The would-be greatest division in world football and land of global magnetism that is the English Premier League has both hosted and fostered some of the best Dutch talents to play the game. Thrilling Premier League audiences since 1992, Dutch footballers are rarely lost in the obscurity of a long list of foreign imports in England – often forming the backbone to their national side’s continued success whilst featuring in the English top flight.
With set play superiority and individual brilliance, these are the ten greatest Dutch players of the Premier League era.
Edwin van der Sar (Fulham, 2001-05 & Manchester United, 2005-11)
Possessing all the necessary attributes of height, agility and power, 6ft 6in goalie Edwin van der Sar is one of the most complete and consistent keepers to have featured in the Premier League. A playing career of 21 years heralded numerous honours at club level as well as individual awards for the 130-cap Dutchman’s stunning saves between the posts.
The two-time European champion with Ajax and Manchester United oozed class upon his surprise move to Fulham in 2001, later winning the club’s Player of the Year trophy. His majestic form of goalkeeping proved too much for Fulham to hold onto, and van der Sar quickly established himself as an iconic Manchester United goalkeeper between 2005 and 2011.
Ruud van Nistelrooy (Manchester United, 2001-06)
Ruud van Nistelrooy – arguably the deadliest of Premier League marksmen with 95 goals in five seasons – joined a growing list of Dutch stars in the Premier League after his transfer to Old Trafford in 2001. The striker had scored goals for fun in Holland’s top two divisions with Den Bosch, Heerenveen and PSV, boasting clinical penalty box finishing as well as the pace and skill required of the modern centre forward. The Netherlands have produced few finer goalscorers – van Nistelrooy scored 36, 44 and 30 times in his first three seasons at Manchester United, winning the 2002-03 Premier League title.
Marc Overmars (Arsenal, 1997-2000)
Whilst featuring in only three Premier League campaigns, Oranje hero Marc Overmars blessed England’s top tier with world class quality. Overmars netted 41 goals in the famous red of Arsenal from the wing yet is equally well remembered as an architect on the ball due to his awareness, vision and crossing ability.
Earning 86 caps for the Netherlands, the wide man lifted the league title in his debut campaign at Highbury. From a tactical perspective, Overmars’ career was one which followed the ‘Total Football’ legacy having performed at his prime for the Champions League-winning Ajax team of the 1990s, Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal and later Barcelona – the home of Cruyff-inspired football philosophy.
Jaap Stam (Manchester United, 1998-2002)
Central defensive supremo Jaap Stam is one of the most decorated Dutch players in English football history. Born in Kampen, Stam guided Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United to three consecutive Premier League titles from the heart of the defence. Known for his tough defending and dependability, the esteemed Holland international also excelled with his composure and passing range and remains one of the most feared opponents in the Premier League era.
Arjen Robben (Chelsea, 2004-07)
In spite of an injury-hit three years in West London, Arjen Robben’s iconic wizardry from the wing was first brought to international recognition in the English Premier League. With many millions watching worldwide, the Dutch star won all notable domestic honours at Chelsea – including two consecutive Premier League trophies between 2004 and 2006.
Robben – the Netherlands’ joint fourth highest goalscorer of all time – found the net 19 times in 106 appearances for the Blues. His development at Stamford Bridge was noted by Europe’s finest, later signing for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in high profile transfers.
Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal, 1995-2006)
With one of the longest and most memorable stints in English football of any Dutch footballer, any nostalgic Premier League highlights reel invariably contains some of Dennis Bergkamp’s enchanting Arsenal displays. A Gunner between 1995 and 2006 after his move from Inter Milan, the forward’s revolutionary intelligence on the ball brought the Premier League into the 21st century with extreme promise.
Deployed out wide, as a second striker and even in the centre forward position, Bergkamp’s versatile skillset was at the heart of Arsenal’s most successful period in recent history. The free-kick specialist and all-round talisman is a three-time winner of the Premier League, as well as lifting four FA Cups and earning a Champions League runners-up medal in 2006.
The legacy of the “Non-Flying Dutchman” was marked with a statue outside the Emirates Stadium in 2014.
Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool, 2006-12)
In a career which included 104 Holland caps and cult hero status at Feyenoord, Dirk Kuyt spent his best years in England with Liverpool. Transferred from the Eredivisie in 2006, the striker-turned-winger was a regular goalscorer on Merseyside, hitting double figures in five out of his six Premier League campaigns. Before departing for Turkey in 2012, the Dutchman won his only honour with Liverpool – the 2011-12 League Cup, as Kuyt scored in extra time and in the penalty shootout to bid farewell to English football in excellent form.
Robin van Persie (Arsenal, 2004-12 & Manchester United, 2012-15)
Born in Rotterdam, made in North London – Robin van Persie arrived in the Premier League in 2004 with a remarkably quick breakthrough, scoring ten times for Arsenal. The kid from Rotterdam later ended his 8-year stay with the Gunners in first class scoring form, netting 37 times in 48 matches to add weight to a growing reputation in European football.
Now viewed as the most recent truly world class Dutch striker, van Persie’s 13th place finish in the Premier League’s all-time scoring charts was headlined by his seasons either side of his divisive move to Manchester United in 2012. Desperate for silverware, van Persie’s 30-goal haul for United granted his wish as he finally earned a league winner’s medal in the 2012-13 season.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (Leeds United, 1997-99, Chelsea, 2000-04, Middlesbrough, 2004-06 & Charlton Athletic, 2006-07)
Although a quick glance at Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s playing career would generate the status of something of a journeyman striker having travelled around Europe from Portugal to Cardiff, the one-time goalkeeper remains in Premier League folklore as a supreme goalscorer.
Coupling speed with an eye for goal, Hasselbaink endeared himself to Leeds United fans with 42 goals in only two seasons at Elland Road. The former Oranje forward’s strike rate is all the more impressive given he made his Premier League bow at the age of 25, later remaining the focal point of Chelsea’s forward line up to his 32nd birthday. Forever adored in SW6, a Hasselbaink hat-trick in the Blues’ 4-0 thumping of Tottenham Hotspur in 2002 was one of a number of all-action displays which ensured Chelsea fans would be singing the Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink song for years to come.
Following the end of his Chelsea contract in 2004, Hasselbaink added a further 24 Premier League goals to his name with Middlesbrough and Charlton.
Virgil van Dijk (Southampton, 2015-18 & Liverpool, 2018-present)
The Premier League’s most imposing Dutch central defender since Jaap Stam, Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk has perfected the art of defending and was rewarded with the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year award in 2019 for his eye-catching performances in England. Van Dijk is able to link his side’s play from the back, dutifully directing the play away from his goalkeeper and towards the opposition half with technique and calmness.
A standout with Southampton, the ex-Celtic stopper became a champion of Europe and the world in 2019 as Liverpool won the Champions League and Club World Cup. Sustaining his stellar form for club and country is the next target for van Dijk, who has featured in more than 150 Premier League matches to date.