Football is one of the most popular sports in the Netherlands. They have trained some of the most skillful footballers in history who have influenced the sport all over the world. In the present article, we will review 10 of the best Dutch players of all time.
One of the most difficult things to do is choosing ten of the best Dutch players of all time among dozens of the country's best footballers.
However, in addition to ten of the most famous Dutch football players ever mentioned in the present article, we should name a number of other best Dutch footballers who have had many achievements at the club and national level.
The list of the best Dutch footballers who are not included in the article is as follows:
Rob Rensenbrink, Faas Wilkes, Willem van Hanegem, Johnny Rep, Piet Keizer, Coen Moulijn, Arie Haan, Ruud Krol, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Frank de Boer, Marc Overmars, Phillip Cocu, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Roy Makaay, Robin van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, Giovanni van Bronckhorst, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.
In the following list, we will have a look at the best Dutch football players in the history of the beautiful game in the Netherlands.
Edwin van der Sar was one of the best Dutch players of all time and probably one of the greatest Dutch footballers among his compatriot goalkeepers.
He is a football executive and former professional player who is currently the chief executive of AFC Ajax, with whom he began his senior career as a player in the early 1990s.
He is one of the members of the golden generation of Ajax and was part of the club that won the UEFA Champions League in 1995. He left Ajax for Juventus in 1999, where he spent two years before and then he moved to Premier League.
He first signed Fulham and then Manchester United in 2005. There he won a second UEFA Champions League title in 2008, which made him one of eight players at the time to have won the title with more than one club.
He retired in 2011, but for a short time in 2016 played a match for Dutch amateur team VV Noordwijk, for whom he had earlier played when he was young. He played 130 games for his counrty, and was the most-capped player for Netherlands until 2017, when Wesley Sneijder overtook him.
Van der Sar is thought to be as one of the best goalkeepers of all time. He was also one of the most successful footballers ever. He has won 26 trophies, mainly at Ajax and Manchester United.
During the 2008–09 season, Van der Sar, as one of the best dutch soccer players ever, had a record in the Premier League by not conceding a goal for 1,311 minutes. Van der Sar was the Best European Goalkeeper in 1995 and 2009, and UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009.
Ruud Gullit is one of the most famous Dutch football players ever. Part of his fame was due to his hairstyle. He played in the 1980s and 1990s as a midfielder or forward.
He was the captain of the Netherlands national team that won UEFA Euro 1988 and also played for the team for the 1990 FIFA World Cup and Euro 1992. He is considered one of the greatest Dutch footballers in history.
In 1987 he moved from PSV to Milan for a world record transfer salary. He was part of a Dutch trio at Milan which included Frank Rijkaard and Marco van Basten. Gullit won three Serie A titles and two European Cups with Milan.
In 1996, he joined Chelsea and a year later was appointed as a player-manager. In his first season, he led Chelsea to FA Cup trophy, which was the first major title of the club for 26 years.
Gullit won the Ballon d'Or in 1987 and was selected as the World Soccer Player of the Year in 1987 and 1989.
Arjen Robben plays as a winger and now captains Groningen. He is best known for his skills at dribbling, speed, and his shots. Robben is regarded as one of the best Dutch players of all time and one of the best wingers in the world.
Robben first shined at Groningen, for whom he was the best player of the year for the 2000–01 season. Two years later he signed for PSV, where he became the Young Player of the Year of the Netherlands and won the league title.
The next season Robben was a target for big clubs, and finally, he joined Chelsea in 2004. He helped Chelsea win two consecutive Premier League titles, and was the Premier League Player of the Month in November 2005.
After a third season in Premier League which was interrupted by injury, Robben joined Real Madrid in a €35 million contract.
Robben signed for Bayern Munich for a fee of around €25 million in August 2009. In his first season in Munich, Bayern won the league title, and in 2013 scored the winning goal in the UEFA Champions League Final, forgetting his missed penalty in the final against Chelsea in 2012.
He won 20 trophies in Germany, including eight Bundesliga titles and five DFB Pokals. Robben had a successful partnership with fellow winger Franck Ribéry.
He played for in the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final, where the Netherlands lost to Spain and Robben's best opportunity, was saved by Iker Casillas.
He has also played at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Euros, and the 2006, 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. In the latter, he won the Bronze Ball and was one of the members of the All-Star Team.
One of the best Dutch footballers of all time is Dennis Bergkamp. He was named after the Scottish striker Denis Law and his father inserted another "n" in Bergkamp's first name after it had not been accepted by the registrar due to Dutch name customs,.
He was at first a wide midfielder, and then moved to main striker and finally to second striker, where he played throughout his career. He was nicknamed the "Non-Flying Dutchman" by Arsenal fans due to his fear of flying, Bergkamp is considered as one of the best Dutch players of all time.
