Van Gaal: ‘Loved watching Italy play’

Dutch tactician Louis van Gaal admits the 1-0 win over the Netherlands was ‘the first time I loved watching an Italian team play’ and he turned down a Milan offer.

The Azzurri went to the top of their Nations League group with a 1-0 victory in Amsterdam, sealed by Nicolò Barella’s header, although the visitors did dominate possession and passing statistics too.

“For the first time, I really loved watching an Italian team play, because in the past Italian football was known primarily for being defensive,” Van Gaal told reporters as he attended an awards ceremony in Florence.

“I had an opportunity to work in Italy towards the start of my career, before I went to Barcelona. It was Milan who wanted me.”

Matthijs de Ligt impressed in his debut Serie A season, but is currently out of action following shoulder surgery.

“He’s very talented, but also very young. He can become better than Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, but he needs time.”

Van Gaal worked with another Serie A defender at Manchester United, Roma target Chris Smalling.

“He’s a great professional, a great man, and he always played with me when he wasn’t injured.”

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