With eighty-three appearance for Oranje, Ruud Krol is the most capped player in the history of the national team. He also stands out as having played more tournament matches, nineteen, than any other Dutchman.
Ruud Krol was born in Amsterdam in 1949. His rise was simultaneous with that of Total Football at Ajax and the national team. He was recruited by Rinus Michels into Ajax in 1968. The Final of the European Cup the following year was deemed too soon for a player who was barely twenty years old. After that Final, Krol broke through onto the first team and became a quintessential Total Footballer. He was able to play at every defensive position which was required. He was the team’s leading attacking defender. He was the axis of the defense in the same Cruijff was of the offense. By the end of 1969 he had been selected to join Oranje.
In 1971 Ajax was back in the Final of the European Cup and this time they won, but it was without the services of Krol. He had broken his leg and his all important role was filled in by another player. Krol recovered and was given the opportunity to taste European glory as Ajax triumphed again in 1972 and 1973. After the 1973 victory many big names left the Amsterdam club, but Krol stayed on in his famous role.
As with Ajax, Krol was a stalwart with the national team by 1974. In the World Cup that year he played in the left-back position from which he launched his surging attacks. In the tournament he had the misfortune to score an own goal against Bulgaria and redeemed himself with a goal for Oranje against Argentina. In 1976 he again represented Holland in an international tournament, this time it was the European Championship. Holland failed, however, to reach the Final. By the time the 1978 World Cup took place in Argentina the exodus of stars from Ajax had been complete. Most of the players on the national team now came from clubs outside Holland or PSV Eindhoven which was Holland’s leading club at that time. Ruud Krol was now the Amsterdam club’s sole representative in Oranje. Krol, who had replaced the retired Cruijff as captain, now used the sweeper position as his launching pad for his attacks. His tactical role had not diminished.
Holland qualified for its fourth international tournament in a row with the 1980 European Championship. Krol was still the captain. After the 1980 European Championship Ruud Krol retired from the national team with a record breaking 83 caps. He was also tied Harry Dénis’ record of 37 captaincies. That year he left Ajax after twelve years to play in the North American Soccer League. His tenure in the United States was only to last six months. He left to join Naples where he quickly won many admirers. In 1982 he was voted the best foreign player in Italy. In 1984 Ruud Krol finally hung his boots when he retired from the Italian club.
Today Ruud Krol is a trainer. In this capacity he has worked his way around the world as a coaching nomad. He has even been the coach of the Egyptian national team. His great tactical insight and vision as player has helped in his new vocation. It is entirely possible that Dutch fans will see more of the legendary attacking defender in the future.