Few countries have produced as many top footballers as the Netherlands. This list certainly proves that!
10. Ruud Krol
photo: Mieremet, Rob / Anefo
Probably only West Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer rivalled the classy Ajax defender as the outstanding defender at the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. Krol had the ability to play anywhere in defence and as a defensive midfielder.
9. Edwin van der Sar
photo: James Adams / Flickr
Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar won 130 caps for the Netherlands (more than any other Dutch player) between 1995 and 2008, and is probably the finest Dutch ‘keeper of all-time. At club level, Van der Sar was part of the Ajax and Manchester United sides that won the Champions League in 1995 and 2008 respectively.
8. Arjen Robben
Pacy forward Arjen Robben has been a vital player for both an all-conquering Bayern Munich side, and the Dutch teams that reached the latter stages of successive World Cups in 2010 and 2014. Despite a strong reliance on his left foot, Robben is almost unstoppable when in full flight.
7. Dennis Bergkamp
photo: Nick / Flickr
A graceful player, Dennis Bergkamp scored memorable goals throughout his career – none more so than his sublime control and finish against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup quarter-final. Bergkamp’s talents were acknowledged during his career, as he finished third in the voting for the FIFA World Player of the Year twice.
6. Frank Rijkaard
Equally comfortable in defence or midfield, Frank Rijkaard played for the Dutch national team for 13 years from 1981 to 1994. Rijkaard was also part of AC Milan’s legendary Dutch triumvirate, alongside Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, that helped Milan win successive European Cups in 1989 and 1990. Along with a number of former top Dutch players, Rijkaard also went on to manage his national team.
5. Ronald Koeman
Ronald Koeman was an accomplished defender who was deadly at free kicks, and who was a great passer of the ball. No defender has scored more goals in a professional career than Koeman, who amassed a staggering 207, and he was one of the four great talents that helped the Dutch to European Championship glory in 1988 – alongside Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten. Ronald Koeman also helped PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona win the European Cup,.including scoring the winner for Barca in their 1992 win.
4. Ruud Gullit
photo: Antonisse, Marcel / Anefo
Captain of the Dutch team that won the 1988 European Championship, Ruud Gullit exemplified the versatility so often associated with Dutch footballers. Great in the air and superb on the floor, Gullit was mainly an attacking midfielder, but he also played as a sweeper both early and late in his career. Gullit won two European Cups while with AC Milan, and he was a winner of the Ballon d’Or in 1987. Always a charismatic figure, Ruud has, in recent times, featured as a TV pundit on the BBC’s iconic Match of the Day programme.
3. Marco van Basten
photo: Bogaerts, Rob / Anefo
Marco van Basten had a great career as a striker with Ajax, AC Milan and the Netherlands, but his career was ended early by injury. Van Basten was a key member of the Dutch side that won the 1988 European Championship, and of an AC Milan side that dominated Europe around the same time. While his stunning volley in the 1988 European Championship final against the USSR is regularly in top 10 lists regarding the greatest goals ever scored. Only Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or more times than van Basten’s three.
2. Johan Neeskens
photo: Mieremet, Rob / Anefo
The all-action Neeskens was the big star of the great Dutch side of the 1970s, alongside Johan Cruyff. Successful at Ajax, where he won three European Cup winners medals, and Barcelona, Neeskens was the complete midfielder. He could score goals, run all day and was technically gifted. With Cruyff missing from the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, Neeskens took over as the star man for the Netherlands, but, as in ’74, the Dutch were unlucky to finish as runners-up after having to play the hosts in the final.
1. Johan Cruyff
photo: Kroon, Ron / Anefo
Over 40 years after he bewitched the world with his talent at the 1974 World Cup, Johan Cruyff is still the greatest Dutch footballer of them all. The Cruyff turn became one of the most copied tricks in football, and Cruyff was at the centre of the great Ajax team of the ’70s, which won three successive European Cups. Able to beat defenders with ease, Cruyff was a great creator and finisher, and it was no surprise that he went on to become a sensation with Barcelona in Spain. As well as being so strongly associated with Total Football, as Barcelona’s coach Cruyff inspired the tiki-taka-style that brought success to both Barcelona and Spain. Cruyff was also the first player to win the Ballon d’Or three times.