Kluivert learned to play football on the street. He spent most of his time at the red court at the Naardermeerstraat, where he played with other kids, including Edgar Davids. He also played at local football club Schellingwoude for one year. He immediately impressed by the amount of goals he scored. At the age of seven Tonny Bruins Slot scouted him for the famous Ajax youth academy. He got through this tough academy with relative ease. Throughout the years he was used on every possible position, even as a central defender. This way he grew to an allround forward, with much more abilities than just scoring goals. Judged by the TIPS-system (Short for technique, football intelligence, personality and speed) he scored excellent grades on technique, football intelligence and speed. The only aspect that raised some questions was the personality-aspect: his trainers deemed Kluivert too impulsive sometimes. For example, he often received unnecessary cards. During his youth Kluivert also featured in several youth squads of the Dutch National Team: under-15, under-16 and under-17.
After Ajax failed to sign the talented Brazilian Ronaldo (who went from Cruzeiro to rival PSV instead) trainer Louis van Gaal decided to select Kluivert for his first team. By stating “They have Ronaldo, but we have Kluivert” he expressed his confidence in his protégé. The young striker became part of a team with promising talents like Clarence Seedorf, Marc Overmars and Edgar Davids, names like Edwin van der Sar, Jari Litmanen and the De Boer twins, and experienced players like Danny Blind and Frank Rijkaard. In this young, talented squad Kluivert had the task to succeed Stefan Pettersson, who returned to Sweden that summer.
AFC Ajax (1994-1997)
Kluivert made his debut on 21 August 1994, starting in the match about the Dutch Super Cup against Feyenoord. He immediately scored during his first match, just like other big names from the Ajax academy did. He put the 3-0 on the scoreboard, which turned out to be the final score. It meant he won the first prize of his career. During his first season season, he had to compete with Kanu and Ronald de Boer for the striker position. He also often played as an attacking midfielder behind the striker. Kluivert played 25 league games, in which he scored 18 goals. This tally made him club top scorer of Ajax. In the Eredivisie only Ronaldo was able to score more goals, becoming Dutch top scorer with a large margin. Kluivert did win the most important prize of the Dutch league though, as he won the Dutch title with Ajax without losing a single match. In the Amstel Cup Kluivert only played and scored for Ajax 2, with who he reached just as far as the first team, namely the quarter finals. The undisputed peak of his season was his role in the Champions League final against titleholder AC Milan. The way Ajax reached this final was impressive. Two group wins over the 1994 winners and a legendary 5-2 win over Bayern Munich were the finest moment in an undefeated road to the final. In the final match in Vienna Kluivert replaced Litmanen in the 69st minute. Five minutes before full time Frank Rijkaard set up a combination with the young striker. But instead of returning the ball, Kluivert turned away from his marker, slipped into the created space and beat goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi with the tip of his shoe, delivering Ajax the Champions League Cup. With this cupwinning goal he marked his name in all Europe. That was also the purpose of his goal-celebration: after scoring he turned his shirt around for everybody to read his name.
During the season 95/96, Ajax continued their impressive football. Kluivert was named Dutch Talent of the Year and European Footballer of the Year under 21 of 1995, putting a crown on his impressive first season. Ajax again won the Dutch Super Cup, by defeating Dutch Cup winner Feyenoord just like one year earlier. This time the game went into extra time with a 1-1 score, and in extra time Kluivert netted the Golden Goal from the penalty spot. Also the European Super Cup was added to their honours, by defeating UEFA Cup winners Real Zaragoza. Kluivert scored the equalizer in the away game, after which the tie was decided in Amsterdam as Ajax impressed with a solid 4-0 win. At last Ajax was also allowed to call themselves the best club in the world. They defeated the winner of the Copa Libertadores, Brazilian side Gremio, in the game for the Intercontinental Cup. The Brazilian team eventually lost after a penalty shootout, despite a Kluivert miss. The Dutch title was prolonged, with Kluivert scoring 15 goals and assisting on 7 more. In the Champions League he scored five times. Their best match was against Real Madrid, with names like Hierro, Redondo and Raúl. Kluivert and Litmanen each scored twice, but both saw one of their goals disallowed incorrectly. The bar also prevented Ajax from scoring three times. Despite the final score of ‘just’ 0-2, many regarded this game as the peak of this Ajax-generation. Ajax even got a standing ovation from the Madrilen crowd. Ajax went on to reach the Champions League final again, but lost to Juventus this time after a thrilling penalty shoot-out. It was a defeat which brought some controversy years later, when stories about doping use of the Turin side became public. In 2004 the UEFA even considered for a short time if Ajax should receive the Champions League title after all, but it was quickly decided that the Champions League title 1996 would remain in Italian hands.
