Former Ajax, Feyenoord, PSV, AC Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid greats feature in the Netherlands impressive all-time squad.
It would take a brave man to bet against the Netherlands going into the International Legends World Cup. Although the Oranje have never won a World Cup, unlike most of the tournaments favourites, they have reached three finals, the most of any team yet to win the prestigious competition. Holland’s finals came in 1974, 1978 and 2014, where they lost to West Germany, Argentina and Spain respectively.
The Dutch have faired slightly better in the European Championships, where they have one trophy to their name, as well as reaching three further semi-finals. Beyond trophies though, the Dutch have given so much to the game of football. The beautiful game really took off in Holland during the 1970’s, with the arrival of their greatest player Johan Cruyff and the birth of ‘Total Football’ under Rinus Michels.
Much like yesterday’s Italy squad, the strength in depth that the Dutch posses is exceptional, and world class players have missed out once more. Right from between the sticks to the three centre-forwards though, this squad has champion material written all over it. Below is the Netherlands definite 15 man squad, plus their 8 reserves from which you choose which 3 join the initial 15 to create a final 18 man squad.
Edwin van der Sar
The Netherlands have produced their fair shake of great goalkeepers over the years, but perhaps none finer than Edwin van der Sar. The tall, lanky shot stopper commanded his box brilliantly, and was confident with the ball at his feet. Van der Sar began his career with Ajax, where he won 14 trophies in 9 years, including the Champions League. He went on to play for Juventus, Fulham and Manchester United, adding a further 11 trophies and one more Champions League. The four-time Dutch Footballer of the Year, van der Sar won 130 caps for the Oranje.
Hans van Breukelen
As good as van der Sar was, he will have to make sure he is on top form if he is to retain the number one spot in this squad. Hans van Breukelen isn’t a man used to playing second fiddle. The former Ultrecht, Nottingham Forest and PSV goalkeeper won 73 caps for the Netherlands, and won the European Championships with his country in 1988, also being named in the Team of the Tournament.
A quick, hard-working offensive full-back who would run for days for his team, Wim Suurbier is Holland’s choice at right-back. The 72-year-old spent the vast majority of his career with Ajax, where he won seven league titles and three European Cup’s. With the Netherlands, Suurbier reached two World Cup finals and the semi-finals of Euro ’76.
The goal scoring threat of this Dutch team is such that even their centre-halves are prolific. Ronald Koeman bagged 239 goals in 685 games over the course of his career, an incredible record for a defender. He was outstanding for all his clubs, and enjoyed much success with Ajax, PSV and Barcelona. Capped 78 times by Holland, Koeman won the European Championships in 1988 and is currently the manager of Everton.
A really dominant central defender, Jaap Stam was quick, strong and uncompromising. He played for the likes of PSV, Manchester United, AC Milan and Ajax in an illustrious career. He won the Champions League at Old Trafford and made the Premier League’s Overseas Team of the Decade, alongside the likes of Eric Cantona and Thierry Henry. Stam won 67 caps for Holland, reaching the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1988.
Perhaps the greatest even among the great Dutch defenders of all-time is Ruud Krol. A versatile player capable of playing at left-back, defensive midfield or as a sweeper, Krol was a player of exceptional footballing intelligence. Krol won three European Cup’s with Ajax, before turning out for Vancouver Whitecaps, Napoli and Cannes. Twice a losing World Cup finalist and once a losing European Championship’s semi-finalist, Krol won 83 caps for the Netherlands.
Frank de Boer
Due to the superb quality of Dutch defenders over the years, the likes of Barry Hulshoff and Giovanni van Bronckhorst sadly miss out – but one man who does make the cut is Frank de Boer. A legend of both Ajax and Barcelona, de Boer won 112 caps for the Netherlands, captaining his country at the 1998 World Cup and the European Championships in 2000.
Frank Rijkaard is among the greatest players Holland has ever produced and is one of the greatest defensive midfielders the game has ever seen. A titan with both Ajax and AC Milan, winning multiple league titles and the Champions League with both, Rijkaard was a rare combination of outstanding athleticism and unerring technical proficiency. A class and combative defensive midfielder, Rijkaard twice came third in Ballon d’Or voting and won 73 caps for Holland.
