Edgar Davids: The Pitbull

dutch midfielder edgar davids

Player Profile: Edgar Davids

Date of Birth: 13/3/1973

Height: 1.69 m

Position: Defensive Midfielder 

National Team: The Netherlands

International Caps: 74

International Goals: 6

Edgar Davids donned glasses, wore dreads and bullied opposing midfielders. He was solid, tough in the tackle and excellent on the ball. He was one of the greatest Dutch players of all time, and there’s been some belters. His tenacity earned him the nickname Pitbull and, as you’d expect, he was an absolute nightmare to play against. 

Born in Suriname, Edgar Davids moved to the Netherlands at an early age. He spent the majority of his childhood playing football on the streets and freestyling. Both would shape his style of play which was a combination of silky skills, exquisite touch, incredible work rate, strength, balance, pace and power. 

Davids was the complete midfielder with the ability to play a number of roles. Box to box midfielder? No worries, he had the engine to get up and down the pitch with ease. Holding midfielder? Easy. He was disciplined, with a fantastic footballing brain and sense of positioning.

Club Career

Despite failing to impress Ajax on two trials prior, Davids was signed by the Dutch giants at the third time of asking, joining their prestigious Academy at the age of 12.

Davids made his first-team debut at the age of 18 and was part of a golden generation as the Amsterdam based club won the UEFA Cup in 91/92, a hat-trick of league titles between 94 and 96 and the UEFA Champions League in 94/95. A year later Ajax reached the Champions League Final once again but failed to defend their crown losing to Juventus on penalties with Davids missing Ajax’s first spot-kick in the shootout.

During his first spell at Ajax, Davids made 154 appearances and scored 31 goals in all competitions.

His excellent form soon attracted the attention of Europe’s elite, and in 1996 he moved to Italy where he joined AC Milan. However, his time at the San Siro was short-lived after failing to establish himself as a first-team regular. As a result, Pitbull was on the move again in December 1997, swapping the Rossoneri for rivals Juventus. The Dutchman was bought for £5.3million, which turned out to be one hell of a bargain.

Davids soon cemented his place in the Old Lady starting 11. Switching from the left flank to the middle of the park where he formed a formidable partnership with a certain Zinedine Zidane. Zizou’s passing ability and creativity paired with Davids’ hustle and bustle provided Juventus with an effective midfield duo. Juve manager Marcello Lippi once described Davids as a ‘one man engine room’ in reference to the Dutchman’s incredible fitness levels.

Six successful years in Turin saw Davids win 3 Scudettos and 2 Supercoppa Italia trophies. He also helped the club reach two Champions League finals in 1998 and 2003, losing the latter to former side Milan on penalties.

The 03/04 season was one of transition for Juventus and after six years at the club, Davids found himself surplus to requirements. In January 2004 he joined Barcelona on loan for the remainder of the season and was an instant hit. 

On arrival, the Catalans were stuck in mid-table and managed by Frank Rijkaard, who was under serious pressure to turn things around. The arrival of his fellow countryman Davids is often cited as the club’s turning point in their recent history.

The Dutchman led Barça’s resurgence, helping them finish the season second behind eventual winners Valencia. Davids spent just five months in Spain before returning to Italy. But his influence should not be underestimated. Helping to lay the foundations for one of the greatest teams of all time.

Following his success in Spain Davids secured a controversial move to Inter, where he put pen to paper on a three-year contract. Back in the San Siro but this time in black and blue the Dutchman found first-team minutes few and far between. And after just 14 league appearances the Nerazzurri decided to cut their losses by cancelling the midfielder’s contract with two years remaining.

The less said about his two stints in Milan the better.

As a free agent, Davids was highly sought after with several European clubs keen to capture his signature. In the end, he opted for a new challenge, moving to England where he signed for Tottenham Hotspur linking up with compatriot Martin Jol.

Davids spent two years at White Hart Lane making 44 appearances in all competitions and bagged his only goal in a 2-1 Premier League win over Wigan. During the 2006/07 season, Davids found himself well down the midfield pecking order and in January received an offer he simply could not refuse; a return to Ajax, his boyhood club. Without hesitation, Davids left Tottenham and returned to the Netherlands where he received a hero’s welcome.

Back in his homeland Davids was back to his best and was ever-present in the Ajax starting eleven. He scored the decisive penalty in the KNVB Cup Final to secure Ajax another piece of silverware but could do nothing to prevent rivals PSV getting their hands on the league title on the final day of the 2006/07 season.

During the 2007/08 preseason, Davids suffered a nasty leg break and subsequently missed the majority of the season. In May 2008, after just 14 league appearances that season, Davids announced he’d be leaving the club once again when his contract ended that summer.

After 18 months without a club, Davids finally returned to club football, signing English Championship side Crystal Palace in August 2010. Less than three months later he was on the move again. Saying his time at the club was “one of the greatest experiences of my life.” Yep. Strange. But it didn’t stop there.

The Dutchman’s career took yet another weird and wonderful twist two years later when he was approached by League Two outfit Barnet to take over as their Player-Manager. In December 2012 he accepted the offer and it was the start of an eventful two years at the club.

On arrival Davids weirdly handed himself the number 1 shirt, which is of course traditionally worn by goalkeepers. Stating he wanted “to set a new trend.” But I think it’s fair to say it didn’t catch on. The quirks and controversies didn’t stop there, though. He also refused to travel to any away games which required an overnight stay. Yeah, weird.

During his first full season in charge, Davids made 28 league appearances, but he couldn’t do enough to prevent the club from dropping out of the football league. 

Conference football was a far cry from his Juve days. And in truth it was a complete disaster for the Dutchman. He received a booking in each of his first eight league games, along with three red cards and in January 2014 he unsurprisingly stepped down from his role as Player-Manager.

International Career

Despite not winning a major trophy during his eleven-year international career, Davids was a key figure for the Flying Dutchmen making 74 appearances, scoring six goals. His exceptional passing, athleticism and ball-winning capabilities helped the Netherlands to become one of the best teams in world football. 

Davids’ performances at the 1998 World Cup earned him a place in the official FIFA Team Of The Tournament. The Flying Dutchmen eventually finished fourth overall. Two years later and Davids continued to shine, this time on home soil, putting in a string of top-class performances at Euro 2000, which the Dutch co-hosted with neighbours Belgium.

In 2004 Marco van Basten was appointed Netherlands manager and he instantly handed the captain’s armband to Davids. However limited game time for Inter meant he was soon relieved of his duties.

Davids played his last international match for the Oranje in 2005, retiring with 6 goals in his 74 caps.

Where is Edgar Davids now?

After his failed stint as Player-Manager of Barnet, Davids re-entered football when he was appointed assistant coach of Eerste Divisie club Telstar in 2020.

He also runs a football-inspired fashion label called Monta Soccer.

Did you know?

– Davids wore the famous tinted goggles after undergoing surgery for glaucoma in 1999. He was granted special permission by FIFA to wear the goggles during matches, and they fast become his signature style.

– He featured on the cover of the FIFA 2003 video game

– The midfielder was briefly suspended by FIFA in 1999 after tested positive for nandrolone a banned anabolic steroid.

– He appeared in a few Nike commercials during his playing time including the famous “Good vs Evil” and “Secret Tournament” campaigns. 

– Davids took the developers of video game League of Legends to courts and won for imitation likeness in the game without his permission.