Brazil’s endless supply of professional footballers can be seen in major leagues across the world- particularly in Europe. Whilst top leagues like the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A get all the headlines, some smaller leagues have seen top names shine here on occasion. The best example of this is Holland’s Eredivisie who has seen plenty of Brazilian stars play there across the decades. With top sides like Ajax and PSV Eindhoven featuring every week, the Dutch top flight has been graced by some of the best to lace a pair of boots. So who are the best players in Eredivisie history?
One of the greatest strikers to ever take to the pitch, it was in Holland where Ronaldo got his real big break. The megastar striker made his European breakthrough signing for PSV Eindhoven in 1994 from Cruzeiro at the tender age of 17. Ronaldo’s pace and lethal finishing showed instantly scoring in just 10 minutes of debuting for PSV. It would be the start of a fantastic season for the young superstar scoring 30 goals in 33 games showing the world silky skills not seen on the continent before. His second season in The Netherlands was hindered by a serious knee injury but Ronaldo still recovered to score 13 goals in 13 games. It was from here that Barcelona would come calling signing the then-hottest player in football at the start of the 1996-97 season.
If any modern player could be labelled a “powerhouse”, it would be the defender Alex. The towering centre-back stood out for his power in the air as well as having one of the hardest shots in football at the time. Alex moved to the Eredivisie in 2004 with PSV after joining on a long-term loan from English side Chelsea to overcome work permit issues. It was a move that allowed Alex to settle into the European style and gain valuable experience at the top. This came by anchoring the PSV defence where his physical style soon earned plaudits from fans across Europe. He became part of a PSV that dominated Eredivisie in the mid-2000s winning the title all 3 seasons he spent in Holland. His own haul of 6 goals in 27 games also proved he was a threat at both ends of the pitch. Alex returned to London in 2007 where soon became a part of Chelsea first team lineup.
Afonso Alves (Heerenveen)
One of the smaller sides in Eredivisie, SC Heerenveen have occasionally been blessed by prolific superstars in their ranks – none more so than Afonso Alves. Alves was known for being a terrific finisher in the box and a real dynamo at pushing forward on the ball. Heerenveen signed Alves in 2006 from Swedish side Malmo and Alves showed he belonged in Europe’s biggest leagues. He proved this by slamming home 34 goals in 31 games during his debut season. This would see him named the league’s top scorer as well as 2007 Dutch Footballer of the Year. After repeating the feat of scoring 11 goals in just 8 games, Alves left Holland to join English side Middlesbrough in the Premier League – a move that came just as Alves won his first cap for the Brazil national side.
Heurelho Gomes (PSV)
Before becoming one of the top goalkeepers in English football, Heurelho Gomes cut his teeth in Europe by shining in Dutch football. This rise came with PSV Eindhoven who signed Gomes from Cruzeiro in 2004. Gomes’ speed and ability to pull off remarkable saves made him a popular figure at PSV and he quickly established himself as first choice keeper at the Phillips Stadion. He formed a major part of a formidable backline that rarely leaked goals and helped Gomes win 4 league titles with the club. It was after his last success in the 2007/08 season that Gomes left to join English side Tottenham and form a decade long run of playing in the Premier League.
David Neres (Ajax)
Whilst Dutch football may not have been as famous in the 2010s as it was in the 1990s, the league showed they could still attract top talents from time to time. A great example of this is David Neres with Ajax. The tricky winger could play on either flank and had lightning-quick pace that could shred defences in mere seconds. After joining from Sao Paulo in 2016, Neres broke through towards the end of the 2016/17 season scoring three goals in six games. This was just a precursor of what was to come with Neres slamming home 14 goals the following season and earning Dutch Player of the Month in April 2018. From there, Neres would win three league titles with Ajax up until leaving the club in 2022 to join Shakhtar Donetsk and then Benfica having scored 37 goals in just 121 appearances.
It’s hard to believe that one of the greatest strikers to ever play spent more time in Holland than any other major European league. That’s because Romario spent 5 season in Eredivisie leading the line for PSV Eindhoven. Having joined form Vasco Da Gama in 1988, Romario’s speed, control and finishing eclipsed anyone else in the world game. It was why PSV found themselves winning 3 league titles whilst Romario was at the club. He never lacked consistency either scoring 20 goals in every season he played in The Netherlands with a best record of 25 goals in 25 games in the 1990-91 season. It was why he was Eredivisie top goal scorer in 3 of his five seasons in the league as well as being named Dutch Footballer of the Year in 1989. It would be in 1993 when Romario left PSV joining Barcelona as he reached the peak of his famous career. A landmark that showed why Romario was one of the best Brazilians to ever appear in Eredivisie and European football as a whole.