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- Phillip John William Cocu (born 29 October 1970 in Eindhoven, Noord-Brabant) is a former Dutch football midfielder who is currently an assistant manager of the Dutch national team and Dutch club PSV
Cocu was a versatile player, being able to play in defence or midfield, in more than one position, but usually played a central playmaker role or defensive midfield, dictating his team's play. He was best known for his tackling, vision, and great teamwork.
Early career / AZ
Cocu first started out playing football at amateur level with clubs such as AFC '34 and DCS Zevenaar. He signed his first professional contract with AZ in the 1988-89 season when he was just 17 years old. After an encouraging start at the club, he joined Vitesse in 1990.
His career at Vitesse was blighted by him breaking his right leg in his first game against Sparta Rotterdam. After fully recovering in 1992, he assisted his club to a top five finish in the Eredivisie and a qualification spot for the UEFA Cup competition. AFC Ajax tried to sign him twice when he was at Vitesse, but it was Dick Advocaat who signed him for PSV in 1995.
During his tenure at PSV, Cocu won one Eredivisie league title. With international team colleagues such as Jaap Stam, Arthur Numan, Boudewijn Zenden, and Wim Jonk all forming the core of the squad, he was also a teammate of Ronaldo and Luc Nilis.
Having played some of his finest football at PSV, Cocu moved to La Liga giants FC Barcelona after the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Louis van Gaal, who coached Barça at that time, also signed many Dutch World Cup players such as Frank de Boer, Ronald de Boer, Patrick Kluivert, Boudewijn Zenden, Ruud Hesp, Michael Reiziger, Winston Bogarde, as well as Marc Overmars in 2000 and the Spanish team, who was soon nicknamed "Oranje Barcelona" or "Ajax Barcelona", were crowned league champions in 1997-1998 and 1998-1999.
In the following seasons, while most of the Dutch contingent at Barcelona, like the de Boer brothers and Zenden, were transferred, Cocu managed to stay with the club. At the start of the 2003-04 season, Kluivert, Reiziger, Overmars, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, and Cocu were the remaining Dutch players (Edgar Davids would join halfway during the season on loan from Juventus). The man in charge was another Dutchman, Frank Rijkaard.
In February 2005, Cocu was honoured by FC Barcelona and the Camp Nou faithful with a hearty ovation before the start of a match, and president Joan Laporta presented the player with a plaque to commemorate his career, highlighting his dedication and loyalty to the club. Cocu holds the record of appearances for Barça as a foreign player, with 292 overall appearances.
Return to PSV
Although he was proposed a new contract, Cocu left Barcelona before the start of UEFA Euro 2004 for his old club PSV. With PSV, Cocu led the team to three championships in just three years. In what would become his final match for PSV, on 29 April 2007, Cocu sealed PSV's Eredivisie win by scoring the fifth goal against Vitesse, thereby finishing above Ajax, who at that point were virtual champions on goal difference.
Cocu left PSV at the end of the season and signed on 15 August 2007 for Al-Jazira Club in the United Arab Emirates for one year.
It was at PSV that Cocu got first called-up to the Dutch national squad, and he was handed his debut in a friendly on 24 April 1996 against Germany. He was then selected in the final squad for UEFA Euro 1996.
By 1998, Cocu was a permanent fixture in the national side and was selected by Guus Hiddink for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, where he scored two goals in the group stage. Cocu was used in a variety of different positions in that tournament. An example would be in the semi-final against Brazil where he filled in at left-back, as incumbent Numan was suspended and substitute Bogarde suffered a serious knee-injury during a training session prior to the match. The game would not end well for Cocu, however, as he missed one of the penalties in the shootout which saw the Dutch exit the tournament.
Cocu represented his country in UEFA Euro 2000 on home ground and also played in UEFA Euro 2004 in Portugal. In the latter, Cocu was captain of the Dutch side, but after the tournament, new coach Marco van Basten handed the captain's armband over to Edgar Davids and later to goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.
With Cocu in a pivotal role in midfield, in 2004-05, the Netherlands won 10 out of their 12 qualifying games en route to qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. Cocu retired from the national team after that tournament, having appeared in all four of the Netherlands' games.
*Eredivisie champions: 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007
*La Liga champions: 1999
*Dutch Cup: 1996, 2005
*Dutch Super Cup: 1996, 1997
*UEFA Super Cup: 1998
*Gulf champions league: 2007
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