Since 1984 the Dutch Footballer of the Year Award has been handed out to a number of talented professionals who clearly enjoyed life in the Netherlands.
The winner is chosen every year by a poll of Dutch professional footballers who are playing in the Eredivisie and Dutch second division. The league is well-known for producing a variety of talent ranging from potential world-beaters and capable Champions League attendees to one-league-wonders and bigger league bottle jobs.
Analysing just how the winners of the coveted DFOTY award have fared since they were handed the prestigious honour (which in case you were wondering is in the shape of golden football boot), leads to a mixed bag of well-known names – often for the wrong reasons. Of course, some will have gone on to conquer the world, whereas others have continued to maintain a steady career. The rest, you will struggle to believe ever did anything good with a football but the facts are there for us to see and the shiny shoe will certainly lay on each of the players’ mantelpieces.
Prior to the winners over the last 15 years, we have seen names such as Cristian Chivu, Marc Overmars, Mark van Bommel and Johann Vogel, but here are the Dutch Football of the Year winners since the 2005/06 season.
2005/06: Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord)
Career path: Utrecht, Feyenoord, Liverpool, Fenerbahce, Feyenoord
Current side: Retired
After spending the early days of his career at Utrecht, Dirk Kuyt signed for Feyenoord in 2003 and quickly established himself as first-team material. An instant fan favourite, the Dutch international scored 98 goals in 147 games for the Rotterdam-based side and finished as the Eredivisie top goalscorer during his second year with the club.
He was handed the captaincy for the 2005/06 season and once again performed excellently, forming a deadly partnership with former Chelsea winger Salomon Kalou – nicknamed the K2. He picked up the Dutch Footballer of the Year award at the end of the season and subsequently signed for Liverpool in the summer.
2006/07: Afonso Alves (Heerenveen)
Career path: Atletico Mineiro, Orgryte, Malmo FF, Heerenveen, Middlesbrough, Al Sadd, Al Rayyan (loan), Al Rayyan, Al Gharafa
Current side: Retired
Ok, now bare with us. Yes, the winner of the Dutch Footballer of the Year following the 2006/07 Eredivisie season was Afonso Alves.
The only way you’re going to be able to get through this is if you remove his Middlesbrough Premier League form from your mind. Ok? Gone? Right, the Brazilian international (yep, that happened as well) averaged more than a goal-a-game ratio during his days at Heerenveen. He signed for the Dutch club from Malmo in 2006 and finished as the Eredivisie top goalscorer in his first season, subsequently winning the prestigious award. He was the third Brazilian to finish as top goalscorer joining the likes of Ronaldo and Romario.
After joining such iconic compatriots, Alves must have been destined for great things? In January 2008 Alves moved to Middlesbrough. Ok, you’re back in the room.
2007/08: John Heitinga (Ajax)
Career path: Ajax, Atletico Madrid, Everton, Fulham, Hertha BSC, Ajax
Current side: Retired
You didn’t get many players as warrior-esque as John Heitinga. The talented defender started his career at Ajax advancing through the academy and enjoying a seven-year period at the club.
Adored by the Ajax fans Heitinga left the club on a high after winning the Dutch Footballer of the Year award at the end of the 2007-08 season before moving to the Premier League to sign for Everton. He was the Toffee’s Player of the Year during the 2011/12 season, two years after playing in a World Cup final for the Netherlands.
2008/09: Mounir El Hamdaoui (AZ)
Career path: Excelsior, Tottenham Hotspur, Derby County (loan), Willem II, AZ, Fiorentina, Malaga (loan), AZ, Umm Salal, Al-Taawon FC, FC Twente, Excelsior, Al-Kharaitiyat, DHSC Utrecht
Current side: DHSC Utrecht
Mounir El Hamdaoui was a true football success story. After spending time at four other clubs including Tottenham Hotspur, Derby County and Willem II he signed for AZ Alkmaar in 2007 and went on to become an integral part of their side.
During the 2008/09 Eredivisie season, the Dutch-born forward, who opted to play for Morocco, was named Dutch Footballer of the Year as AZ won their second-ever domestic league title and he finished as the league’s top goalscorer. He left the club in 2010 and signed for Ajax but after just one season he moved to Fiorentina before rejoining AZ in 2015. Nowadays he plies his trade at amatuer Dutch side DHSC Utrecht whom he joined in October after enjoying a spell with Qatari outfit Al-Kharaitiyat.
