By Brian Homewood
ZURICH (Reuters) – Foreign clubs are stunting Dutch talent by signing players at a young age and then placing them in youth and reserve teams, former Netherlands player Johan Neeskens told Reuters in an interview.
Neeskens said he believed the Dutch side would quickly emerge from its rut after failing to qualify for last two tournaments — Euro 2016 and next year’s World Cup. But he was alarmed at the way in which the country’s young talent is being wasted.
“The rich clubs are always looking for good young players, they offer them a good contract, they offer the mum and dad
a job, they give them a house and of course the player goes,” he said after taking part in an event at the FIFA Museum.
“Maybe they have never seen so much money in their life — but is this maybe not good for the future for the young player.”
Neeskens, a tireless midfielder who played a key role in the so-called Total Football played by Dutch teams in the 1970s, won the old European Cup three times in a row as a player in a memorable Ajax Amsterdam led by the late Johan Cruyff.
Those days are just distant past for Dutch clubs, however. Unable to compete financially with their English, Spanish and German counterparts, who benefit from lucrative domestic television deals, Dutch clubs now act as a supplier of talent for the bigger leagues.
“The problem is that, after moving, the player does not go into the first team, he is maybe in the youth or the
reserve team,” said Neeskens
“You don’t see him playing any more at the highest level and that is waste…. We are losing our talents and that is also not a good case for football in our country.”
“There are young kids like (Memphis) Depay, who went to Manchester United where he was hardly playing, so then he could not play in the national team. You also have Davy Klaassen who left Ajax Amsterdam as captain…. He went to Everton and he’s not even playing.”
Neeskens added: “It’s right when nowadays big clubs pay over 200 million euros ($235.52 million) for one player — a lot of clubs who play lower down the first division in Holland spend maybe 10 or 15 million a year, and that’s for the whole team.”
After reaching the World Cup final in 2010 and the semi-finals three years ago, the Dutch national side failed to qualify for both Euro 2016 and next year’s World Cup in Russia.
Neeskens, however, believes that it was no more than a temporary glitch, blaming it on a sudden change of players in the team.
“The problem is that we lost so many experienced players at the same time,” he said. “But we have always been producing good players, from the youth academies of Ajax, from Feyenoord, from PSV.”
Neeskens said he was not a fan of the current Champions League.
“I don’t think it’s right that national champions from one country have to play extra matches to get into the Champions League while the number four in another country goes straight in,” he said.
He was also startled by how one-sided matches had begun.
“In my day, you could not win 7-0 away from home, you would be happy to win 1-0 or 2-1 but now the difference is so big.
“Only the rich teams can play, they get stronger, and the average teams get weaker and weaker – and that is not good for the competition.”
($1 = 0.8492 euros)
(Writing by Brian Homewood Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)