It's usually Real Madrid's archrivals Barcelona who have enjoyed the stronger association with Holland's best footballers but Los Blancos has had their fair share in the modern era.
Under Ramón Calderón's new project in the wake of Florentino Pérez's resignation as Real president, the early 2000s saw a flurry of Dutchmen arrive in the Spanish capital. It's safe to say that the majority of the Oranje stars didn't spend their best years at the Bernabéu. But let's rewind a little bit first.
🥽 Clarence Seedorf
Although the legendary midfielder's time at the club came before the turn of the millennium, he is undoubtedly part of Real Madrid's modern Dutch fabric. Seedorf won the LaLiga title in 1997 and then capped it off with Europe's biggest club prize in 1998. To this day, he's the only man to have won the UEFA Champions League with three different clubs. One of the finest, most complete midfield players of his generation, and very much an exception to most rules.
🎡 Dutch bonanza in the noughties
Club president Calderón's first big buy was the £13.5million acquisition of 30-year-old goal machine Ruud van Nistelrooy from Man United in 2006. He lived up to his reputation, scoring 33 goals in 47 games in all competitions and earning himself the nickname "Van Gol" in the process. Real won their first LaLiga title in four years and Calderon believed he was onto something, so a raid on the finest Dutch talent followed.
Calderon promised the Real Madrid faithful that he would sign Arjen Robben and he made good on that promise, capturing the Dutch flier from Chelsea for £30m in 2006. Wesley Sneijder and Royston Drenthe arrived in the same summer, for £25m and £12m respectively, with both signings recruited from the Dutch Eredivisie.
Love this photo in today's @marca.— The Spanish Football Podcast (@tsf_podcast) August 4, 2019
Sneijder, Robben, Van der Vaart, Van Nistelrooy and Drenthe at Real Madrid in 2008/09.
If Madrid sign Van de Beek, he'll be the first Dutch player signed by Florentino Pérez... pic.twitter.com/HkQSZUEDId
Real went on to win their second consecutive LaLiga crown, with the Dutch quartet bagging a combined 37 goals & 24 assists across all competitions. Things were looking good for Calderon and his Dutch protégés.
In the summer of 2008, The Netherlands reached the European Championships quarterfinals where Rafael van der Vaart shone. Unsurprisingly, Calderon got his chequebook out to sign the Hamburg playmaker for what seemed to be a bargain deal of £10m. Real endured a disastrous end to the calendar year though, losing ground in the title race to Barcelona and losing van Nistelrooy for the season with a knee injury. Calderon took action by sacking Bernd Schuster and appointing Juande Ramos.
The new Spanish manager's appointment breathed new life into the club with Los Blancos winning 18 and drawing one of their first 19 league games in 2009. Robben scored six goals and bagged two assists in a new right-wing role and new man Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, signed from Ajax for £20m as a replacement for van Nistelrooy, had scored eight times in 15 appearances. Real came short, however, against an extraordinary Barcelona unit under Pep Guardiola. A 2-6 thrashing by Barça at the Bernabeu destroyed the team's confidence, and Robben was the only Dutchman to start the demoralizing defeat. Huntelaar was an ineffective substitute while van der Vaart was unused from the bench.
The Dutch era at Real Madrid was coming to an end. Van Nistelrooy would never recover from his chronic knee issues, van der Vaart and Sneijder competed for the same place and neither could produce top performances on a consistent basis, while Drenthe and Huntelaar didn't cut it at the very top level.
In the summer following that collapse, Florentino Pérez's returned to the club at Calderón's expense and the Galacticos policy was about to see its second era. In came Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaká and Karim Benzema, leaving no place for Robben and co. By the summer of 2011, there were no Dutch players on the club's books and none have been signed since.
When will the next cycle of Dutch talent have a crack at Real Madrid, we wonder?