Louis van Gaal and Ruud Gullit are two names that have become synonymous with Dutch football, but one influential figure in their respective stories is a lesser-known Welshman who made his name in the Netherlands during three decades of playing, coaching and management.

Born in Caernarfon on New Years Eve 1937, Barry Hughes came through the youth ranks at West Bromwich Albion, but moved to the Netherlands in 1960 to play for Blauw-Wit and Alkmaar '54. However, it was as a coach and manager that Hughes showed his true potential, and between 1965 and 1988 he managed seven different clubs in the Dutch domestic system, including two spells at both HFC Haarlem and Sparta Rotterdam.

And it was during his first spell at Sparta Rotterdam in 1980 that Hughes crossed paths with Louis van Gaal. “He was already the captain when I arrived,” explained Hughes back in 2014. “He was a midfielder and a good player. He wasn’t the quickest, but he could see situations. I’d heard stories about how he used to go into the manager’s office. When I took over he phoned me to say he wanted to talk about the team. I told him I wasn’t interested in his opinion, and that I needed to form my own view of the players. I took the captaincy off him and I don’t think he liked me because of that! Even though I made him captain again in my third season.”

But while Hughes and van Gaal may not have enjoyed the closest of relationships, it was a different story when it came to Gullit. The Dutch legend was signed as a teenager by Hughes at HFC Haarlem for around £1,000 in 1978. Less than a decade later, he won the Ballon d'Or.  “I found this diamond called Gullit who had to be polished up,” Hughes explained. “But even at 16 I knew he would become one of the game's greatest players, and I told him so. He was a quality player in a poor Haarlem team. It took me a year to sign him because his dad wanted him to go to school and get his certificate, but he was worth the wait. Then he heads off to Feyenoord, and the rest is history.”

“It was my Haarlem trainer, Barry, who taught me the lessons of football,” explained Gullit many years after taking his first steps in the professional game. Hughes later retired to Amsterdam, and sadly passed away in June last year at the age of 81, while his contribution to the game remains better-known in his adopted country of the Netherlands than in his native Wales.

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