Richard Witschge

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Richard Witschge
Richard Witschge 2013.jpg
Witschge in 2013
Personal information
Full name Richard Peter Witschge
Date of birth (1969-09-20) 20 September 1969 (age 51)
Place of birth Amsterdam, Netherlands
Height 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in)
Position(s) Midfielder
Youth career
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1986–1991 Ajax 87 (3)
1991–1993 Barcelona 40 (2)
1993–1996 Bordeaux 77 (9)
1995Blackburn Rovers (loan) 1 (0)
1996–2003 Ajax 139 (12)
2001–2002Alavés (loan) 26 (1)
2003 ADO '20
2004 Oita Trinita 9 (0)
Total 379 (27)
National team
1990–2000 Netherlands 31 (1)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Richard Peter Witschge (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈriʃɑrt ˈʋɪtsxə]; born 20 September 1969) is a Dutch former footballer who played as a midfielder. He was known for his technique and passing ability.

In an 18-year professional career he played mainly for Ajax, but also represented, amongst other clubs, Barcelona. In 11 seasons in the Eredivisie, he amassed totals of 226 matches and 15 goals.

Witschge represented the Netherlands in the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996.

Club career[edit]


Witschge was born in Amsterdam, North Holland. A product of local club AFC Ajax's prolific youth ranks under Johan Cruyff, he first appeared in the Eredivisie on 26 October 1986 at the age of 17, and scored his first league goal approximately a year later. His older brother Rob was already playing for the club.


After becoming established in the first team, Witschge signed for Cruyff's FC Barcelona in 1991. The manager later admitted to deliberately overpaying for him, as a favour to Ajax's incoming board of directors headed by his associate Michael van Praag.[1]

During his tenure, Witschge rarely played as the Catalans won back-to-back La Liga championships.[2][3][4] He made his debut in the competition on 14 September 1991, playing the full 90 minutes in a 3–1 home win against Real Zaragoza;[5] he faced intense competition for playing time as the three allotted slots for foreign players were usually taken up by Michael Laudrup, Hristo Stoichkov and his compatriot Ronald Koeman, and an injury ruled him out of the 1992 European Cup Final.[6]


Witschge's frustration with this state of affairs at the Camp Nou led him to take a substantial pay cut in joining FC Girondins de Bordeaux for 18 million francs, in 1993. Initially the move was unsuccessful as he was unhappy with his accommodation and clashed with his coaches over their tactics. Amidst ineffectual performances he was booed by his own supporters and eventually dropped from the team.[7]

Witschge moved to Blackburn Rovers on loan just ahead of the transfer deadline in March 1995, featuring against West Ham United as his team won the Premier League title. He had been intended as a replacement for injured left winger Jason Wilcox, but manager Kenny Dalglish preferred the more conservative option of pushing left-back Graeme Le Saux forward, bringing Jeff Kenna into the defence. An unimpressed Witschge later made an outspoken attack on Blackburn, branding the Lancashire town and its inhabitants "poor and ugly".[8]

Upon his return to Bordeaux, Witschge found conditions under new coach Slavoljub Muslin much more congenial, resulting in a sharp upturn in his form. He scored seven league goals and figured prominently in the team which reached the final of the UEFA Cup, after qualifying for the competition through the 1995 UEFA Intertoto Cup.[7]

Later years[edit]

In May 1996, Witschge agreed a return to Ajax, who wanted his experience to bolster the team which had begun to break up in the aftermath of their 1995 European Cup win. In his second spell he played more than 150 matches, helping the club win two leagues and consecutive domestic cups. After falling into dispute with veteran coach Co Adriaanse, who preferred young Rafael van der Vaart in his role, he was loaned to Spanish top flight side Deportivo Alavés for the 2001–02 season.[9]

After leaving Ajax for a second time in 2003, Witschge had short spells with amateurs ADO '20 in Heemskerk and Oita Trinita in Japan. After a failed trial at Rangers, he retired in June 2004 at nearly 35 years of age.[10]

In 2013, Witschge returned to Ajax as a youth coach.[11]

International career[edit]

Witschge earned 31 caps for the Netherlands, in which he scored one goal. He made his debut on 21 February 1990 in a 0–0 friendly draw against Italy, and was picked for the 1990 FIFA World Cup under manager Leo Beenhakker.

An injury sustained with Barcelona ruled him out of UEFA Euro 1992 and he did not make another major tournament until Euro 1996, held in England. During this time, his place in the national team was taken by his older brother.[12]

Witschge's initial spell in the national team yielded 19 appearances and one goal, between February 1990 and March 1992. As he subsequently dropped out of contention there was a perception that he had failed to fulfill his early talent, with Beenhakker attributing laziness and immaturity when he bracketed the player alongside contemporaries including Bryan Roy in the 'Patat Generatie' (English: French Fries Generation), the implication being that they ate junk food instead of focusing on improvement.[13]

After an upturn in his fortunes at club level, Witschge was recalled in September 1995 during the nation's faltering Euro 1996 qualifying campaign.[14] He attended the play-off tie against the Republic of Ireland in Liverpool, but was not ultimately selected. In the finals, he was preferred over Edgar Davids by Guus Hiddink, contributing to his teammate's frustration and eventual expulsion from the squad.[15]

In September 2000, Witschge returned to the national team after a three-year absence, due to an injury crisis.[16] He won his final cap in a 2–2 home draw to Ireland, which dented the Netherlands' qualification prospects for the 2002 World Cup.