Ajax spotted him when he was 11 and made his first appearance in 1986. A year later he was called up to the Netherlands national team, drawing the attention of other European clubs.
Bergkamp joined Inter Milan in 1993, where he had two disappointing seasons. After signing for Arsenal in 1995, he started a new stage at his career, helping the team to win three Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies, and reach the 2006 UEFA Champions League Final, which marked he appeared for the last time as a player.
In 2017, Bergkamp's stunning goal against Newcastle United in 2002 was selected as the best Premier League goal of all-time in the league's history.
Regarding his career at the Netherlands national team, Bergkamp was selected for Euro 1992, where he scored three goals as his team reached the semi-finals. At the 1998 FIFA World Cup, he scored a brilliant winning goal in the last minute of the quarterfinal match against Argentina which has been considered as one of the best World Cup goals.
One of the greatest Dutch footballers in history finished third twice in the FIFA World Player of the Year award and in 2007, he was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame, the first and only Dutch player ever to receive the honour.
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Ronald Koeman is one of the best Dutch players of all time who is now the manager of FC Barcelona. Koeman was able to play both as a defender and as a midfielder. He played as a sweeper most of the time, although he was known for his goalscoring from free kicks and penalties.
Koeman began his career at FC Groningen before transferring to Ajax, where he won the Eredivisie title in 1984–85. Next, he joined PSV, winning three successive Eredivisie titles in 1986–87, 1987–88 and 1988–89 and the European Cup in 1988.
In 1989, Koeman moved to Barcelona and was one of the players of Johan Cruyff's "Dream Team", helping the team win La Liga four years in a row from 1991 to 1994, and the European Cup, where he netted the winning goal of the final against Sampdoria in 1992.
At the Netherlands national team, Koeman was one of the stars of the team, alongside Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard and Dennis Bergkamp. Koeman won UEFA Euro 1988 and played at the UEFA Euro 1992, 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups, captaining the national team at the latter.
After his career as a player, Koeman has also coached different clubs including Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord making him the only person who have have both played for and managed the "Big Three" of Dutch football. Abroad, he was the manager of Benfica, Valencia, Southampton and Everton.
He was the manager of the Netherlands national team from 2018 to 2020. In August 2020, he was selected as the manager of Barcelona.
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Known as Johan Neeskens is one of the greatest Dutch soccer players ever who was an important member of the Dutch national team that finished as runners-up in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups and is regarded as one of the top Dutch midfielders of all time. In 2004, he was named one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA Awards Ceremony.
Neeskens, began his career at RCH Heemstede in 1968. Then he was spotted by Rinus Michels and joined Ajax in 1970. He was part of Ajax in the 1971 European Cup Final, where he won against Panathinaikos.
During the 1971–72 season, Neeskens had a role of central midfield, in support of Johan Cruyff. He had great technical abilities and was successful at scoring goals. Ajax won three consecutive European Cup titles between 1971 and 1973 with him.
In 1974, Neeskens signed for FC Barcelona to join Cruyff and Michels. So, he was nicknamed Johan Segon (Johan the Second). He was not so successful at the club, however he was very popular among the fans.
In 1979 he transferred to New York Cosmos, spending 5 years at the team. Then, he played for FC Groningen during the 1984–85 season. In June 1985, he signed with the South Florida Sun of the United Soccer League. In August 1985, he signed with the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
He then played for FC Baar (1988–90) and FC Zug in Switzerland, finally retired in 1991.
Neeskens was the assistant coach to Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona until the end of the 2007–08 season. He later became the manager of of the Dutch B national team until June 2009. Then and he was selected as the assistant coach to Frank Rijkaard at Galatasaray SK.
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Clarence Seedorf is another footballer among the best Dutch players of all time. Considered as one of the best midfielders of the Netherlands, in 2004, he was chosen as part of the FIFA 100 by Pelé.
Seedorf is one of the most famous Dutch footballers of all time, and won domestic and continental trophies during his career as a player for clubs in the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Brazil.
He is one of the most successful players in UEFA Champions League history, as he is the first, and until now the only player who has won the Champions League with three clubs – once with Ajax, in 1995, once with Real Madrid, in 1998 and twice with Milan, in 2003 and 2007.
At national team, he played for the Netherlands in 87 games, and took part at three Euros (1996, 2000, 2004) and the 1998 FIFA World Cup, where he reaching the semi-finals of the latter three tournaments.
In January 2014, Seedorf announced his retirement from professional football. He take up the manager position at Milan after Massimiliano Allegri was sacked.
