42. Johann Neeskens
Born in Heemstede, Johann Neeskens, began his career with local club RCH, but was soon transferred to Ajax where he blossomed into one of the best players in Europe. Nicknamed ‘Johann the second’ as his namesake Cruyff was the first, he was one of the most profiled members of the Total-Football team both at Ajax and for the national team. Neeskens made his debut for Holland in 1970 and occupied one of the midfield positions for the next decade and more. In 1974, he was instrumental as Holland outplayed every team that stood in their way until the final when West Germany won 2-1. Neeskens had a great World Cup scoring five goals including a brilliant chip against Brazil and that second-minute penalty in the final.
He left Ajax for Barcelona after the World Cup and had five good seasons in the Catalan capital winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup as the highlight. In 1978, Holland again reached the World Cup final. Neeskens was once again a key player although not as frequently on the score sheet. He failed to score in his six games in Argentina, but his contribution in midfield set up many goals for Holland. The Dutch lost for a second successive time to the hosts in a World Cup final. This time to Argentina.
As many other stars in the seventies, Neeskens moved to America to play in the NASL towards the end of his career. His club was New York Cosmos and he stayed there for six seasons before he returned home. He retired in 1986 having experienced many of the finest hours in Dutch football, including three European Cup titles and a World Club Cup title with Ajax and two World Cup finals with Holland. Neeskens has had several coaching jobs in recent years also as assistant coach for the Dutch national team.