Kluivert’s thirth season was a lot less pleasant for him. A traffic accident in which one person died and an accusion of rape made 96/97 a difficult season for him in personal life. He also experienced the first setback in his football career. Because of all the side affairs Kluivert only played 17 Eredisie matches, in which he often couldn’t impress. He was criticized by older teammates several times and on top of that was being whistled at by his own supporters. The rest of Ajax shared in the malaise too though. To underline the sharp contrast with the previous seasons: Kluivert scored six Eredivisie goals, which still made him joint top scorer of Ajax. In the Champions League Kluivert only featured four times, but that was enough for him to be of importance twice. In the decisive group fixture against Grasshoppers Zürich he scored the only goal, which granted Ajax a place in the quarter finals. Here he was valuable too, by scoring the important equalizer away against Atlético Madrid: after a combination with Jari Litmanen he netted his final goal in service of Ajax, determining the final score 1-1. After the game he was the only player refusing to trade his shirt, due to a automatic suspension he assumed he had played his last European match for the Amsterdam side. In the semi final Ajax was once again stopped by Juventus. Kluivert wasn’t with them at the time: he had to undergo a knee surgery in April, which meant he couldn’t take part in the final stage of the season. The elimination, together with the fourth place in the Eredivisie, the unsuccessful attempt for the national cup and the loss of the Super Cup, meant the end of a disappointing season without winning any prizes. Kluivert had lost a lot of credit in Amsterdam, but even more in the rest of Holland. The striker was continuously booed and was almost weekly a victim of abusive chants. It didn't help that the Dutch media spent massive attention to all controversies around the formerly adored talent. As a result the public opinion about Kluivert made a radical U-turn in 1996. Because Kluivert didn’t want to continue his career in the Netherlands like this, he decided to leave.[/b] Despite everything he still got a fine goodbye at Ajax, stating he would return some day.
AC Milan (1997-1998)
Kluivert decided to continue his career at Italian side AC Milan. Here he was reunited with Edgar Davids and Michael Reiziger, who left Ajax one season earlier. Also his teammate Winston Bogarde joined the Rossoneri. Besides the presence of some familiar faces there was another reason for Kluivert’s choice. His youth idols Marco van Basten and Frank Rijkaard had their greatest successes at the Italian top club, and Kluivert wanted to follow in their footsteps. In the Serie A things didn't get any better for the 21 year old striker though. He had a promising start; in the Trofeo Berlusconi fixture he found the net with an impressive goal. In the Italian league he was however less successful. In a difficult season for the Milanese club, which eventually ended in tenth place, Kluivert couldn’t live up to the expectations. The critical supporters wanted to see a lot of goals. When these didn’t come, they gave the forward a rough time. He was booed practically every match and quickly received nicknames as Il Bergkamp nero (the black Bergkamp, referring to his unsuccessful stay at Inter Milan). Manager Fabio Capello didn’t show much faith in him either. The trainer started to bench b]Kluivert already[/b] early in the season, and bought Maurizio Ganz halfway the season to strengthen the front line. Eventually Kluivert scored six domestic goals, making him second goal scorer for AC Milan after George Weah with 10 goals. In the national cup Kluivert was of great importance during the semi finals, scoring three goals which helped them to reach the finals. Here he was benched again though, and had to watch from the sideline how SS Lazio won the Coppa Italia.