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Frank Rijkaard played as a midfielder or defender. Rijkaard, as one of the most famous Dutch footballers of all time played for Ajax, Real Zaragoza and Milan and represented the Netherlands national team side 73 times, scoring 10 goals. In his managerial career, he managed the Netherlands national team, Sparta Rotterdam, Barcelona, Galatasaray and the Saudi Arabia national team.
Considered as one of the best Dutch players of all time in footballing history and as one of the best players of his generation, in 2010 Rijkaard was described by British newspaper The Daily Telegraph as having been "a stylish player of faultless pedigree".
Considered as one of the greatest Dutch soccer players ever in his position, Rijkaard was a quick, powerful, complete and stubborn defensive midfielder who was praised by pundits throughout his career for his physical and athletic attributes, his work rate, positioning, his acute tactical intelligence and decision-making, as well as his exceptional consistency and skill to read the game.
Due to his aggression and flexibility, he could play as a central midfielder, and even in a defensive role, usually in the centre.
Due to his height and physical strength, he was excellent excelled in the air, and also had a powerful shot; moreover, he was able to get forward and contribute to his team's attacking plays with goals by making late runs into the penalty area.
Marco van Basten is regarded as one of the best Dutch players of all time, who played as a striker for Ajax and A.C. Milan, in addition to the Netherlands national team. He was called the "Swan Of Utrecht" due to his smart attacking play, and was known for his desire for scoring acrobatic goals.
He scored 300 goals during his career, but played his last match in 1993 at age 28 due to an injury which forced him to retire two years later. He was later the manager of Ajax and the Netherlands national team.
One of the best Dutch footballers of all time is famous for his close ball control, attacking cleverness, perfect headers, and remarkable strikes and volleys. Van Basten was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992 and won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1988, 1989 and 1992.
At club level, he won three Eredivisie titles and the Cup Winners' Cup with Ajax, and four Serie A titles and three European Cups with Milan. With the Netherlands national team, Van Basten won UEFA Euro 1988 where he got the Golden Boot, scoring five goals, including a stunning volley in the final match against the Soviet Union.
In 1998, Van Basten was ranked sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century internet poll, tenth in the European player of the Century election held by the IFFHS and 12th in the IFFHS' World Player of the Century election.
He was also voted eighth in a poll organised by the French magazine France Football, consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.
In 2004, a survey for the 100 greatest Dutch people was held in the Netherlands in which Van Basten ranked number 25, the second highest for a football player, behind Johan Cruyff. In 2007, Sky Sports ranked Van Basten first on its list of great athletes who had short careers.
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There are few people who do not regard Johan Cruyff as the best Dutch player of all time. He was successful during his career both as a player and manager. As a player, he won the Ballon d'Or three times, in 1971, 1973, and 1974.
Cruyff was a proponent of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels, and is extensively considered as one of the best dutch soccer players ever.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Dutch football rose from a semi-professional and obscure level to become an important sport. Cruyff led the Netherlands to the final of the 1974 FIFA World Cup and won the Golden Ball as player of the tournament.
At the 1974 World Cup, he performed a trick that later was named after him, the "Cruyff Turn", a move widely replicated in the modern game.
Wearing the number 14 jersey, he set a trend for wearing shirt numbers outside the usual starting line-up numbers of one to eleven.
After finishing third in UEFA Euro 1976, Cruyff refused to play in the 1978 World Cup in protest of Argentine dictator Jorge Videla.
At club level, Cruyff started his career at Ajax, where he won eight Eredivisie titles, three European Cups, and one Intercontinental Cup.
In 1973, he signed for Barcelona for a world record transfer fee, helping the team win La Liga in his first season, and was named European Footballer of the Year. After retiring from playing in 1984, Cruyff was a successful manager at Ajax and then Barcelona. After his coaching terms he remained a significant advisor to both clubs.
In 1999, Cruyff was voted European Player of the Century in an election held by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics, and came second behind Pelé in their World Player of the Century poll.
He was selected as the third player in a vote held by the French magazine France Football consulting their former Ballon d'Or winners to elect their Football Player of the Century. In 1998 he was chosen as one of the members of the World Team of the 20th Century, the FIFA World Cup Dream Team in 2002, and in 2004 was named in the FIFA 100 list of the world's best living players.
Dutch journalist Hubert Smeets wrote in 1997, "Cruyff was the first player who understood that he was an artist, and the first who was able and willing to collectivise the art of sports."
As one of the best Dutch players of all time, Cruyff's style of play and football philosophy has had impact on both managers and players. Ajax and Barcelona are among the clubs that have developed youth academies based on Cruyff's managing methods.
Johan Cruyff's coaching philosophy helped the revival of Ajax and their international successes in the 1990s, and Spanish football's successes at both Barcelona and Spain national team during the years from 2008 to 2012 have been mentioned as evidence of Cruyff's influence on contemporary football.