Often lists about the 'best [insert part of the world] of [insert timescale]' include controversial and conventional choices alike. For political and economical reasons every (noteworthy) list contains both regularity and change. Some key-players declined to cooperate, most notably Marco Van Basten and Uwe Seeler with the FIFA 100 list, for exactly these reasons. The University of Groningen, which also does many other football related research, tried to calculate which Dutch footballer is indeed the best since 1953, the beginning of professional football in the Netherlands (more on this later), until 2009. This method is based on the amount of playing minutes for club and country. The exact calculation method is quite complicated but it is roughly based on the following factors: The amount of playing minutes. The reasoning is that it is the coach/manager who decides who is the best for a given position and who is not. Furthermore, also injuries, whether through his own mistakes or not, say something about the quality of a player. Obviously, a goalkeeper has in general and on average more playing minutes than a winger so they have calibrated for this. In fact: if an attacker only plays 70 minutes in a game, that is above average and he will be rewarded for this. The result of a single match. But: even when a player lost a game he gets more points than a bench player, who gets zero points. Also: wins in extra time or after a penalty shoot-out received a deduction. Obviously: the importance of a tournament, and how far they reached. Again, they calibrated for differences in the number of rounds and the differences in general competition structure through the decades and among different countries. Before showing the, quite shocking and thought provoking, results I will show first two well-known 'conventional' lists (in the Netherlands at least). Both were written at the turn of the millennium, in 1999. The first relatively well-known list was made by a Dutch football journalist Henk Spaan. This list became featured in a Dutch curren affairs broadcast which exactly pointed quasi-humorously towards the controversial nature of any list. It showed the complaints of the Bertus de Harder fanclub and the happiness of the almost forgotten Willy Dullens (who was ranked at 11). But most notable was the remark of Jan Jongbloed (the Dutch goalkeeper of 1974, did not appear in the list) who called it a 'shit list'. The list: 1 Johan Cruijff 2 Marco van Basten 3 Abe Lenstra 4 Willem van Hanegem 5 Faas Wilkes 6 Frank Rijkaard 7 Rob Rensenbrink 8 Johan Neeskens 9 Ruud Gullit 10 Rinus Israel 11 Willy Dullens 12 Dennis Bergkamp 13 Piet Keizer 14 Jan van Beveren 15 Ruud Krol 16 Willy van der Kuijlen 17 Ronald Koeman 18 Bep Bakhuys 19 Coen Moulijn 20 Wim Suurbier 21 Bertus de Harder 22 Wim Jansen 23 Puck van Heel 24 Kick Smit 25 Frans Thijssen By showing the first 25 it already becomes clear that despite the controversies it pretty much had all the conventional names, often in the regular untouchable order (Cruijff is untouchable in the Netherlands). All inactive names that appeared in the FIFA 100 (2004) list, with the exception of the brothers Van der Kerkhof, are also in the top 10 of this list. The second list was even heavier debated in the Netherlands. Johan Cruijff himself made that list called 'Orange of the Century'. In no particular order he came with the following list of then living players who played a testimonial match in Amsterdam later in the year. [FONT=Trebuchet MS, Bookman Old Style, Futura BdCn BT, Arial] Marco van Basten Dennis Bergkamp Jan van Beveren Danny Blind Hans van Breukelen Johan Cruijff (C) Willy Dullens Henk Groot Ruud Gullit Arie Haan Willem van Hanegem Cor van der Hart Barry Hulshoff Rinus Israel Wim Jansen