'I saw naked players!' – Netherlands boss Van Gaal opens up on squad calls

Getty Images

Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal said he saw several of his players "naked" when he called them to inform them of his World Cup squad selections.

The Oranje have named their 26-man party for Qatar 2022, with a string of surprise selections and omissions in Friday's announcement.

Uncapped trio Xavi Simons, Jeremie Frimpong and Andries Noppert have been included, but there is no place for Bayern Munich's Ryan Gravenberch or Newcastle United's Sven Botman.

Speaking on the calls to inform prospective squad members ahead of the announcement, Van Gaal reflected on the difficulty of his selections, while revealing he caught several players unawares.

"It was really tough," he said at a press conference. "I even took the time difference into account for the people in England. I saw naked players, because they were still in bed!

"I've said a hundred times I think this group is fantastic. But this is about the vision of the national coach. I discovered that this morning when I told a player he would not attend a World Cup. It is not easy."

Other major names missing from the Netherlands' first World Cup squad for eight years – they famously missed Russia 2018 – include Villarreal's Arnaut Danjuma and NEC goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen.

Having missed their return to tournament football at Euro 2020 through injury, Liverpool's Virgil van Dijk will skipper the side, where he will wear the OneLove armband in support of LGBTQ+ rights.

FIFA has already warned against such political action in Qatar, but Van Gaal says he is not interested in the governing body's stance, instead preferring his captain's opinion.

"I think it's not important what FIFA thinks," he added. "It's about what our association thinks, how the national manager thinks about but mostly what Virgil van Dijk thinks.

"I can say something about the situation, that doesn't make a difference. [Liverpool manager Jurgen] Klopp said it the right way, and I totally back him on his opinion.

"We are going to play there, and we won't often think about the fact that things aren't done the right way. There are so many things that are not okay, even in our country."