The Top 20 Dutchmen in Football History

Mohamed Eldin MasriSenior Analyst IMay 29, 2010

The Top 20 Dutchmen in Football History

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    Despite not making history as a national team as much as people would have liked, the Netherlands is one the greatest footballing countries on the planet, and has brought some of the greatest footballers in history.

    Now, why a top 20 list?

    Because there were so many good players that needed to be mentioned, and even after making it a top 20, there are still many Dutch legends, and legends in the making that have been left out because of the many talents the Netherlands has, such as Robben, Overmars and Van der Vaart, but that takes nothing away from them.

    Considering how the Netherlands didn't win many trophies, and considering the fact that this is an individuals list, some names from weaker Netherlands sides might be above others who excelled in their era, but that is mainly due to the fact that certain individuals, no matter what era they were in, were greater than the rest.

    Without further ado, let's get right to it.

No. 20 Willy and Rene van de Kerkhof

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    There is something strange about the Netherlands, always giving birth to great twins, the De Boers were a fine example of great footballers as well.

    Named in the FIFA 100 list made by Pele, and in both the 1974 and 1978 national squads, Kerkhofs are two of the best and unluckiest players the Netherlands has ever produced, and that is why the twins share the number 20th spot.

    Rene was a right winger, whose portfolio held many goals, while Willy was a midfielder, whose record wasn't shabby when it came to goals as well.

No. 19 Ronald Koeman

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    This spot was originally for Marc Overmars, but it was hard not to include Ronald Koeman in this countdown, especially when he scored more than Overmars (yet another Dutchman who played for Barcelona), and he was a defender.

    He was magnificent with his free-kicks, and is regarded as the best free-kick taker in the history of the Netherlands.

    He helped Barcelona win numerous titles, most notably winning La Liga four times in a row.

    He was also the first Barcelona player to ever score in a Champions League final (which makes me feel that Barcelona was more of a Dutch club than a Spanish one back in the day), and led them to their first ever Champions League victory.

    Also he won the European Super Cup with Barcelona and won the Spanish Cup along with many other trophies he has won with Ajax and PSV.

No. 18 Wesley Sneijder

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    Some players were just born to do great things, and this man is a fine example of that.

    Dumped by Real Madrid, even though he did nothing wrong, along with Arjen Robben, but later on had the absolute last laugh, winning an unprecedented treble with Inter Milan, while Madrid won nothing.

    And to make matters even more humiliating, Sneijder won the Champions League at none other than the Bernabeu Stadium, in front of a humiliated Florentino Perez.

    Sneijder has the ability to become a Dutch legend, but only his level of consistency can make him achieve such a feat, along with Van der Vaart and co.

No. 17 Giovanni van Bronckhorst

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    Ask anyone who are usually the most underrated players in the world of football, and they'll probably tell you the full backs, and such is the case with van Bronckhorst.

    It's very rare when you see a full back getting what he deserves. Roberto Carlos was a good example of that, and it's also very rare when you see an overrated full back (Dani Alves this season), but van Bronckhorst was a worthy Barcelona player, and was always there when needed.

    Also one of the players that was sold from Arsenal to Barcelona, van Bronckhorst won two FA cups and a league title with Arsenal, then joining Barcelona and winning two league titles and a Champions League trophy.

    He was the only player on the Barcelona squad that was featured in every single game in the Champions League that season.

    He is also the current captain of the Netherlands National team, and will be looking to try and finish his career with a bang, trying to take his country to win the World Cup in South Africa.

No.16 Frank De Boer

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    Yet another Dutchman that played for Barcelona.

    Dutch players seem to have an eternal bond with Catalonia, and Frank De Boer was no exception. Part of the Oranje Barcelona era, Frank was the better of the De Boer twins, Ronald was also a great, but Frank was absolutely cool headed and collected.

    Frank De Boer was also the Captain of the Netherlands in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, where Holland was eliminated in both semi-finals of the tournaments in penalties, and lost in the semi-final of 2004 to Portugal, who had the support of their crowd to help them advance.

    Frank De Boer was part of the golden generation of Ajax, and has won the Champions League and UEFA cup with the team, along with his brother Ronald, before later on moving to Barcelona.

    Frank also was great at free kicks and long passes. The 60 yard pass that led Bergkamp to score against Argentina in the World Cup 98, and the free kick against France in Euro 2000 were great examples of his many talents as a footballer.

