Johan Neeskens

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Johan Neeskens
Johan Neeskens in 1981
Personal information
Full name Johan Neeskens
Date of birth (1951-09-15) 15 September 1951 (age 72)
Place of birth Heemstede, Netherlands
Height 1.72 m (5 ft 7+12 in)
Position(s) Midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1968–1970 RCH 68 (1)
1970–1974 Ajax 124 (33)
1974–1979 Barcelona 140 (35)
1979–1984 New York Cosmos 94 (17)
1984–1985 Groningen 7 (0)
1985 South Florida Sun 1 (1)
1985–1986 Kansas City Comets (indoor) 23 (1)
1986–1987 Löwenbrau (amateurs) 13 (5)
1987–1990 Baar 23 (5)
1990–1991 FC Zug 1 (0)
Total 494 (98)
National team
1970–1981 Netherlands 49 (17)
Teams managed
1991–1993 FC Zug
1993–1995 Stäfa
1995–1996 Singen
1995–2000 Netherlands (assistant manager)
2000–2004 NEC
2005–2006 Australia (assistant manager)
2006–2008 Barcelona (assistant manager)
2008–2009 Netherlands B
2009–2010 Galatasaray (assistant manager)
2011–2012 Mamelodi Sundowns
Men's football
Representing  Netherlands
FIFA World Cup
Runner-up 1974
Runner-up 1978
UEFA European Championship
Third place 1976
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Johan Neeskens (born 15 September 1951) is a former Dutch football player. He has played for Netherlands national team. He is considered to be one of the greatest midfielders of his generation as well as being regarded as one of the best Dutch players of all time. This is the definition that Neeskens gave for himself, which however appears too reductive. He knew how to best interpret that universality of role preached at the time in Holland: a true all-round wildcard, Neeskens was a complete and continuous player, capable of adapting to play almost anywhere on the pitch.

He possessed remarkable athletic skills thanks to which he gave support and completeness to the technical skills of his teammates. Ideal fulcrum of the midfield, with his passes and high-precision shots he enhanced the qualities of his colleagues: speed and fluidity. Neeskens perfectly expressed what Michels and Kovacs preached in the Netherlands: "a player must be complete and continuous, able to adapt to play in any area of ​​the pitch". He was also a good header and an infallible penalty taker.

His roughness came to light with the expulsion in the semi-final of the 1976 European Championships against Czechoslovakia. His determination on the pitch also made him a true leader when it was necessary to take the team by the hand in the most difficult moments of the match.

Club career[change | change source]

Raised in the RCH youth academy, at 19 he won his first Eredivisie with Ajax. From there the following year begins the great cycle of lancers who win three European Cups in a row. In recent years Neeskens stands out as "one of the best defenders of the Old Continent".

On the eve of the German World Cup Neeskens had signed for Barcelona, ​​yielding to the court of his old teacher Rinus Michels, anxious to reunite him and Cruyff. Upon his arrival he meets a Camp Nou saddened by the departure of the Peruvian Hugo Sotil due to the limit of foreigners in the team but Neeskens does not take long to become an idol of the Barça fans, not only for his qualities as a footballer but also for his willingness to identify with the club and with the Catalan nation. This combination makes him one of the most emblematic players in the history of the club. For him in Spain a King's Cup, a Cup Winners' Cup and 219 games with 53 goals. To remember in 1979 the spectacular final in Basel against Fortuna Düsseldorf ended 4-3 in extra time. It would have been his last match with the blaugrana shirt.

Like other great champions of his generation, in the late 1970s Neeskens continued his career in the North American league, with the NY Cosmos shirt. After the New York experience, he returns home to Groningen for a season. He returns again to the United States where he plays in the South Florida Sun, a United Soccer League team, with him he won the 1985 championship. In America he also plays in indoor soccer, playing in the KC Comets.

Finally, he returned to Europe to end his competitive career in Switzerland in 1991.

