The Netherlands has produced a number of exceptional footballers who have showcased their skills and talent to the fans at Stamford Bridge over the years. With the Oranje set to battle it out with England today for a spot in the inaugural UEFA Nations League final, Inside Blue looks at the Dutch stars who have played for Chelsea and also made their mark on the international stage for their country.
For all of the fine players that they have produced, the Netherlands have often come up short on the international football stage, finishing runners-up at three World Cups and tasting success only once previously in a major tournament at the 1988 European Championship.
The man who had the honour of lifting the Henri Delaunay Trophy for the Dutch in Munich was Ruud Gullit, who skippered the team and opened the scoring with a powerful header in a 2-0 win over the Soviet Union in the final.
The 1987 Ballon d’Or winner would make waves again seven years later when he joined Chelsea and helped to kick-start a new era of glamour and success at Stamford Bridge. Succeeding Glenn Hoddle as player-manager a year later, he led the Blues to victory in the 1997 FA Cup final, ending our long 26-year wait for a major trophy.
While Gullit’s managerial reign at the Bridge didn’t last too long, he helped to lay the foundation for further success by bringing in a number of key players for the Blues including compatriot Ed de Goey, who joined the club from Feyenoord in 1997.
Standing 1.98m tall, De Goey had been the Netherlands’ first-choice goalkeeper at the 1994 World Cup and played in all five of their games as they reached the quarter-finals before bowing out after a pulsating 3-2 loss to eventual champions Brazil.
He was also called up for the 1998 World Cup and two European Championships as a back-up to Edwin van der Sar but he was the Blues’ undisputed No.1 for three seasons as we won the League Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup in 2000.
Two of De Goey’s team-mates in the 1998 World Cup squad also went on to play for Chelsea. Striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink made two appearances in his only major tournament with the national team while winger Boudewijn Zenden played in four games in France and scored in the third place play-off against Croatia.
Zenden also appeared in Euro 2000, scoring twice as the Netherlands reached the semi-finals, and at Euro 2004, which marked the emergence of a 20-year-old Arjen Robben.
Robben netted the winning penalty in a shoot-out victory against Sweden in the quarter-finals as the Dutch made the last four again, before joining Chelsea after the tournament and playing a major role in our back-to-back Premier League triumphs during the next two seasons.
He spent three seasons at the Bridge but remained a mainstay for his country on the international stage as they finished runners-up at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and third in Brazil in 2014.
While the Dutch side competing this week in Portugal doesn’t feature any of our current players, there is still a Chelsea connection in Ronald Koeman’s squad with former academy players Nathan Ake and Patrick van Aanholt looking to help the Clockwork Orange claim their first international title since their success in Munich 31 years ago.