Reports from the Netherlands that former Dutch international midfielder Aron Winter was flying to Canada to sign a three-year deal to become the new head coach and technical director of Toronto FC show just what the club is aiming for – footballing perfection.
Interim general manager Earl Cochrane said last year that Canada’s first Major League Soccer franchise was keen on playing Total Football – the Dutch soccer philosophy that emphasizes fluid interchange between players, meaning every player other than the goalkeeper can theoretically find himself playing anywhere on the field at any point during a game.
In Winter, who both played for and coached at Ajax, the Amsterdam team which pioneered and perfected Total Football in the early 1970s, TFC has hit upon someone capable of implementing the system, and just as importantly, finding the right players to run it.
If the Dutch reports are true – and a source revealed that they are, despite no official word from the team as yet – then Juergen Klinsmann’s hiring as a consultant some months back has finally born fruit. The German World Cup winner emphasized then that Toronto needed to decide what style of game it wanted to implement before it went out and got the coaches and players to fit into that system.
In picking Total Football, TFC has aligned itself with one of the more aesthetically pleasing philosophies in world soccer, one that is certainly preferential to the long-ball approach so often seen at BMO Field in seasons past.
But making that change is not simply a case of flipping a switch.
“Simple football is the most beautiful,” was how former Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff summed up his philosophy of Total Football. “But playing simple football is the hardest thing.”
After plying his trade for Ajax, Lazio and Inter Milan, Winter is certainly a big enough name to attract a much-needed crop of fresh talent to Toronto, and thankfully Cochrane has done the incoming coach a favour by cleaning house and jettisoning some of the more bloated contracts.
The former Dutch World Cup midfielder will also have contacts around the soccer world to help him scout suitable players, and is bringing Ajax youth team coach Bob de Klerk with him to help run the TFC Academy and ensure that the next generation is brought along well versed in Total Football.
Winter will also have help in putting together a team, so as to avoid the disaster that occurred when Winter’s former Dutch international teammate Ruud Gullit spent an ill-fated season as head coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy three years ago.
Despite being talked up as a potential TFC head-coaching candidate just last week, former New England Revolution assistant Paul Mariner will still be heading to Toronto, but will likely be tending to the intricacies of putting together a soccer team under a salary cap, a headache European coaches have rarely encountered in the past.