Catalans in August 2006. Within 24 hours, the Dutchman had signed a three-year contract with the record champions.
The Netherlands international made 40 competitive appearances in his debut season at the club, scoring three times in his first six outings as Bayern finished fourth. A year later, he got his hands on the Bundesliga and DFB Cup for the first time.
Bayern's first non-German skipper - he succeeded Oliver Kahn in 2008 - celebrated another domestic double in 2090/10, before signing off 12 months later, 187 competitive appearances the richer. "Bayern are my favourite club," he said.
6) Fierce tackler, warm heart
Van Bommel later joined AC Milan, where he made it league titles wins in four different countries. He showed his softer side when he left the club a year later, breaking down in tears in his final interview as a Rossoneri player.
"When I arrived here, everyone told me this club is like a family and it’s true, it is," van Bommel blubbed. "At Milan, I was able to apply myself, I think, in terms of football but also as a human being, and I had a great time."
7) Mr. Discipline
A two-time Dutch Footballer of the Year (2001, 2005), van Bommel wrapped up his international career at the end of the UEFA 2012 Euros. His final report card read: 79 appearances, 10 goals, 10 assists, 12 yellow cards and - despite a popular misconception - NO reds.
"I don't agree with what people are saying," said van Marwijk said of his son-in-law's tackling during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. "The yellow card [in the semi-final] was his first of the competition. He has shown a lot of discipline in his play."
8) Last orders!
Van Bommel saw out his playing days back at PSV, citing a left knee injury as one of his chief reasons for retiring at 33, at the end of 2012/13. He was sent off for two bookable offences in his last-ever outing - one of 13 red cards across a 664-game club career spanning some 21 years.
"I have had many doubts," van Bommel said of his retirement. "The support of the fans made the decision tough for me. Although I still feel good, I had to make a lot of efforts to stay fit. I wanted to make the decision to quit by myself."
Translation: Thanks for the years together. They were valuable and educational. Above all, they led to a friendship for life. I have fond memories of the many good conversations about anything and everything, of the beautiful and loving conversations about our families.
9) Coaching credentials
Van Bommel wasn't away from football for long. His first coaching post was as Netherlands U17s assistant, in January 2014. He also worked as van Marwijk's right-hand man in the Saudi Arabia and Australia dugouts, either side of steering the PSV U19s to the 2017/18 league title.
Wolfsburg's new man took his first head coach's role at PSV in summer 2018, claiming a 59 per cent win ratio over his 75 competitive matches in charge, before being let go midway through the 2019/20 campaign.
10) Like [grand]father[-in-law], like son
The van Bommel-van Marwijk gene pool has produced two more footballers. Mark's sons, Thomas and Ruben, are on the books at Maastricht. Both are central midfield players. Grandad Bert operated as a midfielder and forward between 1969 and 1988.
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