Roy Makaay: The Dutchman who put Deportivo in the history books

When you think of the most lethal strikers in European football from the last 20 years, who springs to mind? Cristiano Ronaldo,Andriy Shevchenko, Raul,Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba? While each of these players were world-class in their own merit, the name of Roy Makaay ought to be mentioned alongside them in any discussion about the top forwards of that generation.

The Dutchman’s record speaks for itself. 291 goals in 607 matches across three countries. One La Liga title, two Bundesligas, seven other major honours, a coveted Pichichi award and a European Golden Boot, mean that Makaay’s trophy cabinet is not exactly empty either. In the era before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo redefined goalscoring, a career ratio of one in two was considered pretty good too.

Beginning his career at Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands, it was in Spain that Makaay would go on to establish himself on the European stage. A two-year stint at struggling Tenerife – where he scored 21 goals in 78 appearances – led to a move to Deportivo La Coruna in 1999.

Makaay playing for Deportivo – Image Source: Twitter

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At the Estadio Riazor, Makaay was a key part of the greatest side in Depor’s history. Forming a formidable partnership with Diego Tristan, the strike pair fired La Coruna their first ever – and only since – La Liga title. Makaay scored 22 goals in that historic first term as Depor’s fairy tale season captured headlines across the continent.

Fighting against the giants of Spanish football though, maintaining that high level proved difficult. The following two seasons were indifferent for Depor compared with the year 2000 but along with two Supercopa wins and the Copa Del Rey in 2002, these remained halcyon days for a club of their size.

In season 2002/03, Makaay’s form soared as he cemented his place among the top strikers in Europe. His impressive tally of 39 goals from 54 games saw him scoop not only the Pichichi – the award for La Liga’s top scorer – but also the European Golden Boot.

In a season where his club finished 3rd behind Real Sociedad and the winners Real Madrid, Makaay’s form was the highlight in a barren season for La Coruna. Such is his popularity with the Depor fans, they still wish him a Happy Birthday to this day – 14 years after his departure!

Now on the radar of Europe’s richest clubs, it was Bayern Munich who captured Makaay’s signature in the summer of 2003 for a club record fee of €18m. This was to be the start of great relationship between Bayern and Makaay, as the player who became known as ‘Das Phantom’ became a fans favourite over the course of four trophy laden seasons.

In three of those four seasons at Bayern, Makaay finished Bundesliga top scorer and fired his team secure two league titles and two German cups. Bayern’s investment in Makaay at the age of 28 proved extremely astute. In great form and at his physical peak, he scored an incredible 102 goals in 178 appearances for the club. He also set the record for the fastest goal in Champions League history against Real Madrid in 2005, after just 10.1 seconds.

In the debate about great European strikers, Roy Makaay may often be at the forefront of the discussion. The one glaring gap in Makaay’s glowing career is the Champions League. This most coveted of competitions seems to underline a player’s place among the greats of the game. In international terms, Makaay has 46 caps and 6 goals for the Netherlands. This pales in comparison to his club record as he really struggled to make an impact for his country due to competition from players such as Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

With pace, power and the ability to score every type of goal, Roy Makaay should rightly be considered with the great strikers of European football. Makaay honed a reputation as a prolific goalscorer across the continent and propelled the clubs he graced to the next level. In La Coruna and in Munich, Makaay is revered as a legend. However, it’s time European football remembered his brilliance and talked about him among the greats.

Would you lead a life like Roy Maakay if you were a professional footballer? There’s only one way to find out???

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