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Ranking the 5 greatest players the Netherlands have produced

Netherlands v Denmark - Group B: UEFA EURO 2012
Netherlands v Denmark - Group B: UEFA EURO 2012

The Netherlands have been one of the top teams in international football and have produced some of the best players to have graced the game.

The Oranje, who are famous for their orange kits, have entertained fans in major competitions with their expansive and entertaining style of play. That makes it a tad surprising that a team with such ability and quality have won just one major trophy, the 1988 European Championship.

The Netherlands also hold the record for reaching the most World Cup finals without lifting the trophy, losing three finals in the competition (1974, 1978 and 2010). That, however, should not detract from the fact that the Netherlands are one of the greatest teams to have played the game.

Clubs from the Netherlands' Eredivise, including Ajax, PSV Eindhoven and Feyenoord, amongst others, have produced some of the biggest Dutch names in football history.

On that note, let's take a look at the five greatest players the Netherlands have ever produced.

#5 Edwin van der Sar

Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van der Sar

The only goalkeeper to make the list, Edwin van der Sar easily stands out as an all-time goalkeeping great in a country not necessarily famous for its prowess between the sticks. Van der Sar had a glittering two-decade-long career for club and country.

The goalkeeper, like many Netherlands legends, began his career at Ajax in 1990. He spent nine years at the Dutch club before joining Serie A giants Juventus in 1999 on a free transfer.

Van der Sar was the first non-Italian to become the first-choice goalkeeper for Juventus, where he won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in his first season. Juventus, however, struggled the following season, with the Netherlands goalkeeper culpable on a few occasions, particularly one that cost Juventus the league title.

Juventus went on to sign Gianluigi Buffon for a world-record fee for a goalkeeper, prompting van der Sar to leave the club after just two years. He joined Premier League side Fulham in 2001.

The Netherlands international spent four years at the club before joining Manchester United. Van der Sar achieved much success with the Red Devils, most notably setting the record for the most minutes (1311) without conceding a goal.

Edwin van der Sar retired from professional football in 2011 after amassing over 20 trophies during his career, including eight league titles and two Champions League trophies. He won at least one trophy at every club he appeared for.

The Netherlands custodian also won numerous individual accolades. He was voted the Netherlands' Goalkeeper of the Year in four consecutive years as well as won the Best European Goalkeeper award twice.

Although van der Sar did not garner a similar level of success at international level, he was a mainstay for the Netherlands. The goalkeeper had the most appearances (130) for the Netherlands at the time of his retirement before Wesley Sneijder surpassed him in 2017.


#4 Clarence Seedorf

Clarence Seedorf
Clarence Seedorf

Clarence Seedorf was regarded by many during his playing days as one of the greatest midfielders of his time. The Netherlands legend still remains the only player to win the UEFA Champions League at three different clubs, which is a glowing testament to his pedigree.

Seedorf began his career at Ajax, making his debut for the club in 1992 at the age of 16. That made him the youngest-ever debutant for Ajax at the time. He was a regular for the team over the next two seasons and played a key role in Ajax's Champions League triumph in 1995.

After three successful seasons in the Netherlands, Seedorf joined Sampdoria, where he spent just one season before joining Spanish giants Real Madrid. He immediately became a regular in Madrid's starting XI as a 20-year-old.

Seedorf played over 140 games for the club in the next three seasons. The Dutch midfielder was a key figure for Real Madrid, who won the Champions League in 1997-98, Seedorf's second season at the club.

Clarence Seedorf returned to Italy midway through the 1999/00 season and joined Inter Milan. Although he was a regular for the Nerazzurri, he did not win any silverware in his two and a half seasons at the club before he joined their city rivals AC Milan in 2002.

The Dutch midfielder's career peaked at AC Milan during ten highly successful years. The Netherlands international went on to make the most appearances for AC Milan by a non-Italian, playing 432 games and scoring 62 goals. He left the Rossoneri in 2012 to join Brazilian club Botafogo, where he played for two years before he retired.

Seedorf is one of the most decorated players of all time for the Netherlands. He won 20 trophies during his career, including five league titles and four Champions League titles, and won the European competition twice at AC Milan.

Clarence Seedorf played for the Netherlands for 15 years, appearing 87 times and scoring 11 goals.

#3 Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Bergkamp
Dennis Bergkamp

Netherlands' Dennis Bergkamp is widely renowned for his fabulous performances at Premier League side Arsenal, where he spent the bulk of his career. The midfielder was gifted with immense technical ability, which was amply evident during his playing days.