Two Dutch maestros who arrived at AC Milan only a year apart, Ruud Gullit spent five years together at the San Siro. A much more offensive midfield player, Gullit was wonderfully versatile and similarly strong when it came to both his physical and technical ability. George Best believed he was better than Maradona, and Gullit won the Ballon d’Or in 1987, as well as being named the 13th greatest European player of the last 50 years in 2004, ahead of Bobby Charlton and George Best.
Quite simply the greatest Dutch footballer of all-time and widely regarded as the greatest European footballer of all-time, Johan Cruyff passed away in 2016, but his contribution to the beautiful game will live forever. The perfect exponent of Total Football, nailing Cruyff down to a specific position is tricky, but he was a playmaker of the highest calibre, possessing a wizardry over the ball, a burst of pace, supreme intelligence and an eye for a pass. His greatest success came at Ajax, but he enjoyed success too with Barcelona and Feyenoord. A three-time Ballon d’Or winner, Cruyff made the World Team of the Twentieth Century.
The lesser known Johan it may be said, but Total Football may not have been possible were it not for Johan Neeskens. One of the game’s first truly great box-to-box midfielders, Neeskens was a tireless runner with a tough tackle and an eye for goal. He enjoyed success with Ajax and Barcelona, as well as reaching two World Cup finals with the Netherlands.
Willem van Hanegem
The final midfield spot in this team was such a difficult decision. Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Clarence Seedorf and Piet Keizer all just missed out but made the reserves, whilst greats such as Edgar Davids and Faas Wilkes somehow missed out altogether. Willem van Hanegem is in though, and what a player he was. A magnificent central midfielder who had no outstanding weaknesses, van Hanegem is possibly Feyenoord’s greatest ever player and won 52 caps for the Netherlands.
Marco van Basten
Onto the forwards and this squad just gets scarier and scarier for whoever draws them in the first round of the International Legends World Cup. One of the most complete and clinical strikers of all-time Marco van Basten was a force of nature before injuries tragically ended his career prematurely. Van Basten scored a career total of 277 goals in 373 games for Ajax and AC Milan, winning seven league titles and two European Cup’s. A three-time Ballon d’Or winner, van Basten was named Europe’s fourth greatest player of the last 50 years in 2004.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
The Dutch have had so many great strikers that Patrick Kluivert doesn’t even make the reserves, but Ruud van Nistelrooy had to be included. If you could choose any player for the ball to keep their cool in injury time if the ball fell to them in the box, you’d pick Ruud. He may not be as complete as van Basten, but he was just as prolific. He scored 347 goals in 589 games, winning trophies with PSV, Manchester United and Real Madrid. He scored 35 goals from 70 caps for Holland.
The last forward and the last player to make the Netherlands initial 15 before you decide which three should join the squad is Dennis Bergkamp. This Dutch squad has some wonderful technicians, and the Non-Flying Dutchman is another. His first touch, close control and vision were up there with the best. Adored at Ajax, Inter Milan and Arsenal, Bergkamp twice made the top three of Ballon d’Or voting and scored 37 goals from 79 caps for the Netherlands.
That’s it for the Netherlands definite 15, now it’s over to you to pick which three reserve players get the nod and join the likes of Cruyff and van Basten in Holland’s final 18. The eight reserve players to choose from are as follows:
1. Jan van Beveren – Former Sparta Rotterdam, PSV and Fort Lauderdale Strikers goalkeeper – 32 caps
2. Cor van der Hart – Former Ajax, Lille and Fortuna ’54 defender – 44 caps
3. Clarence Seedorf – Former Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder – 87 caps
4. Wesley Sneijder – Former Ajax, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and current Galatasaray midfielder – 131 caps*
5. Piet Keizer – Former Ajax winger – 34 caps
6. Arjen Robben – Former PSV, Chelsea, Real Madrid and current Bayern Munich winger – 92 caps*
7. Robin van Persie – Former Feyenoord Arsenal, Manchester United and current Fenerbahce forward – 101 caps
8. Abe Lenstra – Former Heerenveen striker – 47 caps