After the WC in France things where completely different again. Milan had fired Capello, replacing him with Zaccheroni. In the pre-season Kluivert impressed, and seemed to get a second chance, despite the arrival of 1998 Serie A top scorer Oliver Bierhoff. Also some big clubs, like Manchester United and Arsenal, tried to contract him. Kluivert appeared to be starting next season at AC Milan anyway, but on the last day of the transfer period, Louis van Gaal personally took a plane to Milan, and convinced Kluivert to join him once again at FC Barcelona. AC Milan received 15 million euro for the Dutch striker.
FC Barcelona (1998-2004)
After being reunited with manager Van Gaal, Kluivert initially had some difficulties adapting in Spain, but earned himself a place in the regular line-up of the reigning champion nevertheless, thereby knocking Sonny Anderson out of the first eleven. Kluivert, with his technique, physical power and team play ability, turned out to complement Brazilian star Rivaldo well: together they would for a successful partnership for years. In his first season Kluivert scored 15 goals and had 16 assists. With these tallies he was an important link in the productive team, which eventually scored 87 goals in the Primera División: an amount not equaled since then. Kluivert quickly became one of the most popular Barcelona players. Eventually they won the title with a margin of 11 points. Kluivert didn’t participate in the 98/99 Champions League edition, as his last-minute transfer was after the deadline for writing in players for European competitions.
In the season 99/00, the 100-year anniversary for the Catalan side, Kluivert was assigned with the striker’s number 9, reassuring his status as first striker. The season started with the match for the Supercopa against Copa del Rey winner Valencia. Kluivert headed past goalkeeper Cañizares twice, but it wasn’t enough for the win. Kluivert again scored 15 goals in the domestic competition, setting up another 12 with his assists. He needed 9 games less than the previous season for this production though. He also played in the Champions League again after being absent for two years, directly showing himself again with 7 goals. His goal against FC Porto deserves a special mentioning. He controlled a long ball from the defense with his right foot and finished with a smart left-footed lob over the keeper. Barça eventually reached to the semi finals, after defeating Chelsea in a spectacular 5-1 victory. The semi final turned out to be the final stage for the Blaugranas, who ended up empty-handed by finishing second in the Primera División. Louis van Gaal and chairman Nuñez departed. After the new chairman Gaspart took control of the the club, it quickly declined, both sportive and financially.
In his third season Kluivert reached a total of 25 goals, 18 in the Primera División, 2 in the Copa del Rey and 5 in Europe. It was remarkable he achieved his highest goal production in this season. Being led by new manager Ferrer, a more defensive football system was introduced, in which Kluivert often figured as lone striker up front. With the departure of Luís Figo one of the star players and most effective assisters was gone too. Also attacking companion Rivaldo put his own performance above the team performance more than ever, and often overlooked Kluivert and other teammates in scoring position. In the Spanish league Barcelona was disappointingly ended fourth, despite Kluivert often scoring decisive goals. The club finished third in a CL-group with Leeds United, Besiktas and AC Milan, after which they joined the UEFA Cup knockout phase. Here Barça managed to, partially thanks to two Kluivert goals, narrowly defeat Celta de Vigo, and reach the semi finals. Here Kluivert made a costly mistake, making a hands ball in his own box: out of the following spot kick Liverpool scored the only and winning goal. It wasn’t a reason for Barcelona to break with their striker though: after difficult negotiations and ongoing rumours about him leaving Camp Nou, Kluivert extended his contract in July 2001. The new contract could keep him in Catalonia until halfway 2006.
Kluivert personally had a successful season in 2001/2002 again, with 18 league goals and seven European goals. Only Diego Tristán managed to score more Spanish league goals that season. Over the calendar year 2002 Kluivert became pichichi of Spain. His goal production wasn’t unnecessary, considering there was good competition for the striker position. Barcelona had made an expensive purchase with Javier Saviola, who had to play no matter what. Because of injuries and loss of form from Rivaldo, Kluivert would often form a partnership with the small Argentine from then on, whereas the Brazilian would disappear from view and eventually leave. Kluivert and Saviola turned out to be a successful couple too though. Manager Carles Rexach often posted Kluivert as a playmaker behind the quick Saviola, together they scored over 50 goals in their first season. Against Tenerife Kluivert struck four times, thereby breaking his barrier of 100 league goals. Barcelona didn’t keep up with the success of her top scorer, ending on 4th place in Spain again. In the Champions League things almost went completely wrong too, when Wisla Kraków was close to join the European tournament at the cost of Barcelona. Eventually the Catalan side was able to overcome their Polish opponent. Partially thanks to four Kluivert goals the Blaugranas consequently won the first group phase. The second group phase was won too, Kluivert ‘s most important moment was his late equalizer versus AS Rome. They overcame Panathinaikos in the quarter final too, but arch rival Real Madrid would stop them in the semis.
