Lucas Hernandez’ €80 million move to Bayern Munich last summer made him the Bundesliga’s most expensive player, while Ousmane Dembélé’s €125 million transfer to Barcelona makes him the most expensive export. Where did this madness begin? On his 70th birthday, we bring you Roger van Gool.
The Belgian right winger became the first DM1 million player in the German top division in 1976 when 1.FC Köln signed him as a 26-year-old from Belgian side Club Brugge. At the time this was a very big deal with immense pressure put on the player to justify such an astronomical fee. Van Gool couldn’t move freely in public without hordes of autograph hunters chasing him down the street and some 10,000 turned up to watch his first training session with the Billy Goats.
Van Gool ran out in the Geißbock’s colours for four years winning the Bundesliga in 1978 and the DFB Pokal twice (1977&1978). He proved to be an excellent tutor for a 16-year-old winger called Pierre Littbarski, who studied the movement and swift dribbling of the Belgian closely. The disciple would go on to eclipse the tutor making 406 appearances and scoring 106 goals.
Legend has it that Köln’s legendary trainer at the time, Hennes Weisweiler, had actually been interested in bringing Dutch star Rene van de Kerkhof to the Rhineland, but when a scout was assigned to watch the Oranje international play against Belgium, he was more impressed with van Gool and recommended him instead. The rest they say is history.
The big money winger played 96 games for Köln scoring 28 goals along the way. Van Gool left the club in 1980 spending a season with Coventry in England before returning to his homeland and joining FC Antwerp.
Happy Birthday Roger van Gool- the Bundesliga’s first million man.