The conveyor belt that is Real Madrid’s Galactico-orientated transfer system has seen some sensational names come and go at the Santiago Bernabeu since the turn of the millennium.
Florentino Perez’s two reigns as president in the Spanish capital have seen the world transfer record smashed time and time again.
But during his three-year absence from the helm between 2006 and 2009, when Ramon Calderon was in the hotseat, a strange phenomenon occurred at Real.
Calderon and his right-hand man Predrag Mijatovic set about turning Spain’s great club a new colour – orange.
That’s because in just over two years, six Dutch players arrived at the Bernabeu as part of a Netherlands-flavoured revolution.
Which Dutch stars were brought in?
At one point in the 2008/09 season, Real had Ruud van Nistelrooy, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben, Rafael van der Vaart, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Royston Drenthe all on their books with ultimately very contrasting fortunes.
Huntelaar was the last to arrive in January 2009; signed from Ajax to add goals to the Real frontline in their bid to catch Barcelona in La Liga.
Did the Dutch ploy work?
In the previous season, four of the six – excluding Van der Vaart and Huntelaar – were key or peripheral members of a squad that went onto win La Liga comfortably.
Under Bernd Schuster, Los Blancos finished nine points clear of closest rivals Villarreal with an out-of-sorts Barcelona a distant third.
Where and when did it start going wrong?
That sizeable gap between the sides signalled time for change in Catalonia and the arrival of Pep Guardiola flipped everything upside down.
In the 2008/09 season, Barcelona turned the tables on their great rivals, battering them 6-2 at the Bernabeu in May which ultimately ended the title race and resulted in a final nine point cushion.
The Dutch players experienced mixed campaigns.
Both Van Nistelrooy (10 goals) and Huntelaar (8 goals) were rotated in attack with Raul and Gonzalo Higuain preferred, but still managed better than one-in-two goal ratios.
Sneijder, Van der Vaart and Robben were the side’s main creative forces but lacked the star quality that say a Cristiano Ronaldo could consistently offer.
Real were dumped unceremoniously out of the Champions League and Copa del Rey by Liverpool and minnows Real Union respectively while that embarrassing defeat to Barca capped a vastly underwhelming season.
When and why did the Dutch era come to an end?
Mega-money moves for Ronaldo and Kaka ultimately needed to be funded somehow, so the Dutch contingent were effectively all transfer listed.
Strangely enough, Van Nistelrooy in June 2009 urged all of his international compatriots to leave with one exception: himself.
Calderon’s departure paved the way for Perez’s return, which in turn catalysed the Dutch dismantlement.
Instead Portuguese players and staff where prioritised in preparation for the arrival of Jose Mourinho, with Ronaldo, Pepe, Ricardo Carvalho and Fabio Coentrao all new signings.
In hindsight, was it wise?
In reality none of the Dutch six will be remembered that fondly in Madrid.
Robben, Sneijder and Van der Vaart all went onto enhance their careers after their departures while Van Nistelrooy was in his twilight years during his spell there.
Huntelaar’s move to the Bernabeu proved a step too far for his ability while Drenthe was at Reading just a year later and retired by the age of 29.
On paper it should have worked, but on reflection Guardiola’s instant impact at Barcelona exposed its flaws.
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