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Arjen Robben and the 20 Greatest Dutch Footballers in the Last 20 Years

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2014

Arjen Robben and the 20 Greatest Dutch Footballers in the Last 20 Years

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    Paul Ellis/Associated Press

    Bayern Munich and Netherlands wide forward Arjen Robben has proven himself one of the game's most dangerous and reliable attackers over the last few years, being a big part of the German side's treble haul last season.

    He's set to remain in the Bundesliga for the rest of his top years now, after signing a new two-year contract extension which will take him through to 2017, as per BBC Sport.

    Robben has also been an integral part of his national team, making the squad for the last five major tournaments in succession, which will rise to six in a row with the 2014 FIFA World Cup this summer.

    There can be no doubting the contribution he has made to the Oranje over the last few years—and here are those who stand alongside him as the best the nation has produced in the past two decades.

Criteria and Honourable Mentions

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    Dutch football is so steeped in historical names, incredible genius and amazing teams that picking 20 of all time would be a mammoth, gargantuan task.

    The last 20 years, however, still encompasses a huge array of talent to choose from, spanning 10 major tournaments and eight national team managers, plus the upcoming World Cup for 11.

    The only criteria that will be applied for players to make this list is that they have represented the national team as part of the 23-man squads in any of 10 tournaments that Netherlands have qualified for between 1994 and 2014. Current squad members are considered, even though they may not have gone to a finals yet, as the World Cup is only a few short months away.

     

    Honourable Mentions:

    Richard Witschge

    Artur Numan

    Wim Jonk

    Jan Wouters

    Boudewijn Zenden

    John Heitinga

    Roy Makaay

    Wilfried Bouma

    Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

    Ronald de Boer

Arjen Robben

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    Peter Dejong/Associated Press

    Robben most frequently occupies the right-sided forward role for the current Dutch side, though, of course can play on the opposite flank when required.

    His dribbling skills and willingness to shoot from range are what mark him out as one of the top talents around, with his pace also a big trait. Fitness issues have at times blighted his career, but Robben is one of the attackers who always seems to produce for big games.

    He has 73 caps for his nation so far, with 22 goals.

Ruud Van Nistelrooy

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Striker Ruud van Nistelrooy was a great predator who ended his national team career with a record of a goal every other game, 35 in 70.

    That tally leaves him as the joint-fourth highest scorer in the national team's history.

    Terrific movement off the ball, an ability to score with either foot or his head and a great mentality during the game were all assets which marked van Nistelrooy out as a top forward of his day.

    He was in the Dutch squads for two European Championships and the 2006 World Cup.

Edwin Van Der Sar

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Nobody in Dutch football history has played more times than former goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar; even now, six years after he retired from the international game, he is still more than 20 caps clear of any currently active player, having made 130 appearances in total.

    A tall, imposing and commanding presence between the sticks, his great longevity and experience came from playing for a collection of clubs who were used to winning big prizes.

    Van der Sar was an uncapped member of the 1994 World Cup squad, before being the first choice at each of the next six major tournaments, even as captain in World Cup 2006 and Euro 2008.

Edgar Davids

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    THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

    Edgar Davids was one of the most gifted all-round midfielders of his generation, spending most of his career in Italy with the likes of Juventus and Inter Milan. He also, of course, played his early days at Ajax where he was phenomenally successful.

    An aggressive but skilful central midfielder, Davids could play in defensive or advanced roles and was known for having a big impact on the performances of those around him with his work rate and strength.

    He won 74 caps for the Netherlands altogether, playing at four tournaments from Euro 96 to Euro 2004 and just missing the cut for World Cup 2006.

Clarence Seedorf

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    MICHEL LIPCHITZ/Associated Press

    Clarence Seedorf was an immensely talented creative midfielder who has only just recently ended his playing career in Brazil to take over as manager at AC Milan.

    As a player, he was already in the Netherlands' national team squad, aged just 20, for Euro 96.

    Seedorf featured in three further squads at tournaments, winning 87 caps all told. He perhaps peaked a little early in terms of his international contribution, not playing in a tournament after 28 years of age, but his creativity and technical ability were never in question.

Frank De Boer

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    Lionel Cironneau/Associated Press

    Frank de Boer was the defensive half of the two brothers; playing at both left- and centre-back with aplomb during his career, he is one of just five players to have made more than a century of international appearances for the Netherlands and totalled 112 by the time of his retirement.

    He was captain at three tournaments: World Cup 1998, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004, while he missed Euro 96 with injury having been a playing member of the World Cup 1994 squad.

    Immensely intelligent with the ball at his feet and a great passer over all ranges, de Boer was very much an attack-minded defender who could also stop opponents in their tracks.

Dennis Bergkamp

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    THOMAS KIENZLE/Associated Press

    Dennis Bergkamp is one of football's legends, never mind Holland's, but he is certainly one of the Dutch side's enduring faces of the game.

    The forward was in the '94, '96, '98 and 2000 tournament squads, scoring 37 goals before retiring as the all-time highest scorer for his nation.

    That figure has since been surpassed, but the sight of Bergkamp striking a vital and clinical goal against Argentina is a World Cup image that will live long in the memory.

Wesley Sneijder

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    Peter Dejong/Associated Press

    Current attacking midfielder Wesley Sneijder might be just about coming to the end of his powers, but he's on the verge of completing a century of international caps—just three short—and will go down as a Dutch great.

    He's also into the top 10 scorers of all time for Holland, with 26 goals.

    At his best in a free-roaming central position, Sneijder has the technique and the creativity to unlock defences, while he's also known for scoring his share from outside the box.