Piet Keizer Willy van de Kerkhof Ruud Krol Willy van der Kuijlen Kees Kuys Arnold Mühren Gerrie Mühren Frans de Munck Johan Neeskens Eddy Pieters Graafland Rob Rensenbrink Johnny Rep Frank Rijkaard Edwin van der Sar John van 't Schip Wim Suurbier Sjaak Swart Adri van Tiggelen Faas Wilkes Jan Wouters [/FONT]Many pointed at the exclusion of Coen Moulijn and Ronald Koeman in the list. The football historian Matty Verkamman pointed at an subtler deficiency: it was an 'Orange of a half-Century'. Verkamman recalled the meetings a young Johan Cruijff had with Ad van Emmenes, the writer of a magnum opus about the first 50 years of Dutch football. "Didn't Ad tell the young Johan how great Bok de Korver was, what kind of fabulous technique right-back Harry Dénis had", Verkammen asked. Verkamman came in 2003 with his own teams: Nederland 1 Frans de Munck; Harry Dénis, Ronald Koeman, Frank de Boer; Johan Neeskens, Wim van Hanegem; Ruud Gullit, Faas Wilkes, Marco van Basten, Johan Cruijff, Coen Moulijn. Nederland 2 Jan van Beveren; Berry van Aerle, Bok de Korver, Ruud Krol; Frank Rijkaard, Kick Smit; Jan de Natris, Patrick Kluivert, Beb Bakhuys, Abe Lenstra, Rob Rensenbrink. Nederland 3 Just Göbel; Wim Suurbier, Cor van der Hart, Bertus Caldenhove; Wim Jansen, Puck van Heel; Johnny Rep, Willy van der Kuylen, Ruud van Nistelrooij, Mannes Francken, Piet Keizer. Nederland 4 Edwin van der Sar; Mauk Weber, Rinus Israël, Arthur Numan; Arie Haan, Phillip Cocu; Dé Kessler, Dennis Bergkamp, Eddy de Neve, Rafael van der Vaart, Bertus de Harder. Note: the inclusion of Van der Vaart was meant as a joke although he was indeed a revelation in 2003 and widely crowned as the most talented guy of his generation, above the likes of Robben, Sneijder and Van Persie. Unfortunately, the list of Groningen (with the help of football magazine 'elf voetbal') excludes everything from before 1953, although they pay tribute to the names who missed out (Bakhuys, Wilkes, to name a few). Given this deficiency they came with the following list: 1 Ruud Krol 2 Arie Haan 3 Johan Cruijff 4 Johan Neeskens 5 Clarence Seedorf 6 Frank Rijkaard 7 Edwin van der Sar 8 Wim Suurbier 9 Frank de Boer 10 Ronald Koeman 11 Marco van Basten 12 Wim Jansen 13 Piet Keizer 14 Johnny Rep 15 Edgar Davids 16 Barry Hulshoff 17 Philip Cocu 18 Rob Rensenbrink 19 Willy van de Kerkhof 20 Ruud Gullit 21 Jaap Stam 22 Hans van Breukelen 23 Gerrie Mühren 24 Dennis Bergkamp 25 Willem Van Hanegem 26 Sjaak Swart 27 Michael Reiziger 28 Patrick Kluivert 29 Ronald de Boer 30 Gerald Vanenburg 31 Berry van Aerle 32 Marc Overmars 33 Arnold Mühren 34 René van de Kerkhof 35 Danny Blind 36 Jan Wouters 37 Giovanni van Bronckhorst 38 Adri van Tiggelen 39 Aron Winter 40 Erwin Koeman 41 Theo van Duivenbode 42 Mark van Bommel 43 Jan Poortvliet 44 Jan Jongbloed 45 Piet Schrijvers 46 Wim Rijsbergen 47 Wim Kieft 48 Rinus Israel 49 Wim Jonk 50 Ruud van Nistelrooij Of course the authors explain why Cruijff comes third, by a considerable margin. Although he gets the second highest score for his club career (Seedorf comes first; Keizer third), his national team career is the half (in points) as that of Ruud Krol (Seedorf is also heavily punished for that). Therefore: given the tremendous amount of playing minutes that Krol had on the pitch and the good results when he stood on the pitch (as opposed to when he was absent!), Krol comes first. By the way: Krol has the highest score for his national team, second is Arie Haan, third Johnny Rep. Which points to a question: do we overrate attackers? I wonder if other lists, about other countries/eras, would have been different too. N.B.: of course, numbers cannot measure the influence of players in the dressing room. Some inherent weaknesses of calculation are impossible to solve.