HomeNFLThe 10 greatest Dutch players of all time have been ranked

The 10 greatest Dutch players of all time have been ranked

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Highlights

  • The Netherlands has produced a wealth of footballing talent over the years, from Total Football pioneers to modern greats like Arjen Robben.
  • Dutch footballers like Ruud Gullit and Marco van Basten have achieved remarkable success at both club and international levels.
  • With a focus on individual awards, club achievements, and legacy, the top 10 Dutch footballers have left an indelible mark on the sport.

GIVEMESPORT VIDEO OF THE DAY

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From the concept of Total Football of the 1970s to the European champions of 1988 and a selection of 21st-century greats, there is certainly no shortage of great footballers to have come from the Netherlands. Not only has the country produced a plethora of fantastic players in its history – but its conveyor belt of coaches and their famous way of playing is also why it’s considered to be one of the greatest footballing nations on the planet.

From the likes of the mesmerising Johan Cruyff to midfield general Clarence Seedorf to goal-hungry defender Ronald Koeman, the list of the greatest Dutchmen to lace their boots up is endless. But who are the best players in the nation’s history?

To answer exactly that, GIVEMESPORT have assessed all the icons and have ranked the top 10 players in the Netherlands’ rich history, whittling down the extensive shortlist using several factors which you can find out below.

Ranking factors

  • International achievements (honours, appearances, goals, assists, etc)
  • Club achievements (honours, appearances, goals, assists, etc)
  • Individual awards
  • Legacy within football circles – both international and club level
  • Importance to the Netherlands’ success

10 Edwin van der Sar

Career span: 1989 – 2011

By virtue of being Netherland’s second most-capped player after turning out 130 times for Oranjes, Edwin van der Sar endured a commendable 21-year international career and is worthy of his place on this list among his compatriots. Achieving numerous successes at club level, too, with Ajax and Manchester United, Van der Sar hardly put a glove wrong.

Widely considered to be one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history, the imposing frame of the Dutchman – married with his exceptional shot-stopping skills – made him a reliable figure between the posts for the Red Devils.

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Holding the Premier League record for the longest streak without conceding a goal, his Old Trafford stint was littered with a host of silverware: the solitary Champions League, four league titles and two League Cup triumphs to list a few. A true Dutch icon.

Edwin van der Sar – Netherlands Career

Debut

June 7, 1995

Caps

130

Goal Conceded

87

Clean Sheets

72

Honours

N/A

9 Arjen Robben

Career span: 1989 – 2011

Arjen Robben running

Arjen Robben’s trademark manoeuvre of cutting in on his strong left foot and whipping it into the top echelon – out of the goalkeeper’s reach – will stand the test of time. The former Bayern Munich ace was a menace to defenders during the 2000s and 2010s as he became a two-time Premier League winner with Chelsea to kickstart his career.

A move to Bavaria beckoned – after a two-season stint with Real Madrid – and that’s where Robben enjoyed his deadliest form. Becoming an eight-time Bundesliga champion was the pinnacle of the tricky winger’s trophy-ladened career.

Coveted as one of the best wingers in Champions League history, the fierce nature of Robben’s aforementioned left peg was purely mesmerising to watch and, although he was unable to taste victory at international level, he performed out of his skin to fire the Netherlands to the 2010 World Cup final as well as a third-placed finish four years later.

Arjen Robben – Netherlands Career

Debut

April 30, 2003

Caps

96

Goals

37

Assists

34

Honours

N/A

8 Clarence Seedorf

Career span: 1992 – 2014

AC Milan's Clarence Seedorf

A Champions League icon, having become the only player to have won Europe’s top tier club competition with three different clubs, Clarence Seedorf’s longevity is also to be admired. The Dutchman, one of the greatest midfielders in Champions League history, extended his career into his late 30s, becoming one of the most enduring midfielders – as well as one of the finest – of his era.

Suriname-born Seedorf was a true all-rounder and exuded class to another level, with an enviable ability to keep the ball stuck to his feet. He also featured for his nation at three European Championships and a World Cup, but the taste of international victory escaped his grasp on all occasions.

Clarence Seedorf – Netherlands Career

Debut

December 14, 1994

Caps

87

Goals

11

Assists

8

Honours

N/A

7 Ronald Koeman

Career span: 1980 – 1997

Koeman

Despite being stationed either in defence or the midfield, Ronald Koeman managed to score a bucketload of goals, ranking as the highest-scoring defender of all time. A notable aspect of his well-rounded game was his cannon-like shot, which allowed him to emerge as one of the game’s best-ever free-kick specialists.

Scoring north of 250 goals, mainly as a defender, is obscene. Plying his trade for two of Holland’s most famous teams, where he won the European Cup with PSV Eindhoven, as well as Catalan giants Barcelona, Zandaam-born Koeman endured success aplenty – and in truth, he was a major part of each triumph.

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The now-manager was an integral part of his nation’s Euro 1988 success as he was named in the Team of the Tournament, while he also (unsurprisingly) scored a penalty to help knock out hosts West Germany in the semi-finals. The 78-cap international hung up his boots three years shy of the turn of the millennium but will forever be remembered as the goal-hungry defender who could do it all.

Ronald Koeman – Netherlands Career

Debut

April 27, 1983

Caps

78

Goals

14

Assists

9

Honours

Euro 1988

6 Frank Rijkaard

Career span: 1980 – 1995

Frank Rijkaard

Frank Rijkaard, unlike many players nowadays, did not mind sitting back and sweeping up while those ahead of him became the headline-grabbers. As modest as he was, there is no doubt that the classy engine room operator was one of the most technically sound defensive midfielders during his heyday.

