Van Gaal savours sixth league title

Louis van Gaal put an end to a decade-long trophy famine by guiding AZ Alkmaar to the Dutch league title on Sunday and he promptly hailed the achievement as arguably the highlight of his career.

Van Gaal, who won back-to-back Spanish titles with Barcelona in 1998-99, said on Monday: "This was perhaps the most notable because it was the most unexpected. I am truly very proud."

Since leaving Barcelona in 2000 the 57-year-old had struggled to make his mark, failing to qualify with the Netherlands for the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ in his stint as national coach.

A brief return to the Nou Camp between 2000 and 2003 came to nothing after which he had a spell as technical director at Ajax, a club he had guided to three Dutch titles between 1994 and 1996.

But the call of the dug out proved too strong and in 2005 he returned as manager at AZ Alkmaar where his managerial career had begun back in 1986.

"When I arrived here there was still an old 8,000-capacity stadium which was almost never full," recalled van Gaal who has achieved success on an annual budget of 20 million euros, the sixth lowest in the Dutch first division.

"Since 2008 we've had a new ground for almost 20,000 fans and since last season we've had a full house at each game."

He added: "The aim now is to turn AZ into a big national club and one that is known in Europe. The president wants to do things in stages which touches every domain and not merely results on the pitch."