2009/10: Luis Suarez (Ajax)
Played for: Nacional, Groningen, Ajax, Liverpool, Barcelona, Atlético Madrid
Current side: Atlético Madrid
We think this boy might have done alright since leaving Ajax? Luis Suarez moved from Groningen to the Dutch club in 2007 and spent four years in the capital, scoring 111 goals in 158 games.
The Uruguayan finished as the 2009/10 Eredivisie top goalscorer, netting 35 goals in 33 games and stretching to 49 in all competitions. He was also named Ajax Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
Suarez signed for Liverpool in January 2011 and continued his excellent form in England, scoring 82 goals in 133 games. At the end of the 2013/14 season (which Liverpool should have really won) Suarez left the club and signed for Barcelona, where he has already won a number of titles including the Champions League and once formed a prolific goalscoring connection with Lionel Messi and Neymar.
After registering 198 goals across 283 outings for the Catalan giants he’d left the Camp Nou for Atlético Madrid last summer.
2010/11: Theo Janssen (FC Twente)
Played for: Vitesse, Genk (loan), FC Twente, Ajax, Vitesse
Current side: Retired
After spending 10 years at Vitesse, Theo Janssen signed for FC Twente in 2008 and was an integral part of the 2009/10 side that won the Dutch First Division.
He enjoyed his best season the following year when he scored 20 goals in 46 appearances, making him the club’s top goalscorer, and earned the respect of the fans due to his goalscoring performances in the Champions League against the likes of Inter Milan and Werder Bremen. He subsequently picked up the Dutch Footballer of the Year at the end of the campaign despite Twente finishing in second place behind Ajax.
Janssen moved to Ajax at the end of the season but was largely played out of position and soon returned to Vitesse where he would hang up his boots.
2011/12: Jan Vertonghen (Ajax)
Played for: Ajax, RKC Waalwijk (loan), Tottenham, Benfica
Current side: Benfica
A product of the impressive Ajax academy Jan Vertonghen signed a professional deal with the club in 2006 and spent a successful six years at the club. He burst onto the scene during the 2008/09 season after John Heitinga left Ajax to sign for Atletico Madrid and the Belgium international filled the void he left behind.
After continuing to develop under Martin Jol it was the arrival of Frank De Boer that saw Vertonghen fully develop into a finished article. Named captain by the Dutchman, the centre-back emerged as one of Ajax’s key players and his versatility to play anywhere across the back four or as a defensive midfielder doubled his importance. De Boer’s side went on to win the Dutch title and Vertonghen was named as the Dutch Footballer of the Year.
2012/13: Wilfried Bony (Vitesse)
Played for: Issia Wazi, Sparta Prague, Vitesse, Swansea City, Manchester City, Stoke City (loan), Swansea City, Al-Arabi (loan), Al-Ittihad
Current side: Unattached
Wilfried Bony signed for Vitesse from Sparta Prague and went on to score 58 goals in 77 games for the club. A prolific goalscorer with excellent strength and a velvet first touch he became the club’s integral striker, finishing with 12 goals in his first Eredivisie season.
He finished as the league’s top goalscorer during the 2012/13 campaign scoring 31 goals in 30 matches and helping Vitesse to a fourth-placed finish. He left the club at the end of the season and signed for Premier League side Swansea where he once again flourished as the side’s main centre forward, scoring 35 goals in 70 appearances. In January 2015, Bony earned his big move to Manchester City but despite showing flashes of excellence, he was largely used from the substitutes bench. He’s now a free agent following a spell with Al-Ittihad in Saudi Arabia.
2013/14: Daley Blind (Ajax)
Played for: Ajax, Groningen (loan), Manchester United, Ajax
Current side: Ajax
Daley Blind played as Ajax’s main defensive central midfielder during the 2013-14 season and performed brilliantly as Frank De Boer’s side won their fourth consecutive title, ending with Blind named as Dutch Footballer of the Year.
