Phillip Cocu is the footballing son Johan Cruyff never had, Pep Guardiola aside
The 45-year-old will go all the way to the top. It's just a matter of time.
What strikes me most of Phillip Cocu's managerial career so far is his humility. Most managers you know today would want to continue managing first-team football after they've had a taste of it – especially after they've won a major piece of silverware for the club.
Yet when PSV appointed Dick Advocaat as their manager for the season, Cocu was more than willing to take a step back and coach the under-19s. There weren't any mind games involved with the hierarchy and he didn't instigate an aorta of guilt or sympathy.
His position was clear: he wanted to coach a side for a sustained period of time. And the under-19s was a perfect project that would also chisel a managerial pillar stone he's since become famous for. There aren't many managers in today's game that do what Cocu does – in placing unwavered faith in youth – but given he's got the choice to cherry pick some of the best young Dutch talent, it isn't surprising he's chosen said path.
Memphis Depay might not be the most famous footballer in England – or even in Manchester – but the then-Red Devils manager Louis van Gaal wasn't the only one interested in signing the young Dutch winger. Depay owes a lot of his success and growth as a footballer to Cocu who brought him to the first team when he was the interim manager the season before Advocaat was appointed.
Even his current PSV side is filled with a plethora of young talents capable of defending the Eredivisie title without it getting too clumsy in the end. But looking at how PSV stormed through the last two seasons, it feels like the best is yet to come from Cocu's side.
Who said Cruyffian football was all about attacking?
Cocu is a Dutchman and played for a significant amount of time at FC Barcelona. Need I explain more?
His view on how the game is to be played isn't original. Yes, he adds a certain degree of flair to it but it's mostly based on what the legendary Johan Cruyff often preached. He's spent time with the Dutch national side and spent a considerable amount of time amongst the likes of Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique in Catalonia.
Guardiola, as is often pointed out, is the model player Barcelona always craved. Cruyff needed someone who could best decipher a lot of what he was trying to achieve in the middle of the park and young Pep was the one who proved all the theories.
What better education than that man, then? Guardiola and Cocu shared a lot of time on the field together. They were the ones who put Barcelona on the map - in that particular era. Their understanding of the game was far superior compared to others they played with and against. And it always placed them in a bracket only a few could predict.
Yet while Guardiola shifted to a more attacking game plan, Cocu took to a more defensive approach. And his teams aren't any less Cruyffian than Pep's. They both hunt in packs and they both hurt you in zones you would normally come on top at.
Cocu's teams place a lot of importance on building from the back of midfield. He isn't the kind of manager to place a 'passer' at the heart of defence but instead chooses to play three dynamic midfielders in the centre of the park. They attack, they defend, and they do it together.
It's isn't as vulgar as it sounds but its effective in getting you three points. Especially in the Netherlands.
The Hall of Fame isn't the shiniest in the Netherlands
The Eredivisie has been a stepping stone for a while now. For the best of talents on and off the field, the Netherlands simply can't match the glamour and the panache of other European divisions.
And Cocu knows this. It's also probably why he's chosen to experiment with various formations and styles with his PSV side. Is he preparing for a move to a European giant worthy of playing football the world notices? Or is he such a perfectionist that he plans to do what Arsene Wenger has done? Build a dynasty and keep at it till your body says otherwise?
Speaking of the Frenchman, Cocu has been one of the many names on the list that's often circulated to take over the reigns at Arsenal. The English giant is losing a footballing giant and needs someone who can come in and continue what 60,000 fans are often used to seeing week in and week out.
Cocu could take over at Arsenal and while he may some of the best young players on British shores, he's going to need a settling-in period – something Wenger was offered in the late 90s. That said, Cocu's playbook isn't full of concept the Arsenal players aren't used to.
He'll have the kind of mobile midfielders he likes to drop into the centre. And the wingers Arsenal have are amongst the best in England with Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi all capable of packing right for a fight.
While many would argue that Arsenal need a change like the one they needed 20 years ago, they'll find Cocu's methods surprisingly refreshing. You'll still witness edge-of-the-seat action but will find yourself more composed and calm when the ball breaks to the final defensive line.
A strong defensive line is what separated PSV from every other side in the Eredivisie and Cocu could bring the same to the North London club. He doesn't need to heavily reinvest in buying new strong defenders, he doesn't have to teach them the kind of zonal marking he's often employed and he really doesn't have to teach them how to defend in one-on-one situations.
From his point of view, it's an easy transition. From the players' point of view, it's an easy transition. From our point of view, it's almost as easy. Cocu is intelligent, cunning and extremely efficient. If not Arsenal, Cocu knows the Hall of Fame isn't the shiniest in England as well. But eventually, he'll get there. It's destined.