No.15 Patrick Kluivert

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    A great example of a man who could have had it all, but ruined it with complete idiocy.

    Kluivert was the golden boy in the Ajax golden generation, scoring in the final against Milan before joining them, then later on playing for Barcelona.

    His personal life ruined his footballing career (to some extent), when he was accused of raping a woman, and later on stating that she had sex with him on her own will, and that no one forced her.

    Also, in 1997, Kluivert killed a man in a car accident, and was lucky to receive only community service and a driving ban, mainly because he was a footballer.

    Until this day, he is the current all-time goal scorer for the Netherlands National team.

No.14 Beb Bakhyus

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    Beb Bakhyus has one, if not, the most respected goal scoring ratio in national footballing history.

    He scored a magnificent 28 goals, in only 23 games.

    That is one of the most amazing records anyone has even heard of, a ratio of 1.22 goals per game.

    He is also the second Dutch player to play abroad.

    He passed away on the 7th of July 1982, but his legendary record will live long in the memory of the Dutch fans.

No.13 Edgar Davids

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    One of the most known players of his generation, mainly because of his glasses, long hair and most of all, his crazy skill.

    Davids has played for all the great teams, Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona and Spurs.

    He also won the Champions League, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, all with Ajax alone, not to mention three league titles with Juventus, and two Supercoppa Italiana, and a Coppa Italia with Inter.

No.12 Phillip Cocu

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    One of the greatest midfielders on the planet back in the day, Phillip Cocu was another great player who played for, you guessed it, Barcelona.

    After impressing with PSV and the Netherlands national team, Cocu then moved to Barcelona and remained there for six years.

    Despite Barcelona going through one of the worst times in it's history, he stayed loyal to the club, and in his last game he was awarded with a plaque for his loyalty to the club in 2004.

    He is also the foreign player with the most appearances in Barcelona's history with 292 appearances (which is pretty much expected to be broken by a certain Argentine soon).

No.11 Johan Neeskens

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    Neeskens was better known to the world as the man who gave Holland the lead in the 1974 final against East Germany, and a member of the unluckiest national side in footballing history.

    Had a great career, won the Champions League three times in a row with Ajax from 1971 to 1973, a record only bested by Real Madrid's five in a row, but this one was more impressive due to the fact the competition was a lot tougher in the 70s.

    Later on went to Barcelona, and joined Johan Cruyff, where he was nicknamed "Johan Segon" (Johan the second).

    Johan was a key member in the 1974 Netherlands squad, and was one of the main reasons Netherlands impressed in that competition.

No.10 Robin van Persie

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    One of the greatest footballers on the planet.

    Sadly though, he's never proven how great he is due to the constant injuries he receives, leaving Arsenal fans always saying the same thing over and over; "If Robin was here, we would've won the game surely".

    Robin van Persie is one of the most technically gifted players on the planet. When it comes to technique and skills, some consider him the world's best in this current generation, but his injuries have never allowed him to reach the same heights his mentor, Dennis Bergkamp did.

    But then again, Bergkamp became a true legend after he joined Arsenal, at the age of 26, which is Robin's current age, meaning that it's not too late for him to make himself one of the greatest Dutchmen of all time.

    Currently one of the key players in the Netherland's national side, many expect him to step up and give the Netherlands what they've been wanting all these years, the World Cup.

    Here's hoping he proves to Arsenal fans and the World his true potential next season.

No.9 Faas Wilkes

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    One of the greatest, and unluckiest players the Netherlands produced.

    Faas Wilkes is the true meaning of a legend, and boasts one of the greatest goal ratios in the history of the Netherlands national team.

    His status on the national team surpasses that of Kluivert and Bergkamp, for he has scored 35 goals, in only 38 games.

    But that's not the whole story, the main reason he didn't make a higher record, which would have probably stood until this day, was because the moronic KNVB did not allow players who played abroad to play for the national side.

    Despite being written as a Dutch International from 1946 to 1961, Faas did not play from June of 1949, until March in 1955, and no one can argue that he would've made the record of 40 goals for the Netherlands a much, much higher record, that until this day, would have stood strong.

    He sadly died on the 15th of July in 2006, aged 82, but no one can forget the greatest record to have ever been produced by a Dutchman.