The Catalan crisis went on in the next season, with the returned Louis van Gaal back in charge. In the Champions League (5 goals Kluivert) they started well, winning the first group without losing any points. They also managed to get through the second group phase with relative ease, with Kluivert scoring twice against his future club Newcastle United and once against Internazionale. In the quarter finals they met Juventus, to which they narrowly lost. The league would have a dramatic outcome. Kluivert still proved to be a constant factor in the team, scoring 16 goals, but eventually Barcelona only reached a disappointing 6th place, resulting in Van Gaal being fired again. Kluivert’s most memorable performance was in the away match against Real Mallorca. He responded to ongoing racism from the islanders with two Black Power gestures and three goals, of which especially the third showed great skill: after setting up a combination himself, he plucked the ball out of the air with his left, and with his right back heel he let the ball bounce over keeper Franco via the ground. He also scored a special goal against Real Sociedad. The forward controlled the ball about 25 meter from the goal with his chest, his back turned to the defence. Then he surprised everyone by suddenly turning around and volleying with his left. With the help of the post and the shoulder of Sander Westerveld the ball eventually crossed the goal line.
The season 03/04 had an unwanted turn for the Dutch striker. After the years under president Gaspart, a new board led by Laporta was assigned in order to repay the huge debts and build a new team. Frank Rijkaard was appointed as the new manager, making it the third time in his career he worked with Kluivert. The striker couldn’t prove himself to his former team mate, who often positioned him as shadow striker. His domestic goal tally would get stuck on 8 goals (while starting 11 times and playing as a sub another 10 times), and he scored two UEFA Cup goals in three games. He sustained a serious knee injury in January, permanently damaging his knee and taking him months to recover. Right during this period Barcelona started to play better, with Saviola and new buy Ronaldinho usually starting up front. Kluivert didn’t manage to regain his place in the starting line-up after he returned, though he scored an important goal against Real Madrid as a substitute. The socios turned against Kluivert, just like they turned on other Dutch players in previous years. By booing him and showing banners directed at Kluivert, they clearly showed they didn’t appreciate the presence of the formerly popular top scorer. The new board wanted Kluivert to leave too, his high salary was too much of a financial burden, since they were planning to get some new expensive players as well. The Dutchman accepted to cut his salary by half when asked by the board, but later they would put him on the transfer list anyway. The squad was going through a rigid change and many players, Kluivert being one of them, had to leave. By means of a clause in his contract, his transfer fee was already strongly limited to 1.8 million euro, partially because of that Barcelona decided to let him go on a free transfer. The striker left the Catalan capital as Barcelona's all time topscorer since the fifties.
Newcastle United (2004-2005)
Since Kluivert had always wanted to play in the English Premiership some day, Kluivert chose to join Newcastle United on a free transfer. Though it was chairman Shepherd who bought Kluivert, trainer Bobby Robson had a lot of faith in the Dutchman. He saw Kluivert as a worthy successor of club legend Alan Shearer in the future. Robson was fired after only several matches though, his replacement Greame Souness was less charmed of the elegant forward, usually preferring hard-working footballers. The Scottish manager regularly kept Kluivert on the bench, or substituted him long before the final whistle. Combined with the numerous injuries Kluivert sustained during his stay in England, it turned out to be a disappointing adventure. Kluivert scored six times in the Premiership. He was unlucky to see some goals incorrectly disallowed though, one of them against Manchester United. He scored his finest goal against, Chrystal Palace, curling the ball around goalkeeper Kiraly with his back heel.