He made 29 appearances and scored one goal during the successful campaign and had shown great intelligence as he changed from playing left-back to orchestrating the centre of midfield. The Dutch international signed for Manchester United the following summer and ultimately made 141 appearances for the Red Devils before returning to his boyhood club in 2018 where he lifted another league title.
2014/15 : Georginio Wijnaldum (PSV Eindhoven)
Played for: Feyenoord, PSV Eindhoven, Newcastle United, Liverpool
Current side: Liverpool
The captain of PSV’s victorious 2014/15 title-winning side, Georginio Wijnaldum led his team-mates to the club’s first title since 2008. After establishing himself as a first-team regular due to the departure of Kevin Strootman and Mark van Bommel’s retirement the Dutch international started to regularly contribute to a number of goals and assists.
After 154 appearances for PSV and 56 goals, Wijnaldum left the club and signed for Newcastle United in time for the 2015-16 season. Despite a number of excellent performances for the Magpies, the Dutchman suffered the ignominy of relegation, but Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp was impressed from afar and signed the midfielder and he’s never looked back as the Reds would become one of Europe’s most dominant teams and during which period they ended a 30-year championship drought.
2015/16: Davy Klaassen (Ajax)
Played for: Ajax, Everton, Werder Bremen, Ajax
Current side: Ajax
Heralded for big things once coming through Ajax’s esteemed academy, with club legend Johan Cruyff among his many admirers, Davy Klaassen’s time in Amsterdam was stop-start, he’d overcome a serious knee injury to register 55 goals across 180 matches and following their run to a Europa League final he’d join Premier League outfit Everton but it proved to be a disappointing chapter of his career. He’s since rekindled that flame at Werder Bremen where the Hilversum-born midfielder is becoming indispensable, but the Bundesliga side couldn’t retain his services as Klaassen since returned home.
2016/17: Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord)
Played for: FC Twente, Feyenoord, Al Ahli (loan), Feyenoord, Al-Ittihad
Current side: Al-Ittihad
Karim El Ahmadi was unfortunate not to have made it in England with Aston Villa but Feyenoord supporters were glad he joined them ahead of their historic championship-winning campaign of 2016-17, under the leadership of Rotterdam’s favourite son Giovanni van Bronckhorst they’d win their first Eredivisie title since 1999, with El Ahmadi pulling the strings in midfield.
2017/18: Hakim Ziyech (Ajax)
Played for: Heerenveen, FC Twente, Ajax, Chelsea
Current side: Chelsea
Always destined for great things, Hakim Ziyech joined Ajax very late in the 2016 summer transfer window, he would soon become the club’s most important creative player and would be named as the league’s very best the season after. A campaign that saw him register 17 assists in the Eredivisie, the following year he dazzled Europe as the Amsterdammers reached an unlikely Champions League semi-final berth. Another solid campaign in 2019/20 saw Chelsea sign Ziyech, and he’s since made an impact at Stamford Bridge.
2018/19: Matthijs de Ligt (Ajax)
Played for: Ajax, Juventus
Current side: Juventus
Matthijs de Ligt stopped being a teenager in August 2019 meaning he was never technically an adult during his time with boyhood club Ajax, who made him the club’s youngest captain ahead of a 2018/19 season to remember, the Amsterdammers completed a first league and cup double since 2002 whilst reaching a first Champions League semi-final in over two decades. His masterful performances at centre-back earned him the nation’s highest accolade as well as a mega transfer to Italian powerhouse Juventus where he’s currently stationed.
2020/21: Dušan Tadić
Played for: Vojvodina, Groningen, Twente, Southampton, Ajax
Current side: Ajax
Since returning to Dutch football three summers ago Dušan Tadić has not only picked up from where he left off but reinvented himself in the process. Capable of playing across the forward line, the Serbian international is now predominantly used as either a left forward or ‘false nine’. His numbers across these past few seasons also speak for themselves. Tadić currently averages 17.6 goals and 14.6 assists per season. After the 2019/20 campaign ended prematurely with no ‘Dutch Footballer of the Year’ winner announced Tadić certainly made up for lost time and his unrelenting contribution to Ajax’s successful title defence left no one in doubt that he’d succeed fellow teammate De Ligt.