Having been knocked off the perch the previous year, PSV proved masters of their own destiny in 2004-05, marking their march to the title with great elegance and conviction.
They would lose just once all season to finish on 87 points, the highest total since the Eredivisie transitioned to three points for a win. Guus Hiddink’s side was packed with quality, scoring 89 goals compared to just 18 conceded, but it was in midfield where their games were won.
The trio of Mark van Bommel, Phillip Cocu and Johann Vogel were the perfect compliment to one another, forming a bond in the middle of the park while they ran opponents off the pitch. The club’s superiority was would see them complete the domestic double, while falling one injury-time goal shy of the Champions League final.
After returning to the top of the Eredivisie at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season, Ajax had to contend with Juventus buying enigmatic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic for €16m – the Swede leaving a memorable parting gift, scoring arguably the greatest goal of his career against NAC Breda in his final match in Amsterdam. The club replaced him with Angelos Charisteas, fresh off a tremendous showing in Greece’s improbable Euro 2004 triumph, buying the forward for €4.9m from Werder Bremen.
If the sale of Ibrahimovic was a blow, it was certainly softened by PSV’s mass exodus. The club was raided by Chelsea, the Blues swooping in with a double purchase of winger Arjen Robben and three-time golden boot winner Mateja Kezman for a combined €25.5m. They were replaced in Eindhoven by Jefferson Farfan, arriving for €3.5m from Alianza Lima. DaMarcus Beasley was bought for €2m from Chicago Fire, and Phillip Cocu returned to PSV from Barcelona on a free transfer. Also, in a sale they would come to rue greatly, the club sold youngster Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to Heerenveen for just €900k.
Elsewhere, Arsenal followed their London rivals, Chelsea, dipping into the Dutch talent pool themselves with the €4.5m purchase of striker Robin van Persie from Feyenoord.
It was a tumultuous season for Ajax on the managerial front, boss Ronald Koeman resigning in February, with Danny Blind eventually taking over in March for Ruud Krol, who had assumed the role of caretaker. Meanwhile, Ruud Gullit took over the helm at Feyenoord from Bert van Marwijk, who left after four years in charge.
Entering the season in Ajax’s shadow following the losses of Mateja Kezman and Arjen Robben, those left in Eindhoven had a point to prove. PSV would come roaring out of the gate, going unbeaten through their first 16 matches. A run of 12 successive clean sheets was a statement of intent to the rest of the league, as they brushed aside opponents with relative ease. Guus Hiddink’s side did not suffer their first defeat until December, and there wouldn’t be another – a 4-0 win in Amsterdam in March confirming them as the class of the Netherlands.
After establishing themselves as title contenders early in the season prior, AZ were able to maintain their push much longer this time around. Co Adriaanse’s side lost just once before April, entering the winter break in top spot, level on points and goal difference with PSV. Their ability to go blow-for-blow with Hiddink’s side was a testament to their quality, but they would eventually run out of steam. A miserable end to the season, losing seven of their last nine, saw them slump to a distant third-place finish, though it was their highest final position in the league since their title-winning campaign in 1980-81 – a sign of good things to come in Alkmaar.
PSV’s title bid was posed little threat otherwise. Ajax never really got their campaign off the ground, and the club would waive the white flag in February. A 2-1 defeat at home to Twente at the start of the month left them sputtering in third place, 10 points off leaders PSV. Ronald Koeman would resign shortly after, leaving the storied club in disarray.
Despite their fourth-place finish, Feyenoord made a strong case for the season’s most entertaining side. The duo of Dirk Kuyt and Salomon Kalou struck fear into opponents, leading the Rotterdam outfit to a league-best 90 goals, scoring at least four in an astounding 12 of their matches. But their penchant for goals ultimately proved their undoing, as Ruud Gullit’s side were a broken dam at the back, conceding 51 times.
Having both been promoted the season before, De Graafschap and Den Bosch were deservedly sent back down to the Erste Divisie, each finishing 13 points back of the closest side.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Mark van Bommel(PSV)
The skipper commandeered the midfield third with ruthless determination. His 14 goals and 12 assists were just a part of what he brought to the table in Eindhoven.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
Hints at a dynasty appeared real as ever under the coach, who was building a force not just in the Netherlands, but in Europe as well.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Salomon Kalou (Feyenoord)
Kalou burst onto the scene, forming a mouth-watering partnership with Dirk Kuyt in the league’s most feared attack.
Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord)
The transfer of Mateja Kezman paved the way for Kuyt - who had been finding the back of the net with regularity throughout his Eredivisie tenure - to win his first golden boot.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
GOAL OF THE SEASON
In Breda, they still have nightmares of this almost disrespectful ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC goal against NAC, which would prove to be the striker’s final one for the club:
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
ANGELOS CHARISTEAS (INCOMING), Werder Bremen to Ajax, €4.9m
ARJEN ROBBEN (OUTGOING), PSV to Chelsea, €18m
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
AZ proved PSV’s likeliest title challengers, staying hot on their heels through March, but successive 4-2 defeats to Ajax and Feyenoord at the start of April effectively ended their threat, all but confirming PSV as champions.