In the cup tournaments Kluivert did a better job than in the league. In the FA Cup he was of importance with the winning goals against Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, leading Newcastle to the semi finals. In the UEFA Cup tournament he scored five goals. Eventually the troubled club got knocked out in both tournaments in games when Kluivert was benched. In the Premiership the club ended on the 14th place. Since Kluivert had a top 10 clause in his contract - which meant that the contract would be terminated when Newcastle didn't finish in the top 10 - Kluivert was able to find a new club once again.
Valencia CF (2005-2006)
A return to Spain, which he liked both on personal as sportive grounds, was the most logical next step. So it happened that after two medical checks, Spanish top club Valencia CF brought the former Barcelona striker back to the Primera División. He started well here, with strong performances in the Intertoto he seemed to adapt quickly. He especially impressed with his solo against AA Gent, dribbling past four defenders before finishing off with the outside of his right foot. Roda JC manager Huub Stevens even recommended him to national coach Van Basten, after watching him play against his club. But Hamburger SV eventually took the European ticket, and Kluivert quickly fell back into a vicious circle of injuries and recovery. At the times he was fit, he got no more than very short substitutions, adding up to a total of slightly over 200 minutes spreaded over ten league games. He was only in the starting line-up on one single occasion. Halfway the season Hamburger SV applied to take over the forward, but Valencia declined the offer. His former team Ajax also informed about his availability, in case they would fail to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. One time Kluivert turned out to be decisive, within 15 minutes he earned a point for Valencia with a goal and an assist. Quickly after this match he had to undergo surgery to his right knee though, again ruling him out for more than a month. His severe lack of play time caused a bad relationship with manager Flores over time, who placed him out of his squad during the next pre-season. Even his number was given away to new buy Fernando Morientes, while Kluivert was still under contract. Kluivert had no option to spend the rest of the summer training by himself, not allowed to train with the rest of the group. Despite having a contract until halfway 2008, Flores absolutely saw no future in him anymore, allowing Kluivert to leave on a free transfer once again. He seemed to be going to Hamburger SV after all, but eventually they found his injury proneness too much of a factor.
PSV was searching for a replacement for Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink, who left the club just a few days before the transfer deadline. On the final day PSV signed former Ajax striker Kluivert for one season. It was a transition causing some controversy, but eventually his stay in Eindhoven was without incidents. His debut had to wait for some time, being not fully fit as a result of missing the pre-season with Valencia. Eventually he played his first match against Feyenoord, entering the pitch with a standing ovation. Only a week after his first PSV game he injured his right knee, and had to recover again. Just before the winter break he returned, and with some promising performances he seemed to be aiming for a place in the line-up. In the first game after the break he indeed started, afterwards the trainer stated PSV was stronger with Kluivert than without Kluivert. Immediately after this match Ronald Koeman surprisingly mostly used him as pinch-hitter though, sometimes only for one or two minutes. When he also sustained a back injury, the club’s confidence in Kluivert seemed to be gone. He marked his return with the only PSV goal in a 5-1 loss against his former club Ajax though (a 2-1 goal he refused to celebrate out of respect to his old club), a goal which proved to be crucial at the end of the ride. With a goal difference of just one goal, PSV snatched away the title from Ajax in the very end. Besides winning the Dutch title, PSV reached to the quarter finals of the Champions League, in which they got knocked out by Liverpool. Kluivert’s 3 goals and 3 assists proved to be insufficient to ensure a longer stay, in May 2007 it was announced his contract wouldn’t be extended. Consequently, Kluivert announced he was eager to return to the club where it all started for him, but Ajax declined the offer. Manager Henk ten Cate (who worked with him at Barcelona before) didn’t seem uneager to get him, but some days later technical director Martin van Geel refused the offer of their former striker. Eventually he was allowed to train with Jong Ajax though, so he could get in shape while he was still waiting for the right club to come by. His ‘return’ at Ajax didn’t take long, after two days French side Lille OSC approached him. In an earlier stage Kluivert had declined offers from Sheffield Wednesday and Derby Country, claiming he had rejected options to go to the Middle-East and the United States as well.
