Soccer is by far the most popular sport in the Netherlands. It’s practiced by thousands of people, both at an amateur and professional level. The Netherlands has achieved multiple successes in international football, as a club, and with the national team. But what’s actually the best football club in the Netherlands? As a big football enthusiast, I’ll explain that to you in this blog!
The most successful soccer club in the Netherlands is Ajax. Ajax has won the national title 35 times and won various international prizes. For example, Ajax won the Champions League 4 times and the EuropaCup ll once. Because of this, you can say that Ajax is the best soccer club in the Netherlands.
There’s of course much more to be told about Ajax and Dutch football. What successes did the club achieve exactly, and what else are they known for? You can read all about it in this blog.
Football is a sensitive subject for many people in the Netherlands, something I can confirm as a big football enthusiast. It’s especially true when we talk about a subject like this because everyone of course thinks his or her favorite soccer club is the best.
I’ll therefore completely put aside my own club preference while writing this blog. The fairest and best way to answer the question “what is the best soccer team in the Netherlands?” is by purely looking at the statistics and facts. That way, there's no room to argue with the outcome of this article, as the results from the past don't lie.
When we purely look at the results achieved in the past, you could conclude that Ajax Amsterdam is the best football club in the Netherlands. They’ve clearly won the most awards, both nationally and internationally.
Of course, the results achieved in the past don’t say anything about the future. However, even nowadays Ajax is still at the top of Dutch football and the club is labeled by many football experts as an absolute title favorite prior to the start of each new season. This isn’t without a reason, since Ajax has won the national title 5 times in the last ten years.
Even when we look at the most recent international performances of Dutch clubs, Ajax stands out. In 2017, Ajax managed to reach the finals of the Europa League and made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019.
These are very good performances for Dutch clubs, as the income of Dutch clubs is way behind compared to the income of the big clubs from the European top.
Now, you naturally want to know why exactly Ajax is the best football team in the Netherlands, and which prizes the club has won in the past. That’s why I’ll list all of Ajax's successes below for you.
All prizes by Ajax Amsterdam:
|35 x Eredivisie (national champion):|
|1918, 1919, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1937, 1939, 1947, 1957, 1960, 1966, 1967,|
1968, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1990, 1994,
1995, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2021
|20 x KNVB Beker (national cup):|
|1917, 1943, 1960, 1967, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1979, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1993,|
1998, 1999, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2019, 2021
|9 x Johan Cruijff Schaal (national supercup):|
|1993, 1994, 1995, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013, 2019|
|2 x World Cup for clubs:|
|3 x European Supercup:|
|1972, 1973, 1995|
|4 x Europacup I / Champions League:|
|1971, 1972, 1973, 1995|
|1 x UEFA Cup:|
|1 x Europacup II:|
|1 x Intertotocup:|
As you can see, Ajax has won an enormous amount of prizes throughout the existence of the club. With this, Ajax clearly trumps the league and we can say that Ajax is the best and most successful football club in the Netherlands.
Ajax is a club with a wonderful history and a huge trophy cabinet. It’s, therefore, no surprise that the club has produced some great players. Some of these players also come from Ajax's own youth academy. Ajax's youth academy has a lot of international prestige because of the quality of training and the production of great talents.
Some of the best players in Ajax history:
Due to the many successes achieved by Ajax, it’s logical that they’re also one of the most famous Dutch soccer clubs internationally. But what’s Ajax known for exactly on an international level?
Below I’ll address the most important things Ajax Amsterdam is known for.
In the early 70s, Ajax was one of the best football teams in the world. Led by no other than Rinus Michels, the Amsterdam club won multiple big international prizes.
Of course, winning these prizes was already an achievement on its own, but it was especially the way how it was done that got them the attention. It was the start of what is now known as “total football”.
This new way was introduced by Ajax coach Rinus Michels and put the way football was played at that time into an entirely new perspective. Where before players remained in their own position, they were now constantly swapping positions. This led to much more dynamic play, and it became harder for the opponents to defend.