International career[change | change source]

A precocious talent, he made his senior international debut at the age of 19 on 11 November 1970 against East Germany. Neeskens became a star of the international firmament in 1974, participating in the 1974 FIFA World Cup. In the first group stage he scored two goals (both from penalties) in the 4-1 win against Bulgaria; in the second group stage he scored as many goals, opening the scoring against East Germany and Brazil (both ended 2-0 for the "oranje"), ultimately being much more decisive than Johan Cruijff. This last goal, scored with a precise diagonal, was celebrated in an exuberant way by the whole Dutch team. The Netherlands thus reached the final where they faced the hosts of West Germany. It was Neeskens who scored the penalty caused by a foul of Uli Hoeneß on Cruyff, giving him the advantage in the second minute of play. Despite this episode, the match will end 2-1 for the Germans. Neeskens thus closed the world championship as top scorer of the "oranje" with 5 goals, a good booty for a midfielder.

Two years later Neeskens took part in the 1976 European Championships, in which, however, his performance failed to reach the peaks of the previous world championship. The Netherlands qualified for the second round only thanks to the better goal difference than Poland. The match won against the Poles, finished 3-0, in which Neeskens opened the scoring was decisive. Also scoring in the 5-0 against Belgium in the quarter-finals, Neeskens will be sent off during the semi-final against Czechoslovakia for a bad reaction to a foul by Pollak, paving the way for his national team to be eliminated, defeat against the predictions of eve for 3-1. The oranjes will then win the final for third place in extra time without Neeskens and Cruijff who returned early to Barcelona.


At Argentina 1978 the Netherlands showed up without Cruijff, so it was up to Neeskens, Rensenbrink and Rep to lead the national team to the final which they lost 3-1 in extra time against the hosts. The Argentine Mundial was the end of a once-in-a-lifetime cycle for the oranje national team. Neeskens ended his career as his country's representative with a total of 49 competitive matches and scored 17 goals.

Club career statistics[change | change source]


Club statistics League
SeasonClubLeague AppsGoals
1968–69 Heemstede Eerste Divisie 34 0
1969–70 34 1
1970–71 Ajax Eredivisie 33 1
1971–72 28 10
1972–73 32 7
1973–74 31 15
1974–75 Barcelona La Liga 27 7
1975–76 32 12
1976–77 33 9
1977–78 18 2
1978–79 31 5
United StatesLeague
1979 New York Cosmos NASL 13 4
1980 17 4
1981 6 2
1982 17 0
1983 23 2
1984 18 5
1984–85 Groningen Eredivisie 7 0
United StatesLeague
1985–86 Minnesota Strikers
1986 Fort Lauderdale Sun
1987–88 Baar 1.Liga 9 1
1988–89 13 4
1989–90 1 0
1990–91 Zug 1.Liga 1 0
Country Netherlands 199 34
Spain 141 35
United States 104 17
Switzerland 24 5
Total 468 91

International career statistics[change | change source]


Netherlands national team
1970 2 0
1971 3 0
1972 4 5
1973 5 1
1974 13 9
1975 3 1
1976 4 1
1977 3 0
1978 8 0
1979 2 0
1980 0 0
1981 2 0
Total 49 17

Honours[change | change source]

Neeskens in 1974





References[change | change source]

  1. Strack-Zimmermann, Benjamin. "Johan Neeskens".
  2. "Johan Neeskens - International Appearances".
  3. "Johan Neeskens". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 "The Clockwork Oranje's midfield master". FIFA. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  5. "Netherlands". Archived from the original on 2020-02-11. Retrieved 2022-09-20.
  6. "FIFA World Cup All-Star Team – Football world Cup All Star Team". Archived from the original on 30 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  7. "FIFA World Cup All-Star Team – Football world Cup All Star Team". Archived from the original on 30 June 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  8. "Spain - Footballer of the Year". RSSSF.
  9. "Fifa names greatest list". BBC. 4 March 2004. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  10. "The other two Ballon d'Or Dream Team XIs: Zidane, Cruyff, Iniesta, Di Stefano... but no Casillas". MARCA. 15 December 2020. Retrieved 15 December 2020.