Having fallen out with Marco van Basten after the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, the Bayern Munich holding midfielder ruled himself out of UEFA EURO 2008 before resuming his international career upon the appointment of his father-in-law, Bert van Marwijk, as coach two years ago. A Netherlands international since 2000, he contested seven qualifiers on the road to South Africa and exerted considerable impact in the centre of the park. A respected senior figure despite his past self-imposed exile, the former PSV Eindhoven icon will be hoping to mark his second, and surely final, FIFA World Cup by adding an international title to an impressive list of honours from the club game.
First shown the ropes at Maasbracht, Van Bommel got his initial taste of Eredivisie action with Fortuna Sittard in 1992/93, but it took him two seasons before tying down a regular starting berth. He eventually spent a total of seven years with the Sittard outfit and demonstrated similar loyalty during his six-year spell with PSV, where he helped win the Dutch league title in 2000, 2001 and 2003 and picked up the Dutch Player of the Year awards in 2001 and 2005. Van Bommel remains a legendary figure at the Philips Stadion, where his battling attributes in the face of adversity fitted in perfectly with the club’s history. He was also captain of the side that reached the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2005, when they eventually lost out to AC Milan after a pair of matches that will long be remembered by PSV fans.
The lure of foreign adventure finally took hold as his contract came to an end that summer and, aged 28, Van Bommel signed for Barcelona, the club he had supported as a child. His style proved less popular in Catalonia than back home, however, and more often than not the newcomer found himself benched by Barça coach Frank Rijkaard. Indeed, despite winning the Spanish league title and Champions League during his stint at the Camp Nou, he packed his bags for Bavaria after 12 months of frustration. Snapped up to replace Chelsea-bound midfielder Michael Ballack, Van Bommel quickly rediscovered his verve and contributed to Bayern’s Bundesliga success in 2007/08, before becoming the first overseas player to be handed the captain’s armband a few weeks later. It was a real honour and a huge source of pride for a footballer often criticised in the media for his somewhat uncompromising approach to the game.
Stubborn, forthright and combative, Van Bommel is a tackling machine and expert ball-winner, but he also boasts a fine array of passes and a powerful shot, having been a free-kick specialist during his PSV days.
Rewarded with his first Netherlands cap in 2000, he has appeared in 20 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for the Oranje and has so far contested three finals matches, all at Germany 2006.