De Boer: football’s finest brothers

Scott Salter

Throughout footballing history, there has been a multitude of brothers gracing the game; from the Laudrup brothers to the Koemans. Few, though, have had the same impact as the De Boer brothers – Frank and Ronald.

The pair had sensational footballing careers which intertwined with each other on multiple occasions, including in Spain, Scotland, Qatar and in their homeland, the Netherlands.

The De Boer brothers were born on the 15th May 1970, with Ronald being the older of the two twins. They both began their careers with Ajax, making their first-team debuts in 1988 and became crucial parts of one of the most successful Dutch sides in history.  Under Louis van Gaal, Ajax won the UEFA Cup, Champions League and five Eredivisie titles.

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The De Boer were brothers were absolutely key to the side; so much so that the Ajax board guaranteed stakeholders that they would build the team around of the De Boer brothers in a bid to recapture the Champions League.

There was soon controversy, though, when the De Boer brothers legally voided their new six-year contract and the relationship with the Ajax hierarchy was frail as a result. They were both soon sold to Barcelona for £22million, where they joined former manager van Gaal at the Nou Camp, who had clearly admired the brothers’ talents for some time.

“van Gaal set about building a team born out of ‘multi-functional’ players that the coach regarded highly such as Edgar Davids, Ronald de Boer and Michael Reiziger.”

Matt Gault

At Barcelona, the pair had a successful first season in Catalunya with their former manager, winning the La Liga title. They couldn’t maintain their success, though, and van Gaal was sacked before Frank was banned for testing positive for banned substance nandrolone a year later.

For Ronald, the spell in Barcelona was less successful; he endured a barren spell, scoring just one goal in 33 games – an unusually low tally for a known-goalscoring midfielder.

He left the Nou Camp, opting to join the Dutch revolution in Glasgow, where Dick Advocaat was leading compatriots Bert Konterman, Arthur Numan, Fernando Ricksen and Giovanni van Bronckhorst on a charge for the Scottish title.

Brother Frank would join Ronald in Scotland in 2003, after a brief spell with Galatasaray, but both would leave Rangers a year later to see out their career in Qatar. Despite their short spell in Glasgow, both would leave as heroes as the Rangers faithful appreciating their classy play – and Ronald’s success, with the older twin leaving with five trophies for the club.

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Both saw out their playing careers in Qatar; first for Al-Rayyan and then Al-Shamal, but they will forever be remembered for their success in the game. At international level, they were part of a new breed of Dutch players who took the mantle from the older generations.

Frank, like so many before him, was a beautiful ball-playing centre-back,  who led many of his sides with the armband.

“Louis van Gaal was expertly shaping a talented young team, yet needed experience to compliment youth. Alongside another technically gifted Dutch central defender in Danny Blind, Rijkaard formed a back line steeped in Total Football tradition. Twenty-five-year-old Frank de Boer and 22 year-old Michael Reiziger were the grateful next generation.”

Glenn Billingham

Upon retiring, both players went into management; Ronald as a No.2 and Frank with the top job. They led Ajax to four Eredivisie titles before Frank departed for an ill-fated spell with Inter Milan. Ronald remained at Ajax, where he is currently the Ajax A1 assistant manager.

What football holds next for the De Boer brothers is unknown, but no doubt they’ll be united once more. For the De Boer brothers, success in football is second nature.

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