10 Great Midfield Maestros in Netherlands History
From Wesley Sneijder to Edgar Davids and Willem van Hanegem; throughout time, the Netherlands have had some fantastic midfield maestros in their squads.
Here, we look at the 10 greatest to wear the Oranje shirt. It won't just be the attacking midfielders who will be praised, defensive midfield counterparts will receive attention as well.
No defenders, no attackers. Just pure midfield madness.
Mark Van Bommel
Loved by some, hated by many. Mark van Bommel is one of the Netherlands' most noticeable midfielders of all times.
In 2010, Oranje reached the final of the World Cup, and Van Bommel played a crucial role, forming a protective block in front of the defence and tackling any opponent daring to go near.
His aggressive style of play wasn't appreciated, but it was undeniably effective.
Having won the Champions League four times with three different clubs (Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan), Clarence Seedorf is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders the Netherlands have ever had.
Unfortunately, though, Seedorf had to quit his Oranje career in 2008, after a row with manager Marco van Basten. Consequently, he never got to make as many international appearances as he could—and should—have, perhaps.
Rafael Van Der Vaart
Motivated, hard working and technically gifted, Rafael van der Vaart was one of the best No. 10s the Netherlands have ever had.
Unfortunately for him, Van der Vaart always had Wesley Sneijder to compete with—the two Ajax prodigies have a very similar style of play. Furthermore, he's always been injury prone.
Despite those factors, however, Van der Vaart has still made an impressive 109 international appearances.
There's the technical midfielder who dance around with the ball with the grace of a ballerina. Then there's another type: aggressive, attacking and unforgiving.
Without a doubt, Edgar Davids belongs in the second category. As a matter of fact, it's possible to see him as the inventor of that style.
Having played for clubs like Ajax, Juventus and Barcelona, Davids has an impressive career to look back on. For the Netherlands, he scored the winning goal in Oranje's round of 16 match during the World Cup in 1998.
He has won the Champions League with Inter and reached the final of the World Cup with the Netherlands. Back in 2010, Wesley Sneijder was seen as one of the best footballers of the world, and for good reason.
Four years later, it's difficult to argue he's still in the same category. Nonetheless, it can't be denied Sneijder is the best midfielder the Netherlands have produced in years.
Nigel De Jong
Where Sneijder and Van der Vaart usually bring the technical skills and the piercing passes, Nigel de Jong tends to provide something rather simpler: a solid defensive wall made out of hard work and tough tackling.
In 2010, as well as in 2014, De Jong's presence was crucial to Oranje reaching the latter stages of the World Cup, and while it's often the attacking midfielders who get the glory, it's important to remember players like De Jong can count as midfield maestros as well.
Playing as central defender who would often push forward to become an extra midfielder, Frank Rijkaard played a crucial role in Ajax's successful Champions League campaign under Louis van Gaal in 1995.
With the Dutch national team, he won the European Championship in 1988. The World Cup in 1990 was another memorable tournament but maybe not for the right reasons: During the round of 16 match against West Germany, he famously spat at his opponent Rudi Voller.
As a utility man, Ruud Gullit played in many different positions. Part attacker, part defender, he was one of the most versatile players the Netherlands have ever had. All in all, it might be appropriate to label him a midfielder.
With the Netherlands, Gullit won the European Championship in 1988, scoring a goal in the final against the USSR. At AC Milan, he formed a golden trio with fellow Dutchmen Marco van Basten and the aforementioned Frank Rijkaard.
Willem Van Hanegem
Because it often seemed like he couldn't stand up straight, Willem van Hanegem's nickname is "The Crooked One" in Netherlands.
Above all, he is deeply respected for his skills as a footballer. Generally, he is seen as the engine behind Johan Cruyff's vision.
As one of the few standout Feyenoord players in a team constituted by Ajax's style of play, Van Hanegem's impeccable passing skills and work rate have never been forgotten.
Was he a midfielder, or was he an attacker? With Johan Cruyff, it's hard to tell. Possibly, he was neither. As a truly unique player, he defied all boxes and categories.
As the inventor and frontman of the Netherlands' famous "Total Football" in the 1970s, he is one of the best footballers of all time.
Unfortunately, Cruyff never won a major trophy with Oranje, but nonetheless, his legacy will live on forever.
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