Personal life[edit]

Witschge's older brother, Rob, was also a footballer and a midfielder.[17]

Career statistics[edit]


Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League
Division Apps Goals
Ajax 1986–87 Eredivisie 2 0
1987–88 10 1
1988–89 14 0
1989–90 28 2
1990–91 33 0
Total 87 3
Barcelona 1991–92 La Liga 23 0
1992–93 17 2
Total 40 2
Bordeaux 1993–94 Ligue 1 27 1
1994–95 17 1
1995–96 33 7
Total 77 9
Blackburn Rovers (loan) 1994–95 Premier League 1 0
Ajax 1996–97 Eredivisie 21 3
1997–98 29 2
1998–99 32 2
1999–2000 20 2
2000–01 15 2
2002–03 22 1
Total 139 12
Alavés (loan) 2001–02 La Liga 26 1
ADO '20 2003–04 Topklasse ? ?
Oita Trinita 2004 J1 League 9 0
Career total 379 27


Year Apps Goals
1990 11 0
1991 6 1
1992 2 0
1993 0 0
1994 0 0
1995 3 0
1996 7 0
1997 1 0
1998 0 0
1999 0 0
2000 1 0
Total 31 1






  1. ^ Cruyff, Johan. My Turn: The Autobiography. Pan Macmillan. p. 137.
  2. ^ "Treinta y siete días laborales y uno festivo" [Thirty-seven working days and one festive]. ABC (in Spanish). 8 June 1992. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  3. ^ Serra, Josep María (27 November 1992). "Witschge o Salinas es la duda" [Doubting between Witschge and Salinas] (PDF). Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  4. ^ "El Barcelona, campeón de Liga" [Barcelona, League champions]. ABC (in Spanish). 21 June 1993. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  5. ^ Astruells, Andrés (15 September 1991). "El Barça sólo respira al final" [Barça can only breathe in the end]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  6. ^ "El holandés que no estuvo en Wembley" [The Dutchman who did not go to Wembley] (in Spanish). En Un Momento Dado. 26 April 2016. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  7. ^ a b Villepreux, Olivier (2 April 1996). "Witschge, enfant gâté et gâché de la balle – Le Néerlandais trouve à Bordeaux un standing qu'il avait cru atteindre trop tôt" [Witschge, spoiled kid and wasted talent – Dutchman found at Bordeaux status he thought he had reached too soon]. Libération. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  8. ^ Farrell, Ian (November 2002). "Richard Witschge". When Saturday Comes. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  9. ^ Besa, Ramón (17 August 2001). "Un '10' en toda regla" [A '10' like no other]. El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Witschge extends Gers trial". BBC Sport. 20 August 2004. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  11. ^ "Overzicht trainers jeugdopleiding" [Youth coaches overview] (in Dutch). AFC Ajax. 23 May 2013. Archived from the original on 9 June 2013. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
  12. ^ Serné, Marc (26 May 1992). "Feyenoorder Rob Witschge neemt plaats in van geblesseerde broer Richard; Oranje zoekt scherpte in oefencampagne" [Feyenoord man Rob Witschge takes the place of injured brother Richard; Orange seek sharpness in practice campaign]. NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  13. ^ Van der Linden, Frenk (13 June 1992). "Ik schop, ik word gemener, ik groei'; Het chagrijn van Richard Witschge" ['I kick, I become meaner, I grow'; Richard Witschge's misery]. NRC Handelsblad (in Dutch). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  14. ^ Verkammen, Matty (6 September 1995). "Als je faalt in Oranje, dan is de volgende aan de beurt" [If you fail in Orange, it's the next guy's turn]. Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  15. ^ Verkammen, Matty (18 June 1996). "'Van de coach kun je het toch nooit winnen'" ['One can never win against the coach']. Trouw (in Dutch). Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Van Gaal prepara Holanda possível" [Van Gaal prepares possible Netherlands]. Record (in Portuguese). 2 September 2000. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  17. ^ Lang, Jack (3 December 2015). "Football's best brothers: As the Nevilles are reunited, we rank 30 of soccer's most celebrated sets of siblings". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  18. ^ Richard Witschge at
  19. ^ "Richard Witschge". European Football. Retrieved 18 September 2015.
  20. ^ "Season 1997–98". AFC Ajax. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Season 1998–99". AFC Ajax. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  22. ^ "Bordeaux 2–2 Karlsruhe". UEFA. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  23. ^ Galindo, Jesús (11 February 1993). "El Barça encarrila otro euro-título" [Barça all but win another euro-title]. Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 October 2018.

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