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Louis van Gaal recalls the day a neighbour had to smuggle Tottenham’s Daniel Levy out of his house – but says Spurs ‘blew it’

Louis van Gaal, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
(Image credit: PA)

Louis van Gaal was so close to becoming Tottenham manager in 2014, he had to smuggle Spurs chairman Daniel Levy out of his house to avoid detection by an awaiting press pack.

Speaking in the Season Preview issue of FourFourTwo magazine, out on Wednesday, August 26, the Dutch coach says he was ready to join the north London side, but they "blew the chance by waiting so long" to make an offer. 

The former Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Ajax and Netherlands boss even says the prospect of working at Tottenham excited him because he idolised 1960s star Jimmy Greaves.

Instead, Van Gaal went to Manchester United, where he drew up an extraordinary transfer target list that included Neymar, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Ramos and Sadio Mané.

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“It definitely was [a possibility to go to Tottenham before United]," Van Gaal tells FFT. "Daniel Levy flew into Holland with a private jet and came to my house, where we spoke for several hours. 

"He even stayed on to watch the Southampton-Spurs match later that afternoon [which Spurs won 3-2]. He asked for my thoughts about that game, so that was a kind of test as well."

Louis van Gaal, Manchester United, FourFourTwo Season Preview October 2020

(Image credit: Future)

As it came to leaving, they had to devise an ingenious two-pronged strategy to get the Spurs man out unnoticed.

"When Levy wanted to leave in the evening, I noticed there were TV cameras outside my house. A Dutch broadcaster had heard that he was in Holland, and guessed he would be here for me," Van Gaal reveals.

"As we wanted to keep it quiet, I called my neighbour to ask whether he could take him away in his car. As they did, with Levy hiding in the back seat, I opened my front door and approached the reporters to ask what they were doing. It worked out very well – they were taken by surprise. As a coach, timing is everything!"

Despite the teamwork displayed during the successful exit operation, Levy's hesitance to put a firm offer to Van Gaal for the job meant his move to England was to the north west rather than north London.

"It took Spurs a long time to make a firm offer, and United approached me in the meantime. They acted far quicker. I also liked the idea of going there, to coach the number one club in England – just like I had done before in Holland, Spain and Germany. 

"If Spurs had come with a concrete offer earlier on, I’d have signed for them. Spurs were actually a club I liked when I was younger, as I was a big fan of Jimmy Greaves. I told Levy that as well, but he blew the chance by waiting so long.”

In the end, Spurs appointed Mauricio Pochettino in 2014, serving five years as manager until being replaced by Jose Mourinho in 2019.

The FourFourTwo 2020/21 Season Preview issue will be available in shops and online from Wednesday, August 26

While you’re here, why not subscribe to the mag - get your first five issues for just £5, almost £25 cheaper than buying it in the shops!

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