Like many Netherlands legends, Bergkamp began his career at Ajax in 1986 and spent seven years at the club, gathering both team and individual success. Despite not playing as the main striker, Bergkamp was the top scorer in the Eredivisie for three consecutive seasons, his final few campaigns in the Netherlands.

Bergkamp joined Inter Milan in 1993 but endured a tough spell with the Italian side, particularly due to the physicality and resolute defensive gameplay in the league. He left Inter after two years and joined Arsenal in 1995, where his career once again began its upward trajectory.

Dennis Bergkamp initially struggled to adapt to English football in his debut season. But after the appointment of manager Arsene Wenger the next season, the Netherlands international quickly became a key player in the team.

He spent 11 years at Arsenal before retiring in 2006. Bergkamp won ten trophies with the north London club and was a member of the famous Invincibles side that went an entire domestic league campaign unbeaten.

Bergkamp won 17 trophies in his illustrious career, winning four league titles as well as two Europa League trophies.

The Netherlands international won the Dutch Footballer of the year award twice and also finished third and second in the Ballon d'Or voting in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Bergkamp also finished third in the FIFA World Player of the Year voting twice.

He made 79 appearances for the Netherlands, scoring 37 goals, which is joint-fourth in the country's all-time scoring list.


#2 Marco van Basten

Marco van Basten
Marco van Basten

Marco van Basten, unfortunately, had his career cut short at just 28. But his achievements in his 14 seasons at Ajax and AC Milan were nothing short of incredible.

He joined Ajax in 1981 and spent six years at the club, finishing as the league's top scorer in each of his final four years at the club. The Netherlands international won a total of 118 goals in 112 games.

Van Basten left the Netherlands and joined AC Milan in 1987. Although he struggled with injuries in his debut campaign, he still managed to score eight goals in 19 games.

The Dutch striker played five more seasons at AC Milan before suffering an ankle injury in his fifth and final season at the club, which forced him to have a third surgery. He scored 22 goals in just 24 games that season, which would eventually prove to be his last. The Netherlands international spent two years on the sidelines before announcing his retirement in 1995.

Marco van Basten is one of the most decorated players to come out of the Netherlands. He won over 20 trophies in his short but highly illustrious career. The Netherlands international won a combined seven league titles at Ajax and AC Milan as well as three Champions League trophies, all with AC Milan.

The Dutchman's individual achievements were perhaps more impressive, as he won three Ballon d'Or awards and three UEFA Best Player of the Year awards. He also won the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1992.

The Netherlands international was the top scorer in the league six times, twice in the Serie A and four times in the Eredivisie. He also won the European Golden Boot in 1986.

In international football, Van Basten won the European Championship with the Netherlands in 1988 and finished as the top scorer and best player at the tournament. He scored 24 goals for the Netherlands in 58 games.


#1 Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff
Johan Cruyff

Undoubtedly the biggest name in football to come out of the Netherlands, Johan Cruyff is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the game. He revolutionised the game both as a player and as a manager later in his career.

Cruyff, like everyone else in this list, began his career at Ajax. He made his debut for the Amsterdam club in the 1964-65 season, where Ajax finished 13th, their lowest-ever league finish in history. Cruyff became a regular in the side the next season and helped Ajax return to the top of the Eredivisie, scoring 25 goals in 23 games.

He left Ajax in 1973 and joined Spanish side Barcelona, where he made an immediate impact. The former Netherlands international helped the Blaugrana win their first La Liga title in 14 years. Cruyff spent five years at Barcelona, winning the Copa del Rey in his final season at the club, which was his second and final trophy at Barcelona.

Cruyff then had spells in the United States and Levante in Spain before returning to the Netherlands in 1981 to rejoin Ajax. He spent two seasons at the club and picked up as many Eredivisie trophies. He then joined Ajax's rivals Feyenoord in 1983, where he won a domestic double, including a first Eredivisie title for Feyenoord in a decade.

He ended his playing career with ten league titles - eight at Ajax and one each at Barcelona and Feyenoord. The Dutchman also won the Champions League three times, all of them with Ajax.

Cruyff won the Ballon d'Or award three times and was named the Dutch Footballer of the Year three times. He was named the International Federation of Football History and Statistics' European Player of the Century and came second behind Pele in the same organisation's World Player of the Century category.

On the international stage, Cruyff appeared 48 times for the Netherlands and scored 33 goals, boasting one of the best game-to-goal ratios in the Netherlands' history. He helped the Netherlands finish runner-up in the 1974 FIFA World Cup, where he was voted the best player of the tournament.

Cruyff retired in 1984 and took up managerial roles at Ajax and Barcelona, where he achieved much success.

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Edited by Bhargav
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