From Dutch masters to misfits, the Champions League is missing teams from a fallen giant, and it’s not going to change anytime soon
Dutch football has enjoyed some great moments in Europe in the far distant past. From PSV winning the European Cup in 1988 on a historic night in Stuttgart to Ajax and Feyenoord claiming four titles of club football’s greatest showpiece in as many years.
Those days are long gone, however, and it isn’t looking like they will come back very soon. In fact, the Netherlands are slowly drifting away from what you would call the ‘sub-top’.
Ranked at 14th in the latest UEFA coefficient list, the Dutch are now chasing the likes of Switzerland and the Czech Republic and could lose out on some of their places in Europe if the ranking stays like this. The most damaging change to the Eredivisie’s current qualification system would be the loss of their automatic Champions League group stage slot that belongs to each year’s Dutch champions.
The Europa League qualification will also be severely disturbed as three spots – one group stage and two playoff spots – in Europe’s second most important club competition will be reduced to just one playoff spot.
And when we look at which Dutch clubs are still in Europe at this time of the season, we see AZ – who lost 4-1 at home to Lyon in their first leg of the Europa League round of 32 – and Ajax who remain the only Dutch side with some credentials after they drew their EL away tie vs. Legia Warsaw. If the Amsterdammers can go on a good run in the competition, the UEFA coefficient might be altered for the good of Dutch football. It won’t change the declining trend, though.
So, how have the once dominant footballing nation become a footballing dwarf? The obvious one is money. The Eredivisie simply can’t match some of Europe’s top leagues but also fall short in finances compared to Russia, Ukraine, Portugal and Turkey. However, there are leagues currently ranked above the Eredivisie, who have to deal with the same problems and do cope better with the difference in cash.
The real reason why Dutch Football is cutting adrift is the difference in education. Because when we look at the schooling of young players, the focus solely lies on the abilities on the ball. From the goalkeeper to the striker. Whereas in countries like Portugal and Switzerland you can see that physicality is taken far more seriously.
The defenders in these nations are concentrated on defending while in the Netherlands defenders who don’t possess the so-called ball playing talent are seen as outcasts. And because of the preference of pseudo-Beckenbauer’s, Dutch sides softness at the back gets exposed in Europe. Also in midfield; the Dutch school flourishes in producing gifted youngsters who simply shy away when it comes to a battle.
On the ball, the Netherlands always have had great players but the Edgar Davids and Jaap Stam type of players seem extinct. It’s an alarming sign and needs to change quickly if the Dutch want to be of any importance on an international club level.