Over 100 Dutchmen have graced the Bundesliga stage, with plenty becoming legends just across the shared border. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH
Over 100 Dutchmen have graced the Bundesliga stage, with plenty becoming legends just across the shared border. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH

The Bundesliga's Dutch masters: Arjen Robben, Roy Makaay, Mark van Bommel, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Rafael van der Vaart


Down the years, the Bundesliga has been home to 135 Dutch footballers, who have crossed the 350-mile shared border between the neighbouring countries to ply their trade in the top tier of German football.

Many have made and are making a mark in German football, and as Germany prepare to meet the Netherlands in a friendly, bundesliga.com has singled out five Dutch players who each left a particularly lasting legacy on the league…

Arjen Robben
Appearances: 201 (99 goals)
Club: Bayern Munich (2009-2019)
Titles: 8x Bundesliga, 5x DFB Cup, 1x UEFA Champions League, 1x UEFA Super Cup, 1x FIFA Club World Cup, 4x DFL Supercup

Widely considered one of the best players the Netherlands have ever produced, Robben spent a decade terrorising full-backs and firing Bayern Munich to 10 trophy-laden seasons with his unique, inimitable style which, while seeming predictable, proved practically impossible to defend against. "Doing a Robben" became as big a trick as the legendary Cruyff turn, named after his compatriot Johan Cruyff. It entailed cutting in from the wing and curling a shot into the far corner of the goal. It was simple, yet piercingly effective; and it was Robben's party piece.

Watch: Arjen Robben's top five Bundesliga goals

After making his debut against Wolfsburg on 29 August 2009, Robben – who joined the Bavarians from Real Madrid – strutted his stuff on the Bundesliga stage over 200 times and fell just one goal short of a century. Injuries prevented him from producing even more impressive statistics, but when the flying Dutchman was fit to play, his name was the first on the team sheet. He scored his first hat-trick towards the tail end of his maiden season in the Bundesliga, helping Bayern to the Bundesliga title as their top scorer with 16 goals – enough to earn him the accolade of Germany's Player of the Year in 2010.

Twelve goals and 10 assists in just 14 appearances in his second season, which was cut in half due to a serious injury, were not enough to help Bayern defend their title, with his absence for the entire first half of the season and the first few games of the second half undeniably helping Borussia Dortmund wrestle the crown off the Bavarians. He and Bayern got their revenge with one of the most symbolic moments of Robben's career in 2013, scoring the goal which earned his side UEFA Champions League glory over Dortmund at Wembley.

That was the only time Robben lifted European football's most coveted prize, though he ended his career with the knowledge of a silversmith's, such was his familiarity with the precious metal. Eight Bundesliga titles and five German Cups, in addition to a UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, belong to the enviable collection of a unique talent.

Mark van Bommel
Appearances: 123 (11 goals)
Club: Bayern Munich (2006-2011)
Titles: 2x Bundesliga, 2x DFB Cup, 2x German League Cup

Formerly of Barcelona, where his hard-man reputation spawned nicknames such as 'the Punisher' and 'the Destroyer', Van Bommel switched allegiances following a pre-season friendly between the Catalans and Bayern in August 2006.

After playing for Bayern Munich, Mark van Bommel returned to the Bundesliga for an ill-fated spell as coach of Wolfsburg. - Martin Hoffmann via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Martin Hoffmann

His focused, aggressive style brought some much-needed muscle to the Bayern midfield, and – after scoring three goals in his first six appearances – his endurance and stamina saw him through 40 games of a debut season played initially under Felix Magath, and then Ottmar Hitzfeld. He made up for the lack of silverware that year by getting his hands on the Bundesliga and DFB Cup the following season, after which he succeeded Oliver Kahn to become Bayern's first ever foreign captain.

He was thus the man lifting the trophies in the air at the end of Bayern's next domestic double-winning campaign, and the two-time Dutch footballer of the year (2001 and 2005) left Bavaria a year later having made a total of 187 appearances in all competitions, and having left his mark – at times literally – on many an opponent.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Appearances: 184 (84 goals)
Club: Schalke (2010-2017, 2021)
Titles: 1x DFB Cup, 1x DFL Supercup, 1x Torjägerkanone

Huntelaar originally made a name for himself in his homeland at both Heerenveen and Ajax, before joining Real Madrid in 2008. He was in the Spanish capital for just one season, scoring eight times in 20 league outings, before a one-year loan to AC Milan preceded his move to Schalke.

