Bernd Schuster's Real Madrid is acquiring a distinctive Dutch flavour. Two Dutchmen have joined the club in recent days to keep Ruud van Nistelrooy company: Royston Drenthe and, as of yesterday, Ajax midfielder Wesley Sneijder. Typically, his countrymen have gravitated towards Barcelona over the years; he is only the fifth ever Dutchman to join Real Madrid:
- Johnny Metgod (1982-1984) - currently assistant coach at Feyenoord, so he knows Drenthe's game well.
- Clarence Seedorf (1996-2000) - only player to have won the Champions League with three different clubs (Ajax, Real Madrid and current club AC Milan)
- Ruud van Nistelrooy (2006-) - most expensive Dutch signing when he signed for Manchester United for PSV Eindhoven in 2001 for 30 million euros
- Royston Drenthe (2007-)
- Wesley Sneijder (2007-)
If Robben also arrives, there'll be almost a many Dutchmen as Spaniards in the starting 11! Sneijder will be the second most expensive Dutch signing ever, at 27 million euros, according the the Ajax website, and 25.5, according to As (the devil will be in the detail, I expect with additional payments for trophies won, goals scored, or other such things).
Last week, Ajax publicly announced that negotiations had stalled at around 24 million euros, when they were looking for 27 (after initially asking for 30), and that if Real wanted the player, they had better hurry, or he would be cup-tied in Ajax's upcoming qualifier Champions league tie. Real responded with an ultimatum and a withdrawal of their offer on Friday. Clearly this was just a bit of posturing, as Mijatovic travelled to the Netherlands over the weekend to finalise terms and give Schuster the playmaker he's been asking for. Sneijder has, at 23, already several Champions League ties under his belt, quality and technique, scores goals (18 last season) and is a specialist free-kick taker. On paper, he's probably the best signing so far this summer, in my opinion. He should also alleviate some of the Guti-dependency that Real has had in the preseason, which can be no bad thing. Hopefully he will adapt to the new league, team-mates and language quickly enough to make an impression.
Both Drenthe and Sneijder will be officially presented later today. They are both reportedly potential starters in next Sunday's Spanish Supercup 2nd leg at the Bernabéu against Sevilla. It may be too soon to expect them to fit in; however, given the Dutch season starts earlier than the Spanish, they should at least be physically ready.