Lille OSC (2007-2008)
On 31 August Kluivert signed a one-year contract with French team Lille OSC. Besides the football related reasons the location of the Northern French city also played an important role. Kluivert wanted to stay close to his children, who live with his ex-wife Angela in Amsterdam. Partially because he again missed the pre-season, being troubled by recurring knee problems as well, he had difficulties to get and stay fit for an also difficultly operating Lille. Also trainer Claude Puel often chose a quick striker like Kevin Mirallas or Pierre-Alain Frau in a 4-5-1 system, placing Kluivert on the bench or in a midfield role.
Dutch National Team
Kluivert made his debut for the Dutch National Team as one of the youngest players ever, being selected by Dick Advocaat after just 9 Eredivisie performances. On 16 November 1994 he played his first game in the orange shirt, against the Czech Republic. He scored his first goal during his second cap, when the Dutch national team was already being lead by Guus Hiddink. In the decisive qualification match against Ireland, in which would be decided if the Netherlands would go to the European Championship 1996, Kluivert proved his value by scoring both goals in a 2-0 win. At the tournament itself Kluivert, being not fully recovered from a knee surgery, was mostly used as a substitute. In the match versus England Kluivert was decisive again. He entered the pitch while The Netherlands were 0-4 behind, knowing the Netherlands had to score a goal and he quickly did score the 1-4. Thanks to this goal Oranje marginally qualified for the knockout phase. In the quarterfinal against France the Dutch were knocked out after losing the penalty shootout, in which Kluivert scored. Besides the disappointing football displayed by the Netherlands, there was also a lot of media attention for an alleged split between white and black players, the last group being labeled as ‘De Kabel’ (literal translation: The Cable). Large salary differences at Ajax and the player preferences of coach Hiddink were said to be the cause of the conflict. Kluivert would later state in his biography the story was hugely inflated by the press.
After his first tournament Kluivert had earned credit in the national team, and left the bench for a regular spot in the line-up. However, he would not be playing much on the road to the World Championship. Including the friendly games Kluivert only had 10 caps between both tournaments, in which he scored 7 goals. Reasons for his lack of matches were his personal crisis, and irregular playing time at both Ajax and Milan. For instance, Hiddink refused to call up Kluivert before the trial regarding the rape accusation was solved. The Oranje supporters kept hissing at Kluivert while playing for his country, which almost got Kluivert to end his international career in an early state. Eventually peace returned, and with a strong preparation he seemed to have left his problems behind him.
During the World Championship in France however, it turned out Kluivert hadn’t closed the dark chapter. In the opening match Kluivert was provoked by Belgian defender Lorenzo Staelens, he reacted by knocking him down with his elbow. As a result he received a red card, and was suspended for two games; The Netherlands managed to get through the group phase without him. The action led to huge criticism in the Netherlands, ruining his image once again. After sitting out his suspension, Kluivert was kept on the bench during the entire 1/8-final against Yugoslavia. Kluivert’s performance during the training sessions was convincing though, so Hiddink decided to let him start in the quarterfinal against Argentina. Kluivert repaid his manager’s faith with the opening goal of the match, which was overshadowed by a stunning winning goal by Dennis Bergkamp in the final minutes. After the 2-1 victory they again had to face a South American football giant, reigning world champion Brazil. In a close match against the Brazilians Ronaldo opened the score just after the half-time break. It was Kluivert who equalized with a powerful header in the last minute of the game. In extra time Kluivert was close to scoring the winning goal, but saw his diagonal shot sail just near the post. Pierre van Hooijdonk had some bad luck too, being fouled in the box, but not earning a penalty kick. Eventually a penalty shootout had to decide the winner. Brazil proved to be more skilled at this aspect of the game. Kluivert would have been the fifth Dutch penalty taker, but didn’t have to take the spot kick anymore. A desillusionated Oranje then failed to defeat Croatia, and ended as fourth of the world.
