Best Dutch Players in History: The Netherlands, a country known for shaping the game of soccer in the 1970s, introduced innovative strategies and possession-based football that surprised Europe. They became dominant both at the club and national team levels. As a result, it’s important to recognize the legendary players who emerged from this country and made a significant impact on the sport.
Our goal is to highlight the top 10 Dutch players in history, showcasing their influence on both modern and past football. Despite the Netherlands not winning a World Cup yet, they have achieved success by winning the European Championship in 1988 and reaching three World Cup finals.
Best Dutch Players in History, legendary footballers
In this ranking, you’ll discover the remarkable contributions of these players and understand their importance in shaping the game of football.
10. Arjen Robben
Arjen Robben is a legendary Dutch winger who has made a significant impact at both the national and club level, particularly with Bayern Munich. Known for his speed, technical skills, and exceptional dribbling ability, Robben has the ability to deceive defenders with his body feints and hooks. Despite primarily playing on the right side, he often takes on the role of a playmaker, orchestrating his team’s attacking plays.
Robben’s career began at FC Groningen before moving on to PSV Eindhoven, where he won the Dutch championship. He then had stints at Chelsea and Real Madrid, winning the Premier League and La Liga titles respectively. In 2009, he joined Bayern Munich, where he enjoyed a successful 10-season tenure, securing eight league titles and, most notably, the Champions League trophy in 2013.
With the Dutch national team, Robben has made significant contributions. Although the team hasn’t won a major international title during his time, he played a crucial role in helping the Netherlands reach the World Cup final in 2010. Robben has scored an impressive 37 goals in 96 appearances for his country, solidifying his status as one of the greatest Dutch players in history.
Robben is widely regarded as one of the greatest wingers in football history, and his contributions to the Bundesliga are highly regarded.
His impressive career is filled with numerous accomplishments and honors, including:
- Fifth top scorer for the Dutch national team: 37 goals in 98 games.
- League champion in four countries: Eredivisie (PSV), La Liga ( Real Madrid ), Premier League (Chelsea FC), and Bundesliga (FC Bayern München).
- Champion of the UEFA Champions League (2012-2013).
- 18 national titles with FC Bayern München.
9. Robin Van Persie
Robin van Persie is a highly skilled striker who has made a name for himself as a Dutch international and has represented several of Europe’s top clubs. He possesses exceptional technique, great speed, and, above all, a remarkable ability to finish goals. Van Persie is proficient with both feet, strong in the air, and capable of scoring from difficult angles.
His career began at Feyenoord Rotterdam, where he won the UEFA Cup. He then moved to Arsenal, where he faced injury setbacks but still managed to showcase his talent. He won the FA Cup and reached the Champions League final, although Arsenal ultimately lost to Barcelona. In 2013, Van Persie joined Manchester United and won the Premier League before concluding his career at Fenerbahçe and returning to Feyenoord.
Van Persie has also left an indelible mark on the Dutch national team, establishing himself as one of their greatest players. He was a finalist in the 2010 World Cup and helped the Netherlands secure a third-place finish in the 2014 tournament. With an impressive tally of 50 goals in 102 appearances, he holds the record as the highest goal scorer in the history of the Netherlands. Robin van Persie unquestionably deserves his place among the best Dutch players of all time.
Some of his notable achievements and accolades include:
- Runner-up FIFA World Cup 2010
- 8 National titles.
- Season 2008–09 Most assists in the Premier League
- With 50 Goals He is Netherlands’ all-time top goalscorer
- With 144 Goals He is the Highest goal scoring Dutch player in Premier League
- In the 2014 FIFA World Cup –He is the only player since 1966 to score with his left foot, right foot, and head, as well as scoring from a free kick and a penalty kick.
8. Frank Rijkaard
The eighth spot in our ranking is occupied by Frank Rijkaard, a highly skilled midfielder who later had a successful coaching career. Rijkaard made his mark at various clubs throughout his playing days. He notably shone at Ajax, where he had two stints, and became a legendary figure at AC Milan.
Rijkaard began his professional journey with Ajax Amsterdam, where he quickly achieved success, winning three league titles and a Cup Winners’ Cup. He later left his mark on AC Milan alongside his teammates Van Basten and Gullit. During his time at Milan, Rijkaard won the Champions League twice and the Intercontinental Cup twice. In his final two seasons, upon returning to Ajax, he added another Champions League trophy to his collection.
From 1981 to 1994, Rijkaard represented the Dutch national team, participating in two World Cups and two European Championships, including the victorious Euro 1988 campaign. Throughout his international career, he played 73 matches and scored 10 goals. Frank Rijkaard undoubtedly holds a prominent place among the best Dutch players of all time.
Some of his notable achievements and accolades include:
- Champion of the Eurocopa of 1988.
