Ronaldo dribbles, runs and scores! Messi did it again! Neymar – the winning goal! We have all heard those cries on football pitches: the star striker saves the day yet once again. But in reality, there are still ten men on the field, and as the saying goes – attack wins you games, defense wins you titles.
To correct the injustice of the (football) world, we invite you to a ten–part series with Olybet.TV, where we talk about defenders. But to make things a little more appetizing, let’s talk about the most productive defensemen in football history.
Or rather, in the context of this story, it would be more correct to say about the most productive defender in history, because after James Tavernier, Roberto Carlos, Paul Breitner, Steve Bruce, Graham Alexander, Sergio Ramos, Laurent Blanc, Fernando Hierro and Daniel Passarella, we have finally reached the scoring king of defenders – Ronald Koeman.
252 goals would be a very impressive achievement in itself, but to do it as a defender – nothing short of sensational!
Bloomed in his home country
Koeman, who comes from the small Dutch town of Zaandam, started his professional career at the age of 17 in Groningen, but in just a couple of seasons, he was on the radar of the big club Amsterdam Ajax. To get there, he did nothing but score goals: as many as 34 in 98 games.
In 1983, he moved to the capital of the country of tulips, and although he did not win the championship in the first year, in the 84/85 season, amendments were made in this regard. A year later, Koeman was also crowned Dutch Cup winner with Ajax. His contribution to these triumphs was significant: he scored 30 goals in 114 games.
But then Koeman detonated the most powerful bomb of all: in the summer of 1986, he decided to move to the ranks of arch-rivals PSV Eindhoven. In the red-white-striped shirt, Koeman won three consecutive Dutch championship gold medals, and in the 87/88 season, he also won the European Cup – the precursor to the Champions League – winner’s medal.
Koeman’s role in these triumphs cannot be overestimated, because in 130 games he scored as many as 63 goals for PSV. How did he do it? The key word here is PSV’s coach at the time, Guus Hiddink, who gave him so much freedom on the pitch – albeit as a defender. Additionally, as you might expect, Koeman was the team’s set-piece specialist.
Steps into Spain and rise to stardom
By 1989, the domestic league had become too small for the Dutchman, and he was looking for a place to take a step forward. The former Ajax coach, Johan Cruyff, who coached FC Barcelona at that moment, lent a helping hand here, and Koeman turned into a real superstar.
At the beginning of the 90s, the big Catalan club was an irresistible superpower both in Spain and in Europe, fondly called the Dream Team. And Koeman, along with another central defender, Nando Muñoz, was the heart of it.
While in his first season, Koeman had to settle for “merely” the Spanish Cup, between 91–94, four La Liga winner’s medals were hung around his neck. Furthermore, it was his strike that secured Blaugrana’s first(!) European Cup in the club’s history in 1992 (again: the competition that is the precursor to the Champions League).
Since Koeman had also scored in the European Cup Winner’s Cup final a year earlier – Barca lost it 1-2 to Manchester United – the Dutchman then became the first player to score in two consecutive Euroseries finals.
In total, Koeman spent six seasons in Barcelona and scored 88 goals in 264 matches. One of the most famous of them comes from the 93/94 season, when he shot this baby into the Real Madrid net:
In the same season, by the way, Koeman also scored eight times in the Champions League, being joint top scorer with Werder Bremen’s New Zealand striker Wynton Rufer (we can guarantee that this will be the first and last time you hear that name).
After the period in Catalonia, Koeman returned to his homeland, where he pulled on the Feyenoord shirt as captain. By doing so, he became only the second player,
alongside the legendary Ruud Gullit, to represent all three big clubs in the Netherlands.
Although he failed to win anything with the Rotterdam club – just a bronze and silver medal – Koeman continued to score. He had 79 games and 23 goals for Feyenoord in two seasons, which means that Koeman’s club career total was 685 games and 238 goals. And let’s not forget – he was a defender after all (!).
To European champion with the national team
Koeman was not so productive for the Dutch national team – 78 games and 14 goals – but of course there was a reason for that. At the same time, Gullit and Marco van Basten, who were ahead of him in the penalty kick hierarchy, also wore the orange shirt.
At the same time, one cannot claim that Koeman did not shine with the national team. Although the “oranges” had nothing to do with the EC of 84 and the World Cup of 86, they were present at the European Championship in 88 and the only title in history was redeemed for the Netherlands when they beat the Soviet Union 2:1 in the final. Both Koeman and fellow centre-back Frank Rijkaard were selected in the team of the tournament at the time.
However, returning to the phenomenon of Koeman’s goal-scoring, it must be emphasized that these hits were made despite the fact that he was a defender, not because of it. He still scored the lion’s share of the goals as a maestro of set-piece situations.
At the same time, Koeman’s field vision was so sharp and his right foot was so accurate/strong that he scored a third of the shots from play. He just had to rush it, as the following video vividly proves:
The full list of the most productive defenders in history: