He’s one of the best players ever produced by one of the greatest soccer nations on earth, and now he’ll lead the defending MLS Cup champions.
Frank de Boer is an icon of Dutch footy, a world-class defender over his 18-year playing career who starred for some of the biggest clubs in the world and has shown the potential to become a similarly successful manager.
Here’s a few facts about Atlanta United’s new head coach.
1. He’s a twin
Frank and his brother Ronald – who’s the older of the two by a few minutes – are twin brothers who also featured on many of the same teams over their careers, including Ajax, FC Barcelona, Rangers FC and the Netherlands national team.
They played different positions; the left-footed Frank was a center back and occasionally a left back, while Ronald was an attacking player who typically worked in a striker, playmaker or wide midfield role. But they look similar enough to have confused people over the years – including the staff at Crystal Palace, who got their de Boers mixed up when posting information about Frank after hiring him as their manager in 2017:
2. This isn’t his first work trip to the US
De Boer was a key member of the Dutch side that reached the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup in the United States, starting four matches – at future MLS venues RFK Stadium, Camping World Stadium and the Cotton Bowl – and playing alongside fellow Oranje stars like Aron Winter, who would later serve as Toronto FC’s head coach from 2011-12.
3. A cup of coffee helped sell him on ATLUTD
Atlanta United brought de Boer to town the week after their MLS Cup win to conduct interviews and show him their facilities and community, and as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Doug Roberson reports, the Dutchman was struck when Darren Eales stopped through a Starbucks drive-thru with him in the back seat.
The barista at the window was a Five Stripes fan who recognized Eales and gave him his coffee on the house, driving home to de Boer – who was taking cover in the back to avoid being recognized – the club’s cherished place in the community.
4. He’ll encounter former charges in MLS
As he begins his MLS coaching adventure, de Boer will recognize a few players who worked under him at Ajax and Crystal Palace.
Nicolas Lodeiro | USA Today Sports Images
San Jose Earthquakes striker Danny Hoesen, Seattle Sounders playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and TFC fullback Gregory van der Wiel featured on de Boer’s Ajax teams, who won an Eredivisie-record four league championships from 2010-14. And while the coach’s time at Crystal Palace was far shorter and less successful, he would have crossed paths with Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Jordan Mutch during his stint in London.
5. He’s a Dutch national team great
De Boer enjoyed a long, fruitful international career highlighted by participation in two World Cups (‘94 and ‘98) and three Euros (1992, 2000 and 2004), earning “team of the tournament” honors in 2000. In all, he amassed 112 caps along the way, a program record at the time and a number that currently ranks third all-time behind Wesley Sneijder and Edwin van der Sar.
His ‘98 Oranje side (see image of de Boer dueling with Mexico's Luis Hernandez at top of page) finished in fourth place after falling to Brazil on a penalty-kick shootout in the semifinals, and as an assistant coach in 2010, he also had a hand in that Dutch team’s run to the final in South Africa, where they lost to Spain in extra time.
6. He’s an architect of one of the most famous goals in World Cup history
Speaking of 1998, few who’ve seen it can ever forget the incredible last-minute wonderstrike netted by cult hero Dennis Bergkamp to earn the Netherlands a dramatic 2-1 quarterfinal win over Argentina in Marseille. It’s a timeless moment that began at Frank de Boer’s foot, as he picked out Bergkamp with an impeccable long-range delivery from inside the Dutch half:
7. He’s a UEFA Champions League winner
Precious few players or coaches in MLS history can claim to have been champions of Europe, and de Boer is one. The Hoorn, Netherlands native was in the starting XI – as was his twin brother Ronald – in Vienna on May 24, 1995 as Ajax defeated a star-studded AC Milan side to hoist the most cherished club trophy in world soccer:
8. Atlanta’s new boss is a “Total Football” acolyte
As you might imagine given his Netherlands, Ajax and Barcelona pedigree, de Boer has been inculcated in this proud tradition of fluid, possession-based soccer, conceived, perfected and passed down through the years by greats like Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff.
De Boer has generally made that philosophy a calling card of the teams he’s coached, even at times to the detriment of his own self-interest – his desire to implement such a style at Crystal Palace was fingered as a factor in the short leash and rapid dismissal handed down by that club’s executives.
9. He’s known for bringing along young talent
Tottenham's Christian Eriksen | Action Images/Reuters
ATLUTD president Darren Eales pointed to de Boer’s stylistic outlook as a key factor in his hiring, and also his demonstrated ability to identify and cultivate youth prospects. His coaching tenure at Ajax began in the club’s famed youth academy and would eventually feature a laundry list of blue-chip talent bubbling up through the ranks, including the likes of Toby Alderweireld, Daley Blind, Christian Eriksen, Justin Kluivert, Christian Poulsen and Jan Vertonghen.
10. He arrives in the ATL with something to prove
In stark contrast to his work at Ajax, De Boer’s most recent two jobs were abbreviated – and fairly painful – experiences. Crystal Palace cut him loose just five matches (all shutout losses) into a three-year contract last year, while his time in charge of Italian heavyweights Inter Milan lasted less than three months. That gives him extra motivation to make the most of the Atlanta gig.
“It felt like he had a bit of a chip on his shoulder and it felt like he had something to prove. And I liked that,” Five Stripes technical director Carlos Bocanegra told reporters in a conference call. “He’s had some success and he’s had some difficulties, but he was really up for this challenge. I thought that was great.”