Roy Makaay rates as one of European football’s most prolific strikers of recent times, with a total of 256 goals in Spain’s La Liga, the Bundesliga in Germany and the Dutch Eredivisie. He reached a personal zenith in 2003, when he claimed the Golden Shoe as the continent’s leading scorer with 29 goals in the Spanish top flight. At the end of last term, Makaay brought down the curtain on his illustrious career, which for all his success at club level, never included a run-out at the FIFA World Cup™.
In the build-up to the quarter-finals in South Africa, FIFA.com spoke to the 35-year-old about his impressions of the tournament so far, the best forwards at the finals, and who he is backing to win the trophy.
FIFA.com: Roy, you’re certain to be following the action at the FIFA World Cup, but where from?
Roy Makaay: At the moment, I’m watching the matches at a theme park in Germany, where I’m taking a few days’ vacation with my family. From the quarter-finals onwards, I’ll be watching at home in the Netherlands.
What’s your assessment of the tournament so far?
The tournament’s not really caught fire yet. We’ve had a couple of terrific games, but quite a few poor ones too. But I think it’s beginning to change now we’re in the knockout stages, and the games will be increasingly attractive.
What’s the biggest surprise so far, and what’s disappointed you the most?
The biggest surprise is definitely seeing Uruguay and Paraguay or Japan in the last eight. The biggest disappointment has to be the performance of the 2006 finalists, Italy and France.
You played in Spain, Germany and the Netherlands. How would you rate the national teams from those countries?
The Dutch qualified for the quarter-finals very comfortably. They’ve been in no trouble at all in any of their matches – and they can still play a lot better too. Germany fully deserve their place in the quarter-finals. They’ve played some lovely football. Knocking England out of the tournament 4-1 says it all, but now they have to play Argentina, the best team I’ve seen so far. And Spain are a great team. They were a bit unlucky in their first game against the Swiss, but with their potential, I regard them as one of the favourites for the trophy.
You know Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk very well after playing for him in Rotterdam with Feyenoord. What’s he like as a coach?
Van Marwijk is an outstanding coach. He’s very calm and collected, he knows exactly what he wants, and he communicates that directly to the players. They know there can only be one target this time, which is winning the World Cup. I rate Van Marwijk as one of the best coaches I ever had.
The Elftal face Brazil in the quarter-finals. How will they approach the game, and how far can the Dutch go at the tournament?
Holland against Brazil is a massive game. I reckon the teams are just as good as each other right now, and I think the winners will go through to the Final. Obviously, I’m hoping the Dutch win the game.
Speaking as a former world-class striker, which forward has impressed you the most so far?
I’ve really enjoyed watching Lionel Messi. He’s my player of the tournament at the moment, despite not scoring himself as yet. But there’s also Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez, who I know well from the Eredivisie.
Germany starlet Thomas Muller has received rave reviews at the finals. How do you rate him?
It's not just that Thomas has had a great World Cup, he maintained very high standards throughout last season. He’s brought all the positives from a superb season with Bayern with him to the World Cup – like all the Bayern players in fact – and he’s been outstanding so far. He’s young, he’s unaffected by the pressure, and you can see he’s enjoying the tournament.
Who are your favourites for the trophy?
Before it started, I’d have said Brazil and Spain. Now, and as I’ve just told you, I see the winners of Holland versus Brazil meeting Argentina or Spain in the Final, and that could go either way.
You ended your long and successful playing career in May. What does the future hold for you now?
I’m hoping to make a gradual transition to coaching, so I need to earn the necessary qualifications in the Netherlands. As of the new season, I’ll be attached to the Feyenoord youth section, where I’ll be running special training sessions for the young strikers.