Dirk Kuyt

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    Peter Dejong/Associated Press

    In amongst all the flair and panache elsewhere, Dirk Kuyt often gets overlooked by those on the outside.

    His 98 caps at international level prove that those who matter most absolutely don't overlook him—his coaches of the national team.

    Kuyt plays right the way across the attacking line but often starts from the opposite flank to Robben, balancing out the team with his endeavour, tactical discipline and supporting the striker with his customary late runs.

    Kuyt has 24 goals for Holland, while he's also set to become only the sixth-ever player to reach 100 caps.

Frank Rijkaard

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Just about sneaking into the criteria as one of the last greats from Holland's late '80s team is Frank Rijkaard.

    Past his 30th year, he was a part of Holland's World Cup 1994 squad, after which he retired from international football.

    One of the game's best holding midfielders during the '80s and early '90s, Rijkaard was cool and composed in possession, read the game as well as anybody on the planet and yet mixed his grace on the ball with an aggressive, determined style of action.

Jaap Stam

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    While de Boer or the likes might be the Dutch defender of reference to those who watched early 1990s international football, those who came along to view a few years later will naturally conjure up the mountainous frame of Jaap Stam.

    The former Lazio and Manchester United centre-back was dominant, powerful and uncompromising, read the game extremely well and showed great consistency.

    He featured in three European Championship squads and one World Cup for Holland, winning close to 70 caps in total.

Patrick Kluivert

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    MICHAEL PROBST/Associated Press

    Bergkamp scored goals aplenty for Holland, but even he wasn't as clinical as Patrick Kluivert.

    The former Barcelona and Ajax striker was a real poacher, loving to run off the shoulders of defenders, but he could also drop deeper and link up well with his midfielders, especially later in his career.

    Kluivert eclipsed Bergkamp's record to finish with 40 goals in the same 79 caps which his attacking team-mate won.

Phillip Cocu

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Phillip Cocu was a bit of a latecomer to the Dutch national side, featuring in Euro 96 just after winning his first caps aged 25, but he made up for lost time by remaining in the squad for a full century of caps, ending on 101.

    He was in the '98 and 2006 World Cups for his nation, as well as Euro 2000 and 2004.

    A controlling, composed central midfielder at his best, he didn't lack in the slightest for technical ability yet was also strong in the tackle and positionally versatile, playing in defence and on the wing at times.

Robin Van Persie

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    There was Bergkamp, then Kluivert, but now the title of Holland's all-time highest goalscorer resides firmly in the grip of Robin van Persie.

    The Manchester United forward has just recently claimed that throne, with 41 goals to his name, one ahead of Kluivert. He has achieved the total in 82 caps so far.

    Sure to lead the line for the Dutch at the World Cup this summer, van Persie has also featured at the last four major tournaments already, starting back in the 2006 World Cup as a 22-year-old.

Rafael Van Der Vaart

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    Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

    The only current member of the squad with more than 100 caps for the national team, Rafael van der Vaart is the third-highest capped Dutch player in history, with 109 appearances to his name so far.

    The attacking midfielder can play centrally or, as he has been asked to do so often in his career, a little wider, but he can also operate in deeper central midfield positions. A playmaker and a goalscorer, van der Vaart is a creative and inventive player who excels in set-piece situations.

    He has at least a fair chance of going on to be the Netherlands' most capped player ever.

Mark Van Bommel

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    Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

    Mark van Bommel might not have won too many friends, but he certainly won an awful lot of admirers for his performances at international level.

    The gritty and tenacious defensive midfielder could be relied upon to do whatever it took to protect both his defence and his more offensive-minded team-mates. Tough-tackling yet composed and neat in possession, van Bommel was frequently able to bring balance to an attacking side full of flair.

    He won 79 caps as an international, scoring 10 goals, and played at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups before captaining Holland at Euro 2012.

Marc Overmars

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    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    Marc Overmars was a pacy, direct winger who starred for Holland during the '90s, playing in two World Cup squads in '94 and '98, as well as featuring in the Euro 2000 and 2004 squads.

    Playing predominantly from the left side, though also able to swap flanks easily, he was a goal threat with his runs behind opposition defenders and ability to beat men one-on-one.

    Overmars played 86 times for Netherlands and is in their top 10 most capped players ever.

Michael Reiziger

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    THOMAS KINZLE/Associated Press

    Michael Reiziger was an immovable part of the Dutch side for a number of years, playing at right-back and offering good attacking ability as well as his noted defensive traits.

    He played at every major tournament from 1996 to 2004, making 72 appearances all told for the national side.

    Strong on the ground and capable of getting forward quickly to support attacks, Reiziger starred for Barcelona for a number of years during the best part of his career.

Ronald Koeman

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Central defender Ronald Koeman played in the World Cup 1994 squad, as captain, just before retiring from international duty with a total of 78 caps. He also scored 14 times for his nation.

    Centre-back he might have been, but Koeman was almost an attacker; he prided himself on making defence-splitting passes from deep, loved to range forward on the ball and was one of the best strikers of set pieces in the game.

    Koeman played for the big three of Feyenoord, Ajax and PSV during his playing days, as well as a long stint with Barcelona.

Giovanni Van Bronckhorst

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    Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press

    A young Giovanni van Bronckhorst was in the Dutch squad for the 1998 World Cup, as a central midfielder, and he stayed a part of the squad for the next five major tournaments after that—first as a left-sided midfielder and later as a left-back, where he played as captain of the nation in the 2010 World Cup, his last finals.

    Playing for the likes of Feyenoord, Rangers and Barcelona, he won plenty of titles in his club career, whilst he was also a World Cup runner-up for his nation in South Africa.

    He ended his career with 106 caps, the fourth-highest capped player in his country's history, and scored six goals.

     

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