The Eredivisie, which means the “Premier Division” or the “Honour Division”, is the top flight of league football in the Netherlands. Consisting of 18 teams, the league is played out in a two leg robin-round format. At the end of the season, the two teams that finish at the bottom of the league are relegated to the Eerste Divisie, or First Division. The club finishing third from the bottom goes into a separate playoffs for promotion or relegation, against the eight highest placing teams from the Eerste Divisie.
Ajax Amsterdam have won the Dutch league the most times, with 35 national titles. PSV Eindhoven are the second highest winning team with 24 national titles, followed by Feyenoord with 15. Since 1965, these three teams have won all but three titles, which were won by AZ Alkmaar in 1981 and 2009, and FC Twente in 2010. The three teams are known as the “Big Three” or “Traditional Top Three” in the Dutch league.
The average attendance for the 2018-19 season was 18,000 though the gulf in difference between the attendance of the bigger clubs and smaller ones is rather large. Ajax Amsterdam had an average attendance of 53,000 people, whilst the smallest club Excelsior Rotterdam had just over 4,000.
Dutch football is not only famous for its dynamic play and quick short passing, but also for its positive encouragement of using youth players. Many of the top players in the world came through the Dutch youth academies, with a surprising number of those players not being Dutch.
Foreign Players That Came Through the Eredivisie
After spending two years playing in his local Malmo FC, Ibrahimovic transferred to Ajax at the age of 19. He played in Ajax for three years, and scored 35 goals in 74 appearances for the Dutch outfit, winning two Eredivisie. His performances were noticed by Juventus, who bought him in 2004.
Suarez played for three full seasons at Ajax, he transferred there when he was 20, coming from Groningen (where he had played for 1 year). At Ajax he had an exceptional career, scoring 81 goals in 110 appearances for the club. He won the Dutch Eredivisie in 2011, and in the following transfer season was bought by Liverpool.
Park Ji Sung
Park Ji Sung went to PSV in 2002, at the age of 22, and though he struggled with injuries in his first year, in his second he started showing his football prowess. His skill on the field earned him a nomination in the 2005 UEFA Best Forward Award, and following his success, he went on to Manchester United.
The Danish playmaker came up through the Dutch academy, with which he signed on when he was 16 years old. He played with the senior team for three years, where he won the Eredivisie for three consecutive years and was given Ajax’s Talent of the Year award.
The former Brazilian Player of the year and Brazilian World Cup winner in 1994 plied his trade with PSV Eindhoven, where he scored an astounding 98 goals in 110 appearances. Coming to the club in 1988 as a 22 year old, he was snapped up by Barcelona four years later, where he became one of the best players in his generation.
The seventeen year old had played in the 1994 World Cup and was a World Cup winner, but he had yet to show his real talent. Romario had just left PSV the year prior and advised the young Ronaldo Nazario to go to PSV Eindhoven. Ronaldo made a massive impact in his first year, scoring 30 league goals, including seven braces and a hat trick. Though he did not manage to help PSV win an Eredivisie, his performances were so impressive that Barcelona bought him just two years after he joined the Dutch side. He scored 42 goals in his 46 appearances for the club.
Dutch Players That Came Through the Eredivisie
Arguably the most legendary Dutch player, Cruyff joined the Ajax youth academy in 1957, at the age of 10. He played nine professional seasons with Ajax, in which he scored 190 goals from 240 games before he went to Barcelona. He came back after his retirement to manage Ajax for three years (he was also poached from that job by Barcelona, to become their manager). Here he developed the youth academy, and turned it into one of the most prestigious academies in the world.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Van Nistelrooy started his career with Den Bosch, a small team in the Dutch midlands. He moved to Heerenveen and then PSV Eindhoven, where he became one of the best out and out strikers in the league. Netting 62 goals in 67 appearances, he won the Eredivisie with PSV before transferring to Manchester United, where he would take his career to new paths, followed by his move to Real Madrid.
The “non-flying Dutchman” as he was named by Arsenal fans due to his fear of flying, was one of the best Dutch forwards, known for his strong footwork and finesse. He came through the Ajax youth academy, and spent a successful seven years with the club, scoring 103 goals in his 185 appearances. He was bought by Inter Milan in 1993, and subsequently transferred to Arsenal in 1995, where he helped Arsenal win their famous Invincibles Premier League title.
Arguably one of the most decorated players in European cup silverware, Seedorf also came through the Ajax youth academy. He made his professional debut at the age of 16 years and 243 days, making him the youngest debutant for Ajax, at that time. He quickly established himself as a starting player, and helped Ajax win a treble three years later in 1995. Since then, Seedorf has played in Sampdoria, Real Madrid, Inter Milan and AC Milan. He has won four Champions League titles with three different clubs.
In his prime, this left footed right winger was arguably one of the best attacking footballers in the world. He was famous for dribbling from deep and cutting back onto his favoured left foot, and scoring long ranged efforts. He started his professional career in Groningen, before he was snapped up by PSV Eindhoven. At PSV he won the Dutch Talented Player of the Year in 2003. Following his successful stint in Holland, he went to Chelsea, where he won consecutive Premier League titles. He has also played in Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, where he won a Champions League.
The Dutch Eredivisie is a great watch for football fans, as all the teams are brimming with numerous young natural talents. For fans who like following young players, many Dutch teams play young players week in week out.
Recently the likes of Mattheus de Ligt, Frenkie de Jong, Donny van de Beek, Hakim Ziyech have left the league to ply their trade in bigger international leagues, but no one can forget that the Eredivisie was their training ground where they developed their skills.
It is worth a watch, and definitely worth keeping an eye on the players, you never know when you may be watching the next footballing legend in the making!