Johan Neeskens

Johan Neeskens
Neeskens in 1974
Personal information
Full name Johannes Jacobus Neeskens
Date of birth (1951-09-15) 15 September 1951
Place of birth Heemstede, Netherlands
Height 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)[1]
Playing position Centre Midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1968–1970 RCH 68 (1)
1970–1974 Ajax 124 (33)
1974–1979 Barcelona 140 (35)
1979–1984 New York Cosmos 94 (17)
1984–1985 Groningen 7 (0)
1985 South Florida Sun 1 (1)
1985–1986 Kansas City Comets (indoor) 23 (1)
1986–1987 Löwenbrau (amateurs) ? (?)
1987–1990 Baar 23 (5)
1990–1991 Zug 1 (0)
National team
1970–1981 Netherlands 49 (17)
Teams managed
1991–1993 Zug
1993–1995 Stäfa
1995–1996 Singen
1995–2000 Netherlands (assistant manager)
2000–2004 NEC
2005–2006 Australia (assistant manager)
2006–2008 Barcelona (assistant manager)
2008–2009 Netherlands B
2009–2010 Galatasaray (assistant manager)
2011–2012 Mamelodi Sundowns
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Johannes Jacobus "Johan" Neeskens (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈjoːɦɑn ˈneːskə(n)s]; born 15 September 1951) is a Dutch football manager and former midfielder. As a player, he was an important member of the Dutch national team that finished as runners-up in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups and is considered to be one of the greatest Dutch midfielders of all time.[2][3][4] In 2004, he was named one of the 125 Greatest Living Footballers at a FIFA Awards Ceremony,[5] while in 2017 he has been included in the FourFourTwo list of the 100 all-time greatest players, at the 64th position.[6]

After his retirement in 1991, Neeskens was the assistant coach to Frank Rijkaard at Barcelona but was sacked along with Rijkaard as the end of the 2007–08 season. He later became head coach of the Dutch B national team until June 2009,[7] at which date he has been appointed as the assistant coach to Frank Rijkaard at Galatasaray SK.[8]

Club career

Neeskens, a native of Heemstede,[9] started his career at RCH Heemstede in 1968, before being spotted by Rinus Michels and signed for Ajax in 1970. The youngster impressed at right-back, playing in that position for Ajax in the 1971 European Cup Final win against Panathinaikos. During the 1971–72 season, Neeskens took up more of a central midfield role, in support of Johan Cruyff. He adapted well to his new central midfield role because he was a tireless runner, had great technical skills and scored his fair share of goals. Ajax completed a hat-trick of European Cup wins between 1971 and 1973, and Neeskens moved on to FC Barcelona in 1974 to join Cruijff and Michels. There he was nicknamed Johan Segon (Johan the Second).[9]

While his time at Barcelona was relatively unsuccessful for the club (one cup title in 1978, and the 1979 Cup Winners' Cup), he was hugely popular amongst the fans. In 1979, he accepted an offer from the New York Cosmos, spending 5 years at the club. The Cosmos released him October 1984. He also played for FC Groningen during the 1984–85 season. In June 1985, he signed with the South Florida Sun of the United Soccer League.[10] The USL collapsed six games into the 1985 season. On 15 August 1989, he signed with the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League.[11]

He then played for FC Baar (1988–90) and FC Zug in Switzerland, finally hanging up his boots in 1991.

International career

Neeskens was capped 49 times for his country, scoring 17 goals. He made his debut against East Germany, and played a crucial role in the 1974 and 1978 FIFA World Cups, playing in central midfield. Neeskens scored the opening goal of the 1974 World Cup final against West Germany with a penalty kick after only two minutes of play.

Four years later, Neeskens was a crucial player for the Dutch (despite a rib injury suffered in the Scotland defeat), in the absence of Cruijff who had retired from international football in 1977. The Netherlands again reached the final, only to lose again to the host nation, this time Argentina, going down 3–1 after extra time (the score at the end of regulation was 1–1). He played his final international game in 1981 in a 2–0 defeat against France in a qualifier for the 1982 World Cup.

Coaching career

At the request of Guus Hiddink, Neeskens, along with Frank Rijkaard and Ronald Koeman, acted as assistant coach for the Dutch national team during the qualifiers and finals of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. When Hiddink stepped down as national coach after the 1998 FIFA World Cup, he performed the same role during the reign of Frank Rijkaard as national coach up until the end of Euro 2000. He was then appointed as coach of Dutch side NEC Nijmegen, leading them to their first European appearance in twenty years in 2003, but was fired in 2004 because of poor results.

