5 legendary Dutch players who found success back in the Netherlands
Many Dutch players have found fame in Europe's top leagues but we look at 5 legends who returned to the Netherlands to great success.
The Netherlands is one of the European football's strongest and proudest nations: 3 times runner-up in the World Cup; winners of the 1988 European Championship tournament. The main league in the country, the Eredivisie, has spawned some famous teams throughout its history, stretching back to the pioneering Ajax team led by Johan Cruyff that conquered Europe in the 1970s.
It has, however, more often than not seen its best talent picked off by bigger leagues, for the Eredivisie cannot compete with the top 5 leagues in Europe due to the size of the Netherlands and the smaller resources.
Each decade, the Dutch have consistently produced fine young footballers, and each decade the fans have had to watch them leave for England or Spain or Italy. Recall the generation of Arjen Robben, Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder, and Rafael van der Vaart who learned their trade at home before departing for some of European football's biggest clubs to find success.
What is also true, though, is that the Dutch are a fiercely proud people and there are numerous examples of players, having made their career elsewhere in Europe, returning to play their remaining professional years in their home country.
The chance to play in front of their countrymen, in the league they grew up watching, and giving something back has been embraced by many. This slideshow looks at 5 notable examples of this trend. Here are 5 legendary Dutch footballers who made sure to return to the Eredivisie where they duly found success in their final playing days.
#5 Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord)
The most recent example, Dirk Kuyt, cemented his place as a Feyenoord legend when he returned in 2015 and helped them to their first league title in 18 years. He initially joined the Rotterdam club at the age of 23, after impressing for FC Utrecht and Kuyt would improve his game here.
In 3 seasons, the forward scored 71 goals in just 101 league games; a dazzling feat. What he didn't achieve, unfortunately, was team success and Kuyt would leave for English football with no trophies during his time at Feyenoord.
A popular figure with fans of his new team Liverpool, Kuyt's game changed while here, as he found himself operating more from the right wing due to manager Rafael Benitez's decision: he was less focused on scoring and became a workmanlike player, full of tireless effort and running. He wasn't the most fluid attacker but he was mightily effective for his team. Kuyt still contributed 71 goals in total for Liverpool, leaving a cult icon at the club despite only winning 1 League Cup trophy in 2012.
He didn't quite return to his homeland at this point, instead venturing to Turkey to ply his trade for Fenerbahce. Kuyt relished the added responsibility he had for this team and reached double figures in each of his 3 seasons, helping the Istanbul giants to the league title in 2013/2014.
When he finally rejoined Feyenoord in 2015 at 35, many would have been forgiven for thinking that he would merely wind down his days quietly in Dutch football, but that wasn't the way for the passionate Kuyt.
His side finished a massive 21 points off PSV in first place in that first season, Kuyt providing 19 goals, his best return since his previous time at Feyenoord. In his last season in 2016/2017, an emotional Kuyt scored a hat-trick on the final day of the season to secure that historic league title and ensuring his place as one of Feyenoord's greatest ever players. He announced his retirement only 3 days later, the Dutch legend having achieved what he had failed to first time around with the club.