Who is the best Dutch XI in Premier League history?

The Netherlands has always been one of the best footballing sides in history and it has meant their players often appear in the world’s top leagues. The Premier League is no exception with many Dutchmen making the short trip across the North Sea to play in the English top flight. Over the past three decades, 139 Dutch players have appeared in the Premier League with many making a mark on the game. With Premier League winners, golden boot winners and legendary figures all strutting their stuff in the English top flight, an all-time Dutch XI is a who’s-who of the modern game. But who would appear in the best Dutch XI from the Premier League?

 

GK: Edwin Van der Sar

For a man standing just under 2m, Edwin Van Der Sar had frighteningly quick reflexes. These reflexes combined with his reach made him incredibly hard to beat on his line or in the air. It was why he was a huge signing for Fulham in 2001 and helped The Cottagers establish themselves after gaining promotion to the top flight. Van Der Sar’s excellent performances saw Manchester United sign him in 2005. He was a model of consistency whilst at Old Trafford helping them win three straight titles from 2007-2009. It was during the 2008/09 season where Van Der Sar shone best setting a world-record 1,311 minutes without conceding a goal – stretching a period of over 3 months in the League. He would also claim the 2009 Golden Glove Award as well as the Premier League Merit award that year. After retiring in 2011, Van Der Sar had won everything there was to win in English football and cemented himself as one of the best keepers ever to star in the Premier League.

 

RB: Mario Melchiot

An unheralded star by many, Mario Melchiot embraced everything that a top footballer should be. He was strong on the ball, was an excellent passer and could zip about all day without any issue. He could play anywhere on the pitch too starring as a right back, centre back or in midfield. Melchiot’s best form came with Chelsea having joined from Ajax in 1999. For the next five seasons, Melchiot was a regular at Stamford Bridge shining for The Blue both before and after Abramovich’s takeover. Melchiot moved on and found more success with both Birmingham City and Wigan spending over a decade in English football. A consummate performer who never gave up no matter who he was playing for.

 

LB: Patrick Van Aanholt

Despite having started his career at Chelsea, it would be the littler sides that Patrick Van Aanholt really shone for. Despite playing at left-back, Van Aanholt delivered a fearsome punch in attack too. With a powerful shot, he could let fly from distance as well as deliver devastating free kicks. He showed this best for Sunderland and Crystal Palace often bailing both sides out of tough relegation battles. This included five goals in the 2017-18 season for Crystal Palace where he notched 13 goals in 126 games for The Eagles. He would eventually leave English football in 2021 joining Galatasaray having proved he could shine at the highest level possible.

 

CB: Jaap Stam

There have been fewer defenders in the game who were as calm and collected as Jaap Stam. The commanding centre-back was strong in the air but surprisingly quick and calm on the ball catching rivals off-guard with this skillset. His time in England started in 1998 where he moved to Old Trafford from PSV. For the next three seasons, Stam shone with Manchester United winning 3 straight Premier League titles. In each of those seasons, Stam was part of the PFA team of the Year and was also named UEFA’s best Defender in both 1999 and 2000. He would leave at the start of the 2001/02 season to join Italian side Lazio having proven to be one of the best of his era.

 

CB: Virgil Van Dijk

There has perhaps been no defender who has been an all-rounder quite like Virgil Van Dijk. Van Dijk has proven that he can do everything: from last-ditch tackles to defence splitting passes and even regularly finding the back of the net. Van Dijk first caught English eyes when he joined Southampton from Celtic in 2015 and easily adjusted to the rigorous demands. After 3 seasons with The Saints, Van Dijk moved to Liverpool in 2018 becoming the world’s most expensive defender at the time. It was money well spent though as Van Dijk evolved into one of the world’s best players at Anfield. This was none more on show in 2019 where Van Dijk scored 5 goals as well as win multiple awards. This included PFA Player of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season and UEFA Player of the Season. Van Dijk has continued to show his class and prove himself to be one of the best defenders in the game today.