A move to Gelsenkirchen saw Huntelaar return to within a stone's throw of his roots, with his hometown of Hummelo just over the border. In fact, Huntelaar lived in the Netherlands during his Schalke days, and this may well have contributed to him producing some of the best form of his career while in the Bundesliga.

Watch: The Bundesliga's Dutchmen

Then Schalke coach Magath, who had watched Bayern snatch the title from his side the previous season, knew that he was getting a player who had scored over 100 goals in four seasons at Ajax. His new signing was a Dutch international in the prime of his career, someone Louis Van Gaal had once described as the "best player in the world, bar none" in the penalty area.

During his first spell with the Royal Blues, Huntelaar scored 126 goals in 239 competitive appearances, eight coming in his first 24 league matches with the first falling in a Revierderby defeat against local rivals Borussia Dortmund.

He helped them win the 2011 DFB Cup, scoring a goal in the 5-0 final win over Duisburg, and was influential as the Royal Blues made it to the semi-finals of the Champions League. Better was to come a year later, when he finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer in 2011/12 with 29 goals – the first and only Dutchman to do so – forming a formidable partnership with Spanish legend Raul. Huntelaar returned again in 2021 for a final hurrah, but could not save Schalke from relegation with two goals in the final nine games of his playing career.

Roy Makaay
Appearances: 129 (78 goals)
Club: Bayern Munich (2003-2007)
Titles: 2x Bundesliga, 2x DFB Cup, 2x German League Cup

Rudolphus Antonius Makaay, or Roy for short, became a professional footballer at the age of 15. Not put off by being rejected by NEC Nijmegen, he persisted and was eventually picked up by Vitesse, with whom he led the Dutch Eredivisie scoring charts in consecutive seasons. That earned him a call from Van Gaal, who was at the helm of Ajax at the time, but a mature Makaay resisted his overtures and duly delivered another 22 goals in 39 games for Vitesse.

Roy Makaay had plenty of occasions to celebrate in a Bayern Munich shirt. - Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Courted by Jupp Heynckes, Makaay made the switch to Tenerife only to arrive with Heynckes already gone – to Real Madrid. After two seasons in the Canary Islands, Makaay moved to the Iberian mainland to form part of arguably the greatest Deportivo La Coruna side in history, one which lifted the LaLiga title against all odds thanks to Makaay's 26 goals. After scoring 38 times – more than any other player on the continent in 2002/03 – he moved to Bayern.

"Roy's effectiveness can be compared with Gerd Müller's," said then Bayern president Franz Beckenbauer in September 2004, after the Dutch destroyer delivered his first Champions League hat-trick for Bayern, having previously plundered 31 goals in his first Bundesliga season.

He was comfortably Bayern's top-scorer in his four seasons there, collecting six trophies along the way and earning his nickname "phantom" for his uncanny way of ghosting in unseen to score goal after goal.

Rafael van der Vaart
Appearances: 152 (45 goals)
Club: Hamburg (2005-2008, 2012-2015)
Titles: -

When Rafael van der Vaart first joined Hamburg in 2005, the Hanseatic metropole seemed a somewhat unlikely choice. The Netherlands international, rated one of Europe's most promising players, was joining a side whose last notable success - a Bundesliga and European Cup double in 1983 - came in the year van der Vaart was born.

Rafael van der Vaart was a hit in two spells with Hamburg. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

He arrived from Ajax, having been captain of the Dutch giants, and he soon became a crowd favourite in northern Germany. His 29 goals and 35 assists in 74 Bundesliga matches helped the Red Shorts to three successful seasons - including Champions League qualification at the end of his first year.

A move to Real Madrid followed, while he had a spell in England with Tottenham Hotspur, but HSV was always a club that tugged at his heart-strings and when the opportunity arose to return to his former haunt in the summer of 2012, he packed his bags and was given a hero's welcome.

"My return to Hamburg is a dream come true for me and my family," van der Vaart commented after re-signing for HSV. "I want to help the team rediscover their self-confidence, but I'm no Superman."

That, though, is a point many a Hamburg fan may be tempted to dispute, as he became the lifeblood of the club once again, leading HSV to a seventh-placed finish in 2012/13 and preserving their status as the top flight's only ever-present club.

Although he may have no trophies to show for his six years in the Bundesliga, he more than made up for that in his heroism, influence and ability to entertain.