In December 2005, Neeskens was appointed assistant coach of the Australian national team, once again at the request of Guus Hiddink, the Socceroos's manager at the time. He worked alongside Hiddink and Graham Arnold as part of their World Cup 2006 campaign, and even afterwards he remained involved with the Australian national team: on 7 October 2006, under contract with FC Barcelona, Neeskens was alongside the Australian national team's bench in a friendly match between Paraguay while visiting Australia for a short break.

After the 2006 World Cup, Neeskens returned to FC Barcelona to replace Henk ten Cate in the club's technical staff, reuniting with Frank Rijkaard. The three-year deal was signed when Neeskens flew in from Germany following Australia's opening win over Japan, but on 8 May 2008, after two disappointing seasons, Barcelona's president Joan Laporta announced that Neeskens (as well as Rijkaard) were to leave Barcelona at the end of the season.

Neeskens joined Frank Rijkaard at Galatasaray as his assistant manager in 2009. He became the coach of South African based club, Mamelodi Sundowns F.C. in 2011.

Neeskens' time with Mamelodi Sundowns F.C. was less than successful with the Dutch coach finding himself attacked by his own supporters following a string of poor results.

As of December 2, 2012 Neeskens was no longer under the employment of Mamelodi Sundowns F.C. and has remained without a job since.

Style of play

Neeskens has been described on the UEFA website as having the "steel-hard midfielder was a tireless runner yet also had nice technique and scored goals, helping to set the stage for Cruyff to shine. One of the first box-to-box midfielders," he was great at pressuring opponents to regain possession too. "He was worth two men in midfield," said teammate Sjaak Swart.[12]

Career statistics



Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
SeasonClubLeague AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals AppsGoals
Netherlands League KNVB Cup League Cup Europe Total
1968–69RCHEerste Divisie340
Spain League Copa del Rey Supercopa de España Europe Total
1974–75BarcelonaLa Liga277EC11
USA League Open Cup League Cup North America Total
1979New York CosmosNorth American Soccer League134
Netherlands League KNVB Cup League Cup Europe Total
USA League Open Cup League Cup North America Total
1985–86Minnesota Strikers
1986–87Fort Lauderdale Sun
Switzerland League Schweizer Cup League Cup Europe Total
Total Netherlands 19934
Spain 14035
Switzerland 245
Career total



Netherlands national team



Ajax [13][15]


  • FIFA World Cup runner-up: 1974, 1978
  • UEFA European Championship third place: 1976



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  2. "FC Barcelona: El problema fecal de Núñez que echó a Neeskens del Barça -".
  3. "El Real Madrid ficha al hijo de Neeskens -".
  4. "Johan Neeskens - FC Barcelona". FC Barcelona.
  5. "Pele's list of the greatest". BBC Sport. 4 March 2004. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  6. Yorkhin, Michael (July 25, 2017). "FourFourTwo's 100 Greatest Footballers EVER: 60 to 51". FourFourtwo. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  7. "Neeskens to lead Netherlands B team". 25 October 2008. Retrieved 24 November 2008.
  8. Johan Neeskens in İstanbul. Retrieved on 2011-06-29.
  9. 1 2 Chiesa, Carlo F. (August 22, 1999). "We are the champions - I 150 fuoriclasse che hanno fatto la storia del calcio," [The 150 champions that made football's history]. Calcio 2000 (in Italian). Action Group S.r.l. p. 123.
  10. NEESKENS' GAME-WINNER LIFTS SUN, 3–1 Miami Herald, The (FL) – Sunday, 23 June 1985
  11. Sports People. (15 August 1985). Retrieved on 2011-06-29.
  12. The greatest teams of all time: Ajax 1971–73. Retrieved on 2015-10-30.
  13. 1 2 "Johan Neeskens". National Football Teams. Benjamin Strack-Zimmerman.
  14. Johan Neeskens – International Appearances. Retrieved on 2011-06-29.
  15. 1 2 3 4 "The Clockwork Oranje's midfield master". FIFA. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  16. "Netherlands".
  17. "FIFA World Cup All-Star Team – Football world Cup All Star Team". Archived from the original on 30 June 2016. Retrieved 2012-06-28.
  18. Volodymyr Banyas (25 August 2015). "Best European footballers by season" (PDF). Ukrainian Football. Retrieved 2 June 2017. (ukr.)
  19. "Spain - Footballer of the Year". RSSSF.
  20. "Fifa names greatest list". BBC. 4 March 2004. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
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