As England prepare to face the Netherlands in the first of two friendlies, we thought it would be a good idea to pay some homage to some of the greats of this massive footballing nation that sadly didn’t make it into the World Cup in Russia this year.
Here are our top 10 greatest players for the Netherlands:
Koeman was one of the greats of the game and was named Dutch Player of the Year in 1987 and 1988.
Koeman also became part of the iconic Barcelona “Dream Team” bagging 88 goals in 264 games from deep in midfield, under the guidance of Johan Cruyff.
With the Netherlands Koeman won the Euros in 1988 and managed to clock 78 caps and 11 goals.
He’s also currently manager of the Netherlands national team.
Frank Rijkaard (Midfielder)
Frank Rijkaard was a crucial factor in the European success of the Netherlands in this 80s era.
His job was to defend from midfield and dominate players in possession.
Rijkaard joined AC Milan in the late 1980s, and he was instrumental in their success domestically and in the continent. For the national side, Rijkaard was an integral part of the Dutch winning team at Euro 1988. He’s definitely one of the best defensive midfielders we have ever seen.
Considered one of the best in the world during this period, Faas Wilkes was renowned for untrackable runs and being a player who always knew where the goal was.
His goal scoring stats tell the whole story as he managed to score 35 goals in 38 caps for the Netherlands. However, his prime years between 25-32 years-old were cut short as the Dutch FA refused to accept professional players for their national side.
Wilkes remains the country’s fourth-highest goal scorer and became the fastest player to score 35 goals for his country – ahead of Patrick Kluviert, Robin van Persie and Dennis Bergkamp.
Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar was an exceptional keeper who played with acute awareness until the grand old footballing age of 40 years.
Van der Sar had the most caps for the Netherlands until taken over by Wesley Sneijder.
Edwin was in the sticks for Ajax, Juventus and Manchester United during some of their most fruitful times.
He was also the Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1998 and he also holds a world record for not conceding a league goal for 14 matches in 2008/2009.
Make sure you watch it in the atmosphere of a Stonegate venue!
23/03/2018 – Amsterdam Arena, Netherlands. Kick-off scheduled for 7.45pm
Some say Johan Neeskens is the most underrated player in the Netherland’s golden-era of “Total Football”.
In 1978, Neeskens led a Dutch side, with no Cruyff, to a second consecutive World Cup final before being beaten by Argentina.
Similar to other players on this list, Neeskens made his name winning trophies at both Ajax and Barcelona alongside Cruyff and remains one of few players to have achieved three successive European Cup titles.
Dennis Bergkamp was one of the greatest players to grace the Premier League. He’s the example of the excellence the current dejected Arsenal fans go to when they talk about their glory years.
And he was an absolute titan for the Dutch side.
He was technically gifted on the ball and had 20/20 vision for goal.
Legendary players like Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Ian Wright have said he was the best they’ve ever played with.
Another player coming through the Ajax youth, Bergkamp’s abilities appealed to Inter Milan, and he moved to Italy for two seasons. It wasn’t the best chapter of his career and he moved to Arsenal in ’95.
Bergkamp then had 11 successful years in North London as part of Arsenal’s greatest side. He won 3 Premier League titles, and to add his successes in the Netherlands he went a whole season unbeaten; the year we called Arsenal the “Invincibles”.
If all of that doesn’t convince you he should be in this list then – In 1998 he probably scored the best goal anyone has ever seen in a World Cup.
Dennis Bergkamp with a technically excellent goal for Holland at the 1998 World Cup pic.twitter.com/tFuZ379OG6
— Footy Throwback (@FootyThrowback) July 16, 2016
Playing in the right mid position, Seedorf broke into the Ajax first team at just 16 years old under Louis van Gaal
Seedorf had a stint with Sampdoria before Real Madrid bought him. And under the guidance of Fabio Capello, our man Clarence transformed into one of the most complete footballers we have ever seen.
He won a La Liga title and a Champions League whilst with Madrid but then moved to Inter Milan.
Things didn’t go quite as well at the San Siro so we’ll move past that…
In 2002, Seedorf moved to AC Milan and became a cult-hero with the Rossenorri. This is where he set the record of being the first player to win three Champions League titles with three different clubs.
Ten years at Milan elevated Seedorf to iconic status in European football. He didn’t exactly reach the same successes with the national team though.
Marco van Basten
If it wasn’t for having such bad luck with injuries, Marco van Basten would have been a name we hold up in the same regard as Maradona, Pele, Messi & both Ronaldo’s. The former AC Milan forward retired at just 28 years old. But in this time he still managed to win three Ballon d’Or titles before his early exit.
He made his debut for Ajax in 1981 at just 17, and quickly, van Basten became an iconic figure – many say he’s greatest forward in Dutch football history – and after scoring a massive 152 goals in 172 games for Ajax, he moved to AC Milan in 1987.
If doesn’t convince you of his number 3 spot – he scored the winning goal in Euro 1988. Van Basten was part of the celebrated Dutch trio (also including Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit) that guided AC Milan through the most symbolic period in their history. But after two years of injury to his ankle, van Basten retired in 1995. 125 goals in 201 appearances for Milan leave him with iconic status at the San Siro.
In his 14-year career, van Basten claimed 3 Serie A titles and 2 European Cups The forward also won 3 Eredivisie titles, 3 KNVB Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup during his time with Ajax. Crazy.
Recognisable on the pitch for his incredible dreads and keen eye for goal, Gullit became the greatest midfielder in the world by dominating football domestically and globally for the Netherlands.
As the captain of the Euro 1988 winning team, Gullit owns a distinctive place in Dutch football history, and that’s before you even start to think about his club successes.
He was signed by AC Milan in 1987, and in six years he won 3 Serie A titles including back-to-back European Cup triumphs, where Ruud scored twice in the 1989 final against Steaua Bucharest.
He had even more success at Sampdoria and won an FA Cup with Chelsea before he started his managerial career which wasn’t all that glorious…
Incredibly gifted, a leader on the field and with little flaws in his game, Gullit was a star wherever he went.
The absolute grandfather of Dutch football, very few players have had the impact on a sport quite like this man has had on football.
Cruyff is the most famous promoter of the footballing attitude known as ‘Total Football’ – this style of play gained so many plaudits and has been utilised by modern Arsenal sides but was first perfected by Barcelona. Cruyff’s legacy is felt throughout the continent and through history, definitely not only in the Netherlands.
He was the most important aspect of the successful Ajax teams of the 60s and 70s. Cruyff won 8 Eredivisie titles, 5 KNVB Cups and three consecutive European Cups. A short spell at Feyenoord towards the end of his career meant he added Eredivisie titles with two different clubs.
Cruyff spent five years at Barcelona at the peak of his career which ended with him as a La Liga winner. His legacy at the Catalonian club wouldn’t finish there though.
Later, he would return as Barcelona manager in 1988 to implement a philosophy and style that still remains the embodiment of their success in the modern game.
For his national team, he led the Netherlands to the 1974 World Cup final with the Dutch team firm favourites to capture the crown in West Germany. However the Dutch team lost to their biggest national rivals to be known in football folklore as the best damn team to never win the World Cup.
His retirement in 1983 followed to end a prestigious career. In 1999, Cruyff was named the second greatest player (behind Pele) of the 20th century by the International Football Federation of History and Statistics.
Do you agree with this list? Are there others you think would make the top 10? Tell us in the comments!