From deliberately baring his testicles to “sex masochism” to taking up amateur gymnastics at the age of 64, it’s been proven several times over that Louis van Gaal is not the most orthodox of fellows.
Several players have gone public to describe the odd manner in which they’ve been treated by the Dutch manager over the years, with ex-Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva being the latest.
Indeed, it would seem that Van Gaal, who arrived at Old Trafford in the summer of 2014, was nothing short of an absolute swine to Rafael, who despite being at the club for six years by that point, instantly found himself out of favour for reasons that were never fully explained.
Recounting the final throes of his United career in an interview with ESPN, the Brazilian full-back described his surreal existence under Van Gaal:
When it was announced that Van Gaal was taking over, four or five people, including players, called me to say that he doesn’t like Brazilian players.
They pointed out what had happened with Rivaldo at Barcelona (Van Gaal ousted the Ballon d’Or winner in 2002 for publicly complaining about being made to play on the left wing), but I didn’t believe it.
In his first season, Van Gaal called me to his office and said: ‘You can leave.’ The meeting lasted one minute. That was it: ‘You can leave.’ It took time for me to go, but I was desperate to leave when I did, and that saddens me because I loved everything about Manchester United.
Van Gaal is not a bad coach, but I didn’t like his character. One day, I was in the canteen waiting to eat. Van Gaal used to speak to us after we’d eaten each day. I had a head injury after a game at Yeovil – one of the few games I played in that season – and I was touching my injury.
After three or four seconds, he touched my head and said: ‘Why don’t you respect me?’
I stood up and said: ‘I always respect you. I’ve never said anything which was disrespectful to you.’ I am a patient guy, but I got angry then. I had done nothing wrong.
Antonio [Valencia] later said to me: ‘You’re not going to play again.’ Players didn’t speak back to Van Gaal. Antonio was almost right; I barely played again.
I love Manchester United, but I was so desperate to leave United. Only one man did that because I liked everything about the place. I couldn’t handle him anymore.
After being nudged toward the exit, Rafael subsequently left United to join Lyon in the summer of 2015, only to be utterly baffled when Van Gaal contacted him out of the blue with a strangely pally message.
Van Gaal texted me to say: ‘You know how football is…’ I couldn’t believe it. He didn’t speak to me and then texted me to wish me well.
I said: ‘Thank you.’ I was being polite. But I was angry.
Yep, that all sounds like par for the course when it comes to football’s most perplexing egomaniac.
No wonder Christophe Dugarry said life under the Dutchman was akin to a “living hell“.
If you don’t fit the bill, you’re as good as worthless.