Phillip Cocu was left to reflect on "a perfect moment" to leave after scoring the goal that gave PSV Eindhoven the title after a breathless Eredivisie finale.
The veteran midfielder's 77th-minute goal secured a 5-1 win for PSV against BV Vitesse and saw them finish ahead of AFC Ajax on +1 goal difference, after the Amsterdam side could only win 2-0 at Willem II. It was to be the last goal of his PSV career as he announced his decision to leave this summer at the age of 36. "This is a perfect moment to retire," he said. "I already decided a while ago that this would be my last match but to avoid any fuss it was better to announce it after the final match. Until then it was the case to keep the calm around the club. I could not have wished for more - three titles in three years, good UEFA Champions League campaigns and a Dutch Cup."
Cocu's announcement was the final twist in a bizarre day which started with three sides level on points at the top of the Eredivisie. AZ Alkmaar had been top, and the championship trophy had been brought to their game at BV Excelsior in anticipation of Louis van Gaal's side winning the title, but the early dismissal of goalkeeper Boy Waterman prompted calamity and a 3-2 defeat. "You learn from losing a title," said coach Louis van Gaal. "It is a pity to let go when you are so near. I have never experienced this before. I have won a lot of trophies in my career already so it is worse for the players and [chairman] Dirk Scheringa than it was for me. With my previous clubs the players were experienced enough to clinch the title."
The day was just as disappointing for Ajax who had started the day ahead of PSV on goal difference. "I can be pretty satisfied when I look back at the season," said coach Henk ten Cate. "We won the most points after the winter break and scored the most goals, but we ended up one goal short. So the grapes are still pretty sour. Emotionally it is hard to cope with." AZ or Ajax could yet join PSV in the 2007/08 UEFA Champions League as they join FC Twente and SC Heerenveen in fighting for the remaining Dutch place, in the third qualifying round, in the end-of-season play-offs. Even if they fail, both sides would earn a place in the UEFA Cup.
Meanwhile, as PSV celebrated with a replica of the championship shield, attention turned to coach Ronald Koeman whose position remains in question after his side managed to let an eleven-point lead at the top of the table slip after the winter break. "We made it very hard for ourselves, but when you end up top after 34 matches you deserve to be champions," he said. "The ball is now in the board's court," the 44-year-old Koeman added. "I don't know what will happen. I understood that they would make a decision [on my future] after Sunday. I still see a lot of possibilities with this club, and feel at home here. But we were eleven points ahead, and I also feel responsible as a coach for giving that lead away."
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