Because the next big tournament would be held in the Netherlands and Belgium, the Dutch National Team was automatically qualified. Reunited with Frank Rijkaard, this time as his head coach, Kluivert strengthened his position as first choice striker with ten goals in the preparation friendlies. In a spectacular match against co-organizer Belgium (final score 5-5) he got his revenge for the incident at the WC, scoring three times against their southern neighbors. Just before scoring his first goal, he controlled the ball, stopped it just before the goal line, and casted a sarcastic look back to Lorenzo Staelens before tapping the ball in the empty goal. A half year later he added another two goals against Belgium, while also scoring against Brazil, Germany, Romania and Poland. At the EC in his own country the Dutch team became group winner by winning all three games, Kluivert scored two goals during this phase. He opened the score against Denmark, and scored the first equalizer against the eventual winner France. Then Yugoslavia was set aside with an impressive score (6-1), with Kluivert playing the first hour. Kluivert excelled in this quarter final by scoring a hattrick, while pressuring Yugoslavian defender to score an own goal. The results and play until then highly raised the Dutch’ believe in winning the title, but Italia crushed their dream during the semi final. Holland dominated the match from the beginning, but despite lots of goalscoring opportunities and despite a red card for italy, they didn’t succeed in taking the lead. Even two penalty kicks during regular time weren’t enough. After Frank de Boer failed the first time, Kluivert hit the post with his penalty kick. In the eventual penalty shootout he díd score, but to no avail. All his teammates failed, and Italy went on to play the European Championship final. This painful elimination made Kluivert’s top scorer’s title (shared with Savo Miloševi? after Kluivert openly admitted one of the goals written on his name was actually an own goal by Dejan Govedarica) of the tournament nothing more than a comfort prize.
After Dennis Bergkamp retired from the national team a lot of things changed. New manager Louis van Gaal tried a lot of new attacking formations, in which Kluivert regularly played as attacking midfielder, as Van Gaal had also used him before at Ajax. Also a lot was expected of his partnership with Ruud van Nistelrooij, with Kluivert setting up chances and Van Nistelrooij as the finisher. Despite the potential, in reality the duo could never fulfill their expectations, while many other forward lines didn’t work out very well either. Partially due to this problem, Holland had a difficult qualification. Losses against Ireland and Portugal eventually proved crucial for the Netherlands. Also the away match against Portugal, in which the Dutch National Team lost a 0-2 lead acquired by Hasselbaink and Kluivert in the final minutes, cost them two expensive points. Kluivert would eventually produce five qualification goals, but it wasn’t enough: The Netherlands failed to qualify for the WC in South-Korea and Japan.
Dick Advocaat failed to bring Holland back to the highest level. Kluivert never really found his best form while playing for the man who allowed him to make his debut in 1994. However, with his goals on the way to Euro 2004 he took over the top scorer’s title from Dennis Bergkamp: with 40 goals he is still all-time top scorer of the Dutch National Team. The Dutch people weren’t satisfied with their team, many found the older players should be replaced by younger, more hungry footballers. In the all-deciding match against Scotland the crowd got what they want: a new team, without Kluivert, which humiliated Scotland 6-0. In the 78th minute Kluivert made his appearance after all, being massively booed by the Dutch supporters. From that moment on his international career was as good as over. In the preparation for the final tournament Kluivert was substituted four times in a row during friendly games. Van Nistelrooij had gained a lot of credit with his hattrick against Scotland, and by the time the EC 2004 started he was first striker of Oranje. Kluivert was a member of the squad which went to Portugal, but was the only Dutch field player who didn’t get any time on the pitch. In fact, during the final stage of the lost semi-final against host Portugal, he was the only striker not on the field.
With the appointment of Marco van Basten things got only worse for Kluivert. His first deed was to cut some big names out of the team, Patrick Kluivert being one of them. Except for being mentioned in the pre-selection of October 2004, he was constantly overlooked by van Basten. In an interview in 2006 Kluivert claimed Van Basten had never even contacted him. Meanwhile, many other strikers have been preferred over Kluivert, virtually ruling out a return of the Dutch all-time top scorer. Nevertheless the striker never officially ended his international career, and stated several times he would still be happy to represent his country once again. At the end of 2007, Kluivert spoke out his intentions to participate at the Olympic Games in Peking, as one of the three dispensation players. Holland’s U-21 manager Foppe de Haan responded he would take his application into considerations.