A vital cog in two of Europe’s most successful teams, Ajax and AC Milan, Rijkaard was duly voted the Serie A‘s Best Foreign Player in 1992, and that is a credit to his defensive-biased excellence – and he even earned a place in the Euro 1988 Team of the Tournament four years earlier.

Amsterdam-born Rijkaard, who enjoyed 73 outings with the Netherlands, came whiskers away from winning the Ballon d’Or in 1988 and 1989 after finishing third on both occasions. A three-time winner of the European Cup and one of the greatest midfielders since 1990, they simply don’t make them like the Ajax graduate anymore.

Frank Rijkaard – Netherlands Career

Debut

September 1, 1981

Caps

73

Goals

10

Assists

4

Honours

Euro 1988

5 Johan Neeskens

Career span: 1970 – 1991

Unfortunately for Johan Neeskens, he isn’t the best ‘Johan’ to be conceived in the Netherlands. Nonetheless, he was a tirelessly hard-working midfield general whose influence typically went under the radar in a team which his namesake Cruyff was the leading star of.

Neeskens also had a fine eye for goal, notching 17 goals in 49 appearances for his nation, and at club level, he won three straight European Cups with Ajax before securing the Cup Winners’ Cup with Barcelona.

One of the first box-to-box midfielders of its kind, Neeskens somewhat set the benchmark for those who dared to follow in his footsteps. He was dealt some horrific luck on the international stage, losing back-to-back World Cup finals between 1974 and 1978.

Johan Neeskens – Netherlands Career

Debut

November 11, 1970

Caps

49

Goals

17

Assists

5

Honours

N/A

4 Dennis Bergkamp

Career span: 1987 – 2006

Dennis Bergkamp - Arsenal

The perfect mix between a playmaker and a natural-born sharpshooter, former Arsenal man Dennis Bergkamp, a magician in footballer form, was supremely underrated – and what made him so exciting was his ability to conjure something spectacular out of, seemingly, nothing.

Under Arsene Wenger’s watch, the partnership he mustered with Thierry Henry was beyond the Gunner’s faithful’s wildest dreams and his goal against Newcastle United, regarded as one of the best in English top flight history, encapsulated everything joyous about Bergkamp’s fun-to-watch skill set.

The three-time Premier League champion’s nimble and unique approach to the beautiful game make him one of the most exciting forwards of his era. Across 79 appearances for his country, Bergkamp registered 37 goals and 22 assists, thus highlighting his innate versatility to produce but also convert.

Dennis Bergkamp – Netherlands Career

Debut

September 26, 1990

Caps

79

Goals

37

Assists

22

Honours

N/A

3 Ruud Gullit

Career span: 1978 – 1998

Ruud Gullit

His distinctive dreadlocks aside, what a wonderful footballer Ruud Gullit was. Capable of plying his trade in a plethora of roles, depending on what was required of him. Gullit kicked off his career as a sweeper at Feyenoord but transformed positionally across his career: from an engine room playmaker to the supporting act for a striker.

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A worthy recipient of the 1987 Ballon d’Or, Gullit played a starring role for both club and country and won back-to-back European Cups with AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, showcasing his hungriness. Combine that with his evident talent and he was the perfect professional. To this day, the former Chelsea boss remains the only Dutch captain to lift a major honour – Euro 1988.

Ruud Gullit – Netherlands Career

Debut

September 1, 1981

Caps

66

Goals

17

Assists

7

Honours

Euro 1988

2 Marco van Basten

Career span: 1982 – 1995

Marco van Basten

A potent goalscorer of the highest order, two-time Ballon d’Or winner Marco van Basten made the art of finishing look like second nature. His achievements are nothing short of godlike: 301 goals, three European Cups, 11 domestic titles and a Euro 1988 triumph.

Revered for his close ball control, impeccable aerial threat and spectacular ball-striking, Van Basten simply had it all. That goal against the Soviet Union in 1998 was so audacious that it will be forever remembered as one of the greatest ever scored – but that was just the tip of the iceberg of what he was capable of.

Van Basten was cruelly forced to retire at the tender age of 28, but his name and status lives on as one of the greatest ever Dutchmen to grace the turf. Across his 13-year playing career, he was gifted the Ballon d’Or on three occasions – 1988, 1989 and 1992.

Marco van Basten – Netherlands Career

Debut

September 7, 1983

Caps

58

Goals

24

Assists

9

Honours

Euro 1988

1 Johan Cruyff

Career span: 1964 – 1984

Johan Cruyff

There could only be one, couldn’t there? One of the masterminds behind ‘Total Football’, Johan Cruyff’s vision and belief changed the way the beautiful game was played. Born and bred in the heart of the nation – in Amsterdam – the dainty forward was hugely successful across his 20-year stint for the likes of Ajax, Barcelona and Feyenoord.

Starting off in his native Netherlands, he won no less than nine Dutch first division titles and six Dutch cups. On an individual note, he added a trio of Ballon d’Or gongs to his ladened CV across the years, showcasing his truly world-beating ability.

Cruyff also helped to save an ailing Blaugrana, too, leading the Spanish outfit to a La Liga triumph after a 14-year wait, while he was also the epicentre of arguably the greatest national team never to win a World Cup – the 1974 version of the Netherlands. A true great all round.

Johan Cruyff – Netherlands Career

Debut

September 7, 1966

Caps

48

Goals

33

Assists

30

Honours

N/A

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