After the great successes achieved through this new way of playing, Rinus Michels left. He became the coach of the Dutch national team and won the European Championship with this team in 1974. This definitely put the term “total football” on the map.
Whoever says Ajax, is actually also saying Johan Cruyff. Johan Cruyff is of course the best Dutch football player ever, as well as one of the best football players ever in the world.
Ajax owes a lot to Johan Cruyff, and that’s mutual of course. Together, they have achieved many successes and won many awards. For instance, as a player of Ajax, Cruyff won the EuropaCup I three times and together they became national champions an astonishing eight times.
In total, Johan Cruyff would be under contract at Ajax for twelve seasons. After his playing career, Cruyff would return to Ajax to get started as a coach.
This would also become a great success, and several prizes were won by Johan Cruyff and Ajax. After this, Cruyff had even greater successes as a coach of FC Barcelona, among others.
Long after his coaching career, Cruyff once again returned to Ajax in 2011, this time as an advisor of the club. Ajax had a lesser period in the years before and sought its way up. Johan Cruyff eventually managed to get Ajax back on track with his football philosophy and a clear course was mapped out to achieve new successes in the future.
Cruyff’s vision was mainly focused on training youth players. He believed that youth education had to be professionalized and that Ajax should train future players from an early age to become new star players.
Ajax still largely pursues this policy today, leading Johan Cruyff to still have an impact on his club, Ajax Amsterdam, even after his death (24-03-16).
Because Johan Cruyff has meant so much to Ajax, the club decided in 2018 to name the stadium where the club plays after Cruyff. From the 2018/2019 season, the Ajax stadium will therefore be called the "Johan Cruijff ArenA".
The Johan Cruyff Arena, home to Ajax Amsterdam:
In the Dutch league, people often speak of the "traditional top 3" or the "big three" of the Netherlands. This refers to the three clubs that collectively have won the most national championships and generally compete for the national championship.
When we talk about the archenemy of Ajax, we’re talking about Feyenoord from Rotterdam. The rivalry between these two teams goes far back in time and is also the battle between the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
It’s mainly the fanatic fans of both clubs hating on one another. In the past, this has even led to fights between both supporter groups, which at one point resulted in a death.
The enormous tensions between the supporters of both clubs have led to no supporters of the visiting club being welcome during matches between Ajax and Feyenoord. This has been decided by the mayors and police of both cities.
If we compare the performances of both clubs, we see that Ajax is way more successful than Feyenoord. Although Feyenoord has also won some major European prizes in the past, the club from Rotterdam has slipped down quite a bit on the European level in the last two decades.
In the Dutch league, Feyenoord is not the biggest threat to Ajax either. For example, the Rotterdammers only won the national championship 15x, as opposed to Ajax's 35x.
From a sporty perspective, PSV from Eindhoven is Ajax's biggest competitor. This is also the club that has won the most national championships after Ajax, which is 24x.
After Ajax, PSV is the club that has left behind the greatest impression internationally in recent years. If we look at the Dutch league, PSV is also Ajax's biggest threat. In the past ten years, Ajax managed to win the national championship 5x, meanwhile, PSV succeeded 3x.
The matches between Ajax and PSV are also a lot less loaded than the matches between Ajax and Feyenoord. At Ajax and PSV, it’s often about the sporting performance between both teams, while at Ajax and Feyenoord there’s more prestige between the two.
PSV also has the largest budget for each season after Ajax, which means they have the financial means to make it difficult for Ajax in the Dutch league in the future.
Read one of our following blogs if you are interested in Dutch sport.
Unfortunately, the Dutch league is not one of the largest competitions in Europe. I hope that through this article I’ve been able to give you a better picture of which teams in the Netherlands are competing for the prizes. In addition, I hope to have answered the question “what is the best football team in the Netherlands?”.