    Out of all the players that played for the Netherlands national team, Faas Wilkes is probably the most stunning and most underrated talent the Netherlands has ever produced.

No. 8 Edwin van der Sar

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    A Dutch legend, a Manchester United legend, and the only goal keeper to make it on the list.

    In fact, van der Sar even making it on this list is proof of his talents as a goalkeeper. The Netherlands was always known for it's attacking players, like Van Basten and Cruyff, but when do you ever hear people talk about a Dutch goalkeeper?

    van der Sar still holds the number one spot with Manchester United, and has renewed his contract by signing to play for one extra year, meaning he will be a man playing for one of the greatest clubs on the planet at the age of 40. A truly marvelous feat that can be accomplished by one of the world's very best keepers.

    He retired from international football after EURO 2008, and the Netherlands team hasn't had a great keeper to fill his shoes since.

No. 7 van Nistelrooy

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    Another Manchester United legend, van Nistelrooy was one of the greatest strikers the world has ever seen when he was at the prime of his career.

    He was the top goal scorer in the Premier League, La Liga and the Eredivisie. van Nistelrooy is a goal machine that has scored over 240 goals in his career for club and country—a breathtaking record.

    He is currently plying his trade at Hamburg, and is showing he is still not yet done with football.

    His teams include, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Hamburg and PSV, and has impressed in each and everyone of those clubs.

No.6 Clarence Seedorf

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    A man whose achievements speak for themselves.

    Seedorf is a legend on all accounts, and is the only player in history to have won the Champions League with three different clubs.

    He made history with Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan, and until this very day, is one of the most talented players on the squad.

    Seedorf is also the co-owner of Lego Pro Prima Divisione (formally known as Serie C) side Monza, where his brother Chedric and cousin Stefano play.

    Seedorf has played over 100 games in La Liga, and well over 300 games in Serie A, and has excelled in both leagues, and impressed fans and critics alike.

    He will always be remembered for his superb long range shots on goal.

No.5 Frank Rijkaard

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    Finally, the top 5. It was always a matter of guessing in the previous slides, but most of the people can guess all the remaining individuals finishing in the top 5.

    The only thing left is, where will they be on the top 5 list.

    And number 5 is a player that has done it all, and seen it all.

    Frank Rijkaard is one of the Dutch legends that has done almost everything when it comes to football.

    He has won the Champions League in both it's formats, new and old. He has won the Champions League as a manager with Barcelona (even when they don't play for the team they go and coach it, like I said, an eternal bond), he also won La Liga as a manager, Serie A as a player, and most of all, was one of the players who won the Netherlands one major trophy, the EURO 1988 trophy.

    This is a man that has proven to the world what Dutch players can do, what Dutch managers can do, and what football is all about.

No.4 Ruud Gullit

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    The captain of the EURO 1988 victory, Gullit and Rijkaard, along with Van Basten where Milan's Dutch trio—the three musketeers that always saved the day.

    Part of the Milan golden era, Gullit was one of the main pillars in the Milan squad, and has won major trophies in the Netherlands, Italy and England.

    Part of the Milan squad that won two back-to-back Champions Leagues, and won three Serie A titles with Milan alone.

    Finished as the European footballer of the year in 1987, and made history with both club and country, Gullit was one of the greatest Dutch captains to have ever lived.

No.3 Marco van Basten

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    Usually in football, when a player has his career ended by an injury, people usually say that he would've been great, had it not been for his injury, and that he would've been a legend.

    Despite having his career cut short by injury, van Basten has done everything a footballer can ever dream of.

    I'm not gonna waste my breath with his list of honors, it's a ridiculously long list, check it out for yourself. I just need to state that he won the Ballon D'or a record of three times (held jointly by Platini and another Dutch legend) .

    I will mention however, that he was the World player of the year, the European player of the year on many occasions, and that he was one of the greatest strikers in history.

    Regarded by many as one of the greatest footballers of all time, this man has won three Serie A titles, three Italian super cups, two Champions League trophies and a truckload of trophies and individual honors.

    Van Basten was ranked as the number one player that had his career cut short by injuries, and despite his short career, he has scored a massive 277 goals.

    One of the most prolific players in history, and if the Netherlands is lucky enough to give birth to another van Basten, then truly trophies won't be far away from them.

