123. Ruud Krol
Rudolf Jozef “Ruud” Krol, born in Amsterdam, played most of his career for his hometown club Ajax. He was only 20 when he was called up to the national team squad for the first time and stayed there for the next fourteen years. With Ajax, he was part of some of the best club teams European football has ever seen. Three straight European Cups were won in the early seventies and many of his colleagues in Ajax, for instance Johann Cruyff, were also key-players for Holland.
Krol was a versatile defender who could play anywhere that was required. He was a great reader of the game which also made him successful as a sweeper in the 1978 World Cup. Four years earlier he had been equally successful at left-back. The Dutch team of 1974 is always mentioned when people talk about great teams that never won the World Cup. Krol played in every minute in all seven games and also scored a goal, a cracking shot against Argentina in the 4-0 second phase win.
Krol was made captain by coach Ernst Happel for the 1978 World Cup and Holland advanced through the rounds much thanks to Krol’s presence. The team suffered from the lack of Cruyff in a creative midfield role, but neither Italy nor West Germany could prevent Holland from reaching a second World Cup final in a row. Holland and Krol, once again an ever-present, could not stop Argentina and Kempes in extra-time as the hosts ran out 3-1 winners.
Ruud moved to Canada to play for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 1980. He returned back to Europe the following year to play four seasons for Napoli and later for Cannes in the French second division where he also ended his career. He was capped 83 times for Holland, a record until Aron Winter broke it during Euro 2000.