What does Holland's hotbed of talent need to do to succeed?
Dutch football has long been a hotbed for the world’s best talent. They invented the concept of ‘Total Football’ and showcased it as some of the most attractive football in the ‘70s. At club level Holland thrived and right up to the mid 2000s, Holland have had some of the best players in the world. However, Holland never won a World Cup and have now have failed to qualify for Euro 2016, so if Holland has all this talent, why has there been such a lack of international silverware.
The ’70s was a golden period for Dutch football. With the likes of Neeskens, Cruyff, Krol and Resenbrink, Holland showcased ‘total football’. With their new style and batch of world class talent, Holland finished second in both the ’74 and ’78 world cups. On a club level Ajax, led by Cruff, won consecutive European Cups in ’71, ’72 and ’73. Again through the late ‘80s to early 2000s we again saw an incredible amount of Dutch talent such as Guulit, Van Basten, Bergkamp, Rijkaard, Kluivert, Davids and Seedorf but only one trophy- the ’88 European championship. Both Ajax and PSV were strong in Europe but as the new money of the Premier League began to flow through so spelled the end of the Dutch League.
One factor that has to be realised, is that every league and national team goes through peaks and troughs. Holland once had a very competitive league but have lost their top talents to richer clubs in other countries, namely Spain, England and to a lesser extent Germany. However, instead of coming through towards a peak, Dutch football is stuck in somewhat of a rut. Unlike the ’70s and 90’s Ajax has now been relegated to a second tier European club. Ajax constantly produce a lot of young talent, but this a double-edged word. Producing young talent is key for the league’s development but also the national team. Producing young talent, however increases the amount of foreign scouts that come to view them. With England, Spain and Italy’s increased spending power many of these young or top players were poached, such as Bergkamp, Overmars, Guulit, Rijkaard and Davids. So with top players being sold the next step for a club is to put though young payers.
What happened however is that the top players who first trod the steps abroad, especially to England, inadvertently weakened the Dutch league. The next crop of young Dutch players (Van Persie, Sneijder, Vand Der Vaart and Robben) then cemented the precedent of moving abroad. Although some did stay into their early twenties they did not continue their development at the top Dutch clubs. Effectively the top Dutch clubs were forced to build their clubs around youth, which is all well and good if you have top players to bed them and if you can keep them. With the relatively small amount of money in Dutch football, the clubs can’t afford to do this. Moreover, with such a rich history of producing young talent, the Dutch league is the first port of call for any big foreign club.
Looking at the current scenario there is an obvious problem; the young players aren’t as good as they were 10-15 years ago. Firstly, this is because as I have said, there will always drops in the quality of player. Secondly, and more essentially, is that many young players are taken from the clubs and youth academies. Where it would be better suited for the young players to stay and continue their development in Holland, too many get tempted by big money moves abroad. Often they have moved abroad for big money, never live up to their hype and halted their development.
When looking at the current national team, we can see that there is too much of a gap between the old experienced players like Sneijder, Huntelaar and Van Persie and no one ready to take their places. Martins Indi, De Vrij, Depay, Blind, Wijnaldum, Van Ginkel, Ake, Kishna and Clasie have all moved abroad- and it seems Wijnaldum is the only one to have really performed so far. Moreover youth academy players such as Mink Peeters, Malen, Rodney Kongolo have all followed the high trend of youngsters moving abroad-all of these players are under 20. Furthermore, there are an emerging batch of talent such as El-Ghazi, Bazoer, Reidewald and Van Beek who have already actracted the attention of bigger foreign clubs without even playing much in the Dutch league.
So what does Holland need to do? Well there seems to be some exciting prospects playing in the league, but they need to keep them- if only if it for a few more years. The national team needs to be reinvigorated with new blood. For the sake of the national team, some of these young players need to sacrifice big moves in order to stay at home. The least the Dutch FA can do is push these players towards the national team. Place the players with more importance within the team, build them as a group. Moreover, Holland might need to look what Germany did in the early 2000s and restructure it’s youth football and structure. If they use their recent failings in the Euro qualifiers as impetus to progress, the following tournaments could see a return to ‘Total Football’.
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