No.2 Johan Cruyff

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    A man beyond words, and a man that has changed the history of football as we know it.

    Cruyff has impacted his national team, and his clubs.

    No man has ever changed Barcelona, Spanish or foreigner like this man did, the way they play football was triggered by his arrival to Barcelona in the 1970s.

    As a player and as a manager, Cruyff is one of the very main reasons why Barcelona is where it is right now, and the player that started the eternal bond between the Dutchmen and Catalonia.

    He won one La Liga title and one Copa Del Rey with Barcelona as a player, but as a manager, he changed Barcelona forever.

    He brought in Guradiola, Koeman, Haggi, Stoitchkov and Laudrup, made Barcelona win four La Liga titles in a row, and the first Champions League trophy in their history.

    It's fair to say that had it not been for Cruyff, Barcelona would have been just another team from Spain. A good team, but not great.

    He continued the total football style of play that he triggered upon arrival as a player, and made sure Barcelona played total football as a manager.

    Until this day, Barcelona play in the total football style, mainly because of Rinus Michels (manager of Ajax at the time, and creator of the total football style of play), and Cruyff himself.

    He was referred to as "The Total Footballer", and was voted as the greatest European player of the last century, along with winning the Ballon D'or a record of three times (Jointly held by van Basten and Platini).

    He took the Netherlands national team to two World Cup finals, and were madly unlucky not to win any of them, if not both.

    Cruyff's bond with Barcelona is so strong, that until today he is an influential advisor for the club, and his son Jordi even played for Catalonia, and Cruyff is now the manager of Catalonia.

    And now for the number one spot, which many people probably know who it is by now, and many people might criticize this decision, but it's really quite easy to explain.

    Please allow me to introduce the greatest Dutchman in footballing history.

No.1 Dennis Bergkamp

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    There is only one word to describe the Dutch players in football, and that word describes them more than any other footballing country on the planet.

    That word is technique.

    Cruyff was known globally as "The total footballer", and also as "The flying Dutchman". It's only "The non-flying Dutchman" that could be ahead of him on this list.

    Maradona and Messi are easily the greatest dribblers in history, and Cristiano Ronaldo is probably the greatest overall player football has ever seen. Johan Cruyff was referred to as "The total footballer", but "The Dutch master" is easily the most technically gifted player football ever seen.

    This list wasn't based on personal awards (Bergkamp never won the player of the year), and it was never based on trophies (he has never won the Champions League either). Instead this list was based on who was the greatest Dutchman in the Dutchmen's biggest strength, and that strength is technique.

    Do yourself a favor, go to and type "Dennis Bergkamp - The Magic Moment", you'll understand what technique is all about.

    The world has seen many footballers, many great legends throughout history, but none of them has ever looked at football the way Bergkamp did.

    British author Simon Kuper once wrote in the Financial Times;

    "One night last year some legends of Dutch football gathered for dinner in an Amsterdam house. Around midnight conversation turned to an old question: who was the best Dutch footballer ever? Dutchmen have been voted European Footballer of The Year seven times, more than any other nationality except Germans. Yet Jan Mulder, a great centre-forward turned writer, chose a player who had never even threatened to win the award nor, at the time, a Champions League: 'Bergkamp. He had the finest technique', said Mulder. Guus Hiddink , the great Dutch manager, nodded, and so the matter was settled."

    What defined Bergkamp from all the others was quite simple.

    Any footballer, or any human being for the matter, they always take it one step at a time, you dribble through the first, then if the second shows up you dribble through him too.

    But Bergkamp was nothing like that, he always went by the golden rule.

    Always account for variable change.

    His goal for Ajax against Feynoord for example, he received the ball, and did not take a second touch, he made the first touch perfect, and then fooled the goalkeeper to leave the goal empty, and without even looking, he chipped the ball because he knew that there would naturally be a defender running to cover the empty goal.

    The end result was one of the most magnificent goals in footballing history, and he didn't even look at the goal to know that there would be a defender, he just accounted for variable change, which was what defined him from all the other footballers to ever play the game.

    He always planned things ahead, never needed to take a look, and not leaving things to instincts.

    In a country that gave birth to the likes of van Basten, Gullit and Cruyff, it is Dennis Bergkamp who was the most gifted of all, and is quite truly, the greatest Dutchman football has ever seen.


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