 

CM: George Boateng

Very few overseas players have managed to maintain a consistent and commanding presence in midfield quite like George Boateng. The Ghana-born Dutchman shone in the Premier League for 13 seasons for no less than four clubs. What made Boateng such a regular player was his metronomic-like passing and ability to act as a covering anchor for defenders. It’s why Boateng notched up over 380 games in the Premier League making him one of the most capped overseas players in the English top flight. A true professional throughout his career even if he never made the back page headlines.

 

CM: Boudewijn Zenden

A versatile midfielder who could play centrally or on either flank, Boudewijn Zenden was always looking for ways to unlock defences. His eye to spot a pass and excellent technique on the ball helped him create chances from unassuming positions. It also helped him deliver deadly free-kicks which could be delivered with wicked swerve and accuracy. His best form came with Middleborough where he scored 9 goals in 67 games after moving there from Chelsea. After a rather truncated spell with Liverpool, Zenden showcased more of his form with Sunderland before retiring in 2011.

 

CM: Georginio Wijnaldum

A lively midfielder, Gregorino Wijnaldum felt just as comfortably protecting defences as he did surging forward trying to create attacks. Wijnaldum often excelled at linking the play and moving the ball forward with a driving run or laser-like park. He caught the eye of many on his first season in English football scoring 11 goals for Newcastle in the 2015-16 after joining from PSV. At the end of that season, Wijnaldum moved to Liverpool and becoming a fan favourite at Anfield. A regular contributor to goals and assists, Wijnaldum was a key part of the squad that won the 2018-19 Premier league title. Wijnaldum eventually left English football in 2021 moving to PSG on a free transfer. An influential player no matter where he played on the pitch.

 

FW: Dennis Bergkamp

There were no other players quite like Dennis Bergkamp when he joined Arsenal from Inter Milan. With silky smooth skills, Bergkamp could pull off sublime tricks in the area and still find the net from any angle. His unpredictability yet deadly accuracy made him a nightmare for defences to handle. It was why Bergkamp shone for The Gunners for over a decade notching memorable goals for over a decade. His best spell came in Arsenal’s 1997-98 championship winning year scoring 16 goals in 28 games. It was also in that season that Bergkamp was also named PFA Player of the Year and won the first of 4 Premier League Player of the Month Awards. With 2 Premier League Goal of the Season awards and spots in both the English Football and Premier League Hall of Fames, Bergkamp remains an all-time great striker.

 

FW: Ruud Van Nistelrooy

For the best part of five years, fewer strikers were deadlier than Ruud Van Nistelrooy. Strong on the ball, dominant in the year and accurate from anywhere on the pitch, Van Nistelrooy was the complete striker. He proved this by scoring 23 goals in his debut season for Manchester United in the 2001-02 season having moved from PSV in August 2001. He surpassed this one year later notching a career-best 25 goals in 34 games claiming that season’s Golden Boot award. Van Nistelrooy would notch 20+ goal tallies in 4 out of 5 seasons for Manchester United before leaving to join Real Madrid in 2006. Having won the 2003 Player of the Year Award as well as 2 Premier League Team of the Year nominations, it proved that Van Nistelrooy was one of the best strikers of the early 2000s.

 

FW: Robin Van Persie

Robin Van Persie owed much of his success in his career due to his time in English football. Van Persie was quick on the ball but had one of the best left foots of the modern generation. He could strike balls remarkably cleanly and with ferocious power making him deadly from any distance. It made him a set-piece specialist too adding to opponents’ woes. He hit his best form with Arsenal particularly in the 2011-12 season scoring 30 goals in 38 games. Van Persie scored just as much with Manchester United scoring 26 goals in the 2012-14 season and claiming his first Premier league title. It’s why RVP has won Player of the Year awards with both Arsenal and Manchester United as well as 2xGolden Boot awards and 5 Player of the Month Awards. All these trophies add up to Van Persie being one of the Premier League’s greatest ever strikers no matter what era you look at.

Author: Tamara Kim