Patrick Kluivert

Patrick Kluivert

Imagine the transfer fee for this quarter, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger, and Winston Bogarde in their prime, in 1996 and 1997.

European giants AC Milan had a watchful eye on the 4 Ajax players and got them in the space of 2 consecutive summers in 1996 & 97. And how much did they pay for the superstars? Absolutely nothing, bar a nominal fee for Kluivert due to his age. Outrageous, but that was the Bosman ruling for you, and Ajax could do nothing about it.

Michael Reiziger, Edgar Davids, and Patrick Kluivert were homegrown talents, whereas Winston Bogarde had been bought in from Sparta Rotterdam in 1994. It was the former two that made the move first, in 1996 to the reigning Italian champions. The latter two followed a season later but should have seen the warning signs.

Whilst at AC Milan Davids played only 15 games in his debut season, and Reiziger 5 fewer. Within 12 months, Reiziger, a right-back, was gone, and 6 months behind him so was Davids. Reiziger headed to Barcelona whilst Davids, the tenacious midfielder chanced his luck again in Italy, with Juventus.

Then in the summer of 1997, Kluivert and Bogarde moved to the San Siro. Whilst Bogarde was a decent enough left-sided central defender, it was Kluivert who was catching everyone’s attention, for good and bad reasons.

He had of course scored the winning goal in the 1995 Champions League final, against Milan, at just 18 years old (the youngest to do so). For the 3 seasons, he was at Ajax, he was the clubs leading goal scorer in the league. In the last season, it was only 6 goals in the league (joint with Jari Litmanen) but was heavily interrupted by injury.  The previous year, amidst a great deal of controversy, Kluivert had caused death by dangerous driving, in a borrowed car. His punishment was community service. 

Kluivert and Bogarde’s success in Milan was the same as their previous Dutch colleague’s attempts. Woeful. Kluivert managed 27 games in the league at least but only returned 6 goals. Bogarde never even started a league game for the club, just 3 substitute appearances.  In 1998, just a year after their move, both were shipped off to join Reiziger at Barcelona, where Kluivert faired the best of them.

Davids found his form again at Juventus, winning league titles, as did the trio in Barcelona.

Davids eventually played at Barcelona, in 2004, alongside Reiziger and Kluivert during a loan spell.

As well as all playing at Ajax, Milan, and Barcelona, all four players also had spells in the Premier League, albeit hardly going down in history as major successes. Reiziger at Middlesbrough, Davids at Tottenham Hotspur, Kluivert at Newcastle United, and of course Bogarde at Chelsea where he stayed for four seasons, managing a total of 11 appearances whilst on a reported £70,000 per week.

It is Kluivert, perhaps out of the 4 that leaves the greatest legacy, career-wise.

As well as Ajax, Milan, Barca, and Newcastle, he also spent time at Valencia, PSV, and a spell at Lille in France. No mean feet having played (and scoring) in the Eredivisie, Serie A, La Liga, the Premier League, and Ligue 1. 

Replacing Sonny Anderson at Barcelona, and under the tutelage of Louis van Gaal once again, Kluivert performed admirably at the Nou Camp, forming a terrific partnership with Brazilian Rivaldo. Rivaldo quite often grabbed the headlines, but Kluivert consistently fired in the goals for the Catalan club. In his 6 seasons at the club, he scored 122 goals in 257 games across all competitions. This measured up nicely to his record at Ajax (53 goals in 101 games). Goals, and indeed consistency dried up soon after leaving Barcelona, and his spell at his last four clubs were only a season long each before he retired in 2008.

Other than at Ajax and Barca, it was at the international level with The Netherlands where perhaps Kluivert shone the brightest. 

Memories of his 2 goals at Anfield in 1995, against the Republic of Ireland to secure qualification to Euro 96, and a World Cup Semi-Final goal against Brazil in 1998 are just some of Kluivert’s achievements with the ‘Oranje.’

Perhaps Kluivert’s greatest time with the national team was in the Holland (joint) hosted European Championships in 2000. 

3 wins out of 3 in the group stages, with Kluivert contributing with 2 goals put Holland firmly in the favourites category, what with home advantage, and the small matter of beating World Champions France in the last group game. 

Then the quarter-finals, and a 4-goal haul for Kluviert in a 6-1 win over Yugoslavia. I love the fact his second goal was set up by Edgar Davids, as was his first against Ireland at Anfield, some 5 years later. The 4th goal, sadly for Kluivert was chalked off, so he had to make do with a hat-trick. The 90th-minute consolation for Yugoslavia was knocked in by Savo Milosevic, his 5th goal in 4 games in the competition, which tied him level with Kluviert at the top of the scoring charts in the tournament. 

The semi-final was a match-up between Holland and Italy. The Amsterdam ArenA was a sea of Orange. The first advantage went to Holland, as Italy were down to 10 men after only 34 minutes and a penalty to take the lead. Frank De Boer missed, and Italy looked to shut up shop. Into the second half, Holland was awarded another penalty. This time Kluivert stepped up, confident to stroke in his 6th of the campaign. The Dutch striker sold the Toldo, the Italian goalkeeper the wrong way, but his side-footed penalty struck the foot of the post and come back out. Italy had what it took to hold on, and as a penalty shootout loomed, there was to be only one winner. 

The consolation for Kluivert was winning the top scorer award, joint with Milosevic. Kluivert was subbed after 60 minutes of the Yugoslavia game. That, and the missed penalty, you can’t help but think that would frustrate the hell out of a goalscorer not to have secured that honour on his own.

The Dutch kit in the Euro 2000 is exactly how their national team kit should be. Bright orange, with black trim, and black shorts. The sight of Kluivert, Bergkamp, Davids, and alike in those colour combinations is the reason the Dutch kits are so good. 

There is a very special Netherlands 2000-02 shirt on the RFS website, a match issue from a friendly game against Turkey in February 2001, adorning the Kluivert ‘9’ name set. Check it out, it even has the country’s flags embroidered on the chest. 

To end it is worth just noting that the 1995 Ajax team that Kluivert shone for was incredibly special, and in fact, the Dutch team that lost in 2000 to Italy featured 6 of the players from the 1995 Champions League final win. F. De Boer, Overmars, van der Sar, Seedorf, Davids and of course Kluivert. Of course, money talks, but the likes of Milan (and others) ripping that team apart robbed us of potentially one of the greatest teams ever. It shouldn’t be forgotten, in the 1994/95 season, not only did Ajax with the Champions League, and their domestic league, they did it by not losing a single game in either of the competitions. For that, we make those players truly outstanding, and that includes Patrick Kluivert.

Blog by Stan Stanger, avid football fan and football shirt collector.  Follow me on Twitter @10Stan1981 and visit my website at 

https://thehalfwayline.org

 

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