Neeskens: 'Money is destroying football'

Johan Neeskens may have spent much of his career in Johan Cruyff’s shadow but he was, without doubt, one of the finest Dutch footballers of all time.

Neeskens is in Bengaluru as part of the ‘Holland Meets Bengaluru’ week at the Jude Felix Hockey Academy.   -  Allsport

Johan Neeskens may have spent much of his career in Johan Cruyff’s shadow but he was, without doubt, one of the finest Dutch footballers of all time. A strong, hardworking box-to-box midfielder, Neeskens proved the perfect foil to Cruyff at Ajax, and later joined him and coach Rinus Michels at Barcelona. In the city as part of the ‘Holland Meets Bengaluru’ week at the Jude Felix Hockey Academy, a CSR sports event for the Embassy of the Netherlands, Neeskens spoke to the media on various subjects.

The excerpts:

Holland’s failure to qualify for the World Cup: We had some really good players like (Robin) van Persie, (Dirk) Kuyt, (Wesley) Sneijder. They played together for eight years, and we entered the final in 2010 and did well in Brazil too. But then these players are going to get older and you have to renew them, get in more young players. We have very good under-17 and under-19 sides but they still don’t have the quality to play at the highest level. This can happen to a lot of countries and we are facing that now.

Exodus of young Dutch talent: It’s bad for the Dutch fans because they know the best players are now going overseas. When I was young, I would prefer to play every week for Ajax instead of spending time on the sidelines at clubs elsewhere. Davy Klaassen was good at Ajax, played every game every week. He then goes to Everton — not the best team in England — but he’s not playing, sitting in the stands. You don’t improve one bit. This problem is because of the managers and player agents.

Decline of Eredivisie: We can’t pay the players the amount of money some clubs in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and England are paying. We have to use players from the academy and if they are good, then the big clubs come and poach them by giving their fathers a job over there. My ideology would be don’t look for the money but game time. That’s what I suggest to youth players in Holland. Big players also don’t come to Ajax because there’s not much money. We cannot compete with the best clubs in Europe anymore, it’s impossible.

Money destroying football?: It is ridiculous if you have to pay 200 million for a player in transfer fees and then the player gets 20 million a year. It makes the tickets more and more expensive. You don't see families anymore, man and wife and two kids. It's too expensive. So they stay at home and watch on television. It's too expensive. Money is destroying football.

Pep Guardiola’s Total Football: Guardiola was a player who grew up in Barcelona. He went through the hands of Cruyff in the academy and then was put in the first team as a crucial player. So he knew already the philosophy of Dutch football. You see how he likes to play. It is the same style that we played in 1974 and at Ajax and Barcelona. It is beautiful to see attacking football. You have to entertain the spectators. They like to see a game that is 4-3 rather than a 1-0. I prefer both teams going out there and trying to win the game.  People are happy with the way Manchester City is playing, Barcelona is playing, how Real Madrid is playing under Zidane. Hopefully this continues and not the defending game.

Cruyff's impact: Cruyff lived for football. I was fortunate to play with him for seven years. Everybody has qualities. In the sixties Pele was the best player in the world. In the seventies Cruyff was. After that you got Maradona. Now you have two, Ronaldo and Messi. So you have all these players but you cannot say one was the best of all time because football is changing.

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