Michael Bell looks at why Robin van Persie’s move from Manchester United to Fenerbahce ends a 30-year spell at the top of European football for Dutch marksmen. 

rvp fenerIn the early eighties Marco van Basten burst onto the scene at Ajax and went onto become one of the greatest striker’s to ever grace the game, winning back to back European Cups with AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, while picking up the Ballon d-Or trophy three times.

The exceptional striker was forced to retire due to injuries in 1995, but Van Basten was the beginning of a cycle which saw at least one prolific Dutch forward represent a major European club each season since he debuted for AC Milan in 1987. Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Ruud van Nistelrooy and Roy Makaay all carried on Van Basten’s legacy while winning title after title for clubs such as Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. All four played at the top of the game, along with the likes of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and provided inspiration to the next generation that included Klaas jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie.

Huntelaar was prolific for Ajax and earned a big money move to Real Madrid, but failed to make his mark in Spain, and after an unsuccessful period at AC Milan, he has found his level at Schalke. However Van Persie proved to be an exceptional forward in the Premier League, scoring 132 goals for Arsenal in eight years before joining Manchester United in 2012. His first season at Old Trafford saw Van Persie finish Premier League top scorer and lift the league trophy for the first time.

Sadly the now 31-year-old has been forced out of Manchester United after struggling to find his form over the past two seasons, and with his exit from Old Trafford to the unglamorous Turkish Super-Lig, the legacy started by Van Basten nearly thirty years ago is set to be over with no Dutch striker currently representing a major club.

What of the future?

Although Bas Dost was on fire for Wolfsburg at the end  of last season, that was the highlight of a difficult few seasons for the 26-year-old and he is unlikely to reach the top of the game, while Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Luuk de Jong have struggled to live up to early promise.

At U21 level Netherlands rely on Vincent Janssen, who joined AZ this summer, but is only tested at second division level, while Jurgen Locadia is looking to leave PSV after lack of minutes. Richairo Zivkovic is the biggest prospect coming through at the moment, but the 18-year-old who burst into the Groningen first team two seasons ago before joining Ajax, has been loaned to Willem II this season after problems with his attitude.

Even at U19 and U18 level Netherlands look short of a deadly forward, and it is starting to become a worry that the Oranje may suffer a striker drought for the next few years.

Midfielders, wingers, and even defenders are being produced at a rapid rate in the Eredivisie, and snapped by foreign clubs, but it may be a while before we see the likes of Bergkamp, Van Persie or Van Basten grace the top clubs of Europe again.


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