- Champion of the European Cup/UEFA Champions League on three occasions: 2 with AC Milan (1988-89 and 89/90) and once with Ajax (1994/95).
- 10 national titles with Ajax and 4 with Milan.
- Winner of the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Ajax (1987)
- Champion of the Intercontinental (2) and the European Super Cup (2) with Milan.
7. Ronald Koemann
The seventh spot in our ranking belongs to Ronald Koeman, who is widely recognized as one of the greatest players in the history of FC Barcelona. Koeman, a center-back and defensive midfielder, possessed remarkable skills and was also known for his goal-scoring ability, making him one of the highest-scoring defenders of all time, with an impressive tally of 250 goals.
Koeman represented several top clubs in Europe throughout his career. He won his first Dutch league title with Ajax Amsterdam before securing three more titles with PSV Eindhoven. His major triumphs include winning the UEFA Champions League in 1988 with Eindhoven and then capturing the title once again with FC Barcelona in 1992, in addition to earning four La Liga titles.
As a Dutch international, Koeman made 78 appearances and scored 14 goals for his country. His greatest accomplishment came in 1988 when he was part of the victorious Dutch team that won the European Championship. Ronald Koeman is undoubtedly considered one of the finest Dutch players in the history of football.
Some of his notable achievements and honors include:
- Champion of the European Cup twice: 1987-1988 (PSV) and 1991-1992 (FC Barcelona).
- Champion of the Eurocopa of 1988.
- 8 national and two continental titles (European Cup and European Super Cup) with FC Barcelona.
6. Edwin Van der Sar
The sixth spot in our ranking belongs to the legendary goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar. Edwin Van der Sar is widely regarded as the greatest Dutch goalkeeper of all time. His imposing stature allowed him to dominate the aerial game and provide a solid defensive presence. He served as a role model for goalkeepers during the 1990s and 2000s and rightfully earns a place in our ranking of the best goalkeepers in history.
Van der Sar began his career at Ajax Amsterdam, where he spent nine seasons. During this time, he won multiple Dutch league titles and notably secured the UEFA Champions League title in 1995. After two seasons at Juventus and four seasons at Fulham, he joined Manchester United in 2005. At Manchester United, Van der Sar achieved great success, including four Premier League titles and another Champions League triumph.
In addition to his club career, Edwin Van der Sar represented the Dutch national team for many years. He participated in numerous international tournaments, including four editions of the UEFA European Championship and three World Cups. Although the Netherlands didn’t progress beyond the semi-finals in these competitions, Van der Sar’s contributions solidify his status as one of the greatest Dutch players in history.
Some notable achievements and milestones in Edwin Van der Sar’s career include:
- 26 national Titles
- 1998 Dutch Golden Shoe
- 4 time Dutch Football Goalkeeper of the Year
- 2 time Best European Goalkeeper
5. Johan Neeskens
In our ranking, the fifth position is occupied by a true legend of Dutch football, Johan Neeskens. He played as an attacking midfielder but was also known for his wide-playing style, complementing Johan Cruyff perfectly on the field.
He began his career at RC Heemstede before joining Ajax Amsterdam in 1970. Neeskens quickly established himself within the team and achieved great success, winning the national championship twice and securing three consecutive Champions League titles. He later joined forces with his compatriot Johan Cruyff at FC Barcelona, where they won the Spanish Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup.
Neeskens was a key member of the Netherlands national team in the 1970s, which experienced considerable success despite not winning a major title. The team reached the World Cup finals in 1974 and 1978 but were defeated by West Germany and Argentina, respectively. With 49 caps for the national team, Neeskens is rightfully considered one of the greatest Dutch players in history.
Some notable achievements and recognitions in his career include:
- Champion of three European Cups with Ajax (70-71,71-72 and 72-73).
- World runner-up on two occasions (1974 and 1978)
- Champion of the Intercontinental and the European Super Cup.
4. Dennis Bergkamp
In our ranking, the fourth spot is occupied by a legendary figure in English football, Dennis Bergkamp. He played as a striker and had a remarkable career at Arsenal, where he is highly regarded and even has a statue outside Emirates Stadium in his honor.
Bergkamp’s impact was not limited to Arsenal alone. He gained recognition as one of the finest European strikers of the 1990s and early 2000s, making his mark on the continental stage.
Some notable achievements and milestones in Bergkamp’s career include:
- Undefeated Premier League Champion (2004)
- 11 national titles with Arsenal
- Champion of the European Cup on two occasions: 1991-92 with Ajax and 1993-94 with Inter Milan .
- Fourth all-time top scorer for the Dutch team (37 goals in 79 games).
3. Ruud Gullit
The top three spot in the ranking of the best Dutch players in history is occupied by the legendary Ruud Gullit. This remarkable midfielder is widely recognized for his outstanding performances during his tenure at AC Milan under the guidance of coach Arrigo Sacchi. Gullit possessed exceptional talent and played the game in a style that evokes nostalgia for football from earlier times.
After a promising start with HFC Haarlem, Gullit went on to achieve success at Feyenoord Rotterdam and PSV Eindhoven, securing three Dutch league titles and a National Cup. He then formed a brilliant trio alongside Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard at AC Milan, where they won the UEFA Champions League twice.
Gullit’s international career was equally impressive. With the talented Dutch squad of the 1980s, he triumphed at the European Championship in 1988 and represented the Netherlands in the 1990 World Cup. In total, he scored 17 goals in 66 appearances for the national team. Gullit’s exceptional contributions were recognized when he received the prestigious Ballon d’Or award in 1987, cementing his extraordinary career.
Throughout his long and illustrious career, Ruud Gullit achieved numerous significant accomplishments and milestones, some of which include:
- Ballon d’Or winner in 1987
- Champion of the European Cup on two occasions: 1989 and 1890.
- Euro 1988 Champion
- Winner of 8 titles with AC Milan
- Intercontinental champion on two occasions: 1989 and 1990.
2. Marco Van Basten
The second-place spot in our ranking belongs to Marco van Basten, a highly skilled striker who made a significant impact in the last century. Van Basten’s notable achievements were primarily associated with his time at the renowned AC Milan, widely regarded as the club’s best era, which propelled him to worldwide fame.
Following in the footsteps of Johan Cruyff, Van Basten had a successful tenure at Ajax Amsterdam, where he played for five seasons. During this time, he achieved three domestic championships, won the Dutch Cup three times, and secured a Cup Winners’ Cup title. He later joined AC Milan, alongside his compatriots Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. This formidable trio achieved remarkable success, including two UEFA Champions League titles, two European Super Cups, and two Intercontinental Cups.
Van Basten also left his mark on the history of the Netherlands national team. He played a crucial role in their victory at the 1988 UEFA European Championship, which remains the only major international title the Netherlands has won. As an outstanding striker and three-time Ballon d’Or recipient, Van Basten rightfully earns a place in the ranking of the greatest forwards of all time.
Many consider Marco van Basten’s talent on par with the likes of the legendary Ronaldo Nazario. Unfortunately, similar to Ronaldo, injuries hindered his immense potential. Nevertheless, Van Basten is recognized as one of the greatest goal-scorers in football history.
Among his noteworthy accomplishments, trophies, and accolades, the following stand out:
- Triple winner of the Ballon d’Or: 1986, 1989, and 1992.
- Champion of the Eurocopa of 1988.
- Winner of 6 national titles with Ajax.
- Winner of 4 national titles with AC Milan.
- Champion of the European Cup Winners’ Cup with Ajax (1987).
- Two-time European Cup champion with Milan (1989 and 1990)
- Winner of the Intercontinental (2) and the European Super Cup (2) with AC Milan.
1. Johan Cruyff
We have an exceptional player who is considered one of the greatest in European and world football history. Johan Cruyff, also known as “the skinny one” and “the flying Dutchman,” was a versatile player who excelled as both a midfielder and striker. His incredible talent and remarkable game vision set him apart. In fact, many consider him one of the top five footballers of all time.
Starting his career at Ajax Amsterdam, Cruyff remained with the club for an impressive nine seasons. During this time, he secured six national championships and achieved the remarkable feat of winning the Champions League three consecutive times between 1971 and 1973. Subsequently, Cruyff joined FC Barcelona and played a pivotal role in helping the team secure their first La Liga title in 13 years. After a stint in the United States, he concluded his playing career in the Netherlands, where he added three more championship titles to his name.
Cruyff’s contributions extended to the national team as well. Although he didn’t win any titles with the Netherlands, he played a crucial role in leading the team to the final of the 1974 World Cup. After defeating Argentina and Brazil, they ultimately lost to Germany in the final. Cruyff is widely regarded as the greatest Dutch player of all time.
Throughout his career, he achieved numerous remarkable accomplishments, some of which include the following:
- Triple winner of the Ballon d’Or (1971, 1973, and 1974)
- Triple champion of the European Cup with Ajax (70-71, 71-72 and 72-73).
- Winner of 15 national titles with AFC Ajax.
- World runner-up on two occasions: 1974 and 1978.
- Champion of LaLiga and Copa del Rey with FC Barcelona
- Eighth top scorer in the history of the Dutch national team (33 goals in 48 games.)
- The Clockwork Orange is considered one of the best selections in history.
For all this, for us, Flaco is the best player in the history of the Netherlands. Do you share our opinion? Let us know in the comments. Do you miss someone? Tell us which are your favorites and who deserves to enter a supposed honor roll!