Krol is best remembered as the great left-back in the Total Football teams of both Ajax and the Netherlands in the early 1970s. His fine technique, attacking prowess, intelligence on the ball and great range of passing (with both feet) meant that he was the perfect full-back to fit into the flexible Dutch system.
Krol was so comfortable on the ball that he was also capable of switching into midfield if required. But it’s as a defender for which Krol was best known, his defensive qualities and leadership perfectly complemented his attacking skills to make him one of the world’s great all-round defenders, and the latter part of his career would see him move to a sweeper role, where his calmness and composure on the ball was ideal for organising his teams and starting attacks from the back.
Krol had started his career with Ajax in 1968, in the middle of the Rinus Michels era. Theo van Duivenbode was left-back for the club at the time, but Michels had concerns about him after their loss to Milan in the 1969 European Cup final and he was allowed to move to arch-rivals Feyenoord. The 20 year-old Krol stepped up to replace him, and never looked back., immediately claiming an Eredivisie league and KNVB Cup double in his first season, followed by an incredible next few years that would see Ajax claim three European Cup titles in a row from 1971 to 1973, two more league titles, two more KNVB cups, and an Intercontinental Cup victory. To say they were dominant is something of an understatement. However, all great eras come to an end, and whilst Krol would stay with Ajax all the way through the 1970s, the other stars of the team would start to leave the side one by one. Coach Rinus Michels would start the exodus at the start of the decade, leaving for Ajax, and in 1973 he would persuade Cruyff to join him there, and Johan Neeskens would join them a year later. With club legend Piet Keizer retiring in 1974 and Johnny Rep moving abroad in 1975, Krol found himself amongst a handful of the old guard still remaining at the club.
It’s a testament to Krol that he stuck with the club through the barren years of the mid 1970s as the club rebuilt a team. Now captain of the club, Krol was rewarded as Ajax won three titles in four years between 1977 and 1980 as they once again dominated the Eredivisie.
Krol eventually left Ajax in the summer of 1980, aged 31, joining Canadian side Vancouver Whitecaps in the NASL. He was soon back in Europe though, signing for Napoli for the second half of the 1980-81 Serie A season. The first two seasons with the Azzurri were pretty successful, the club finishing 3rd and 4th, their highest positions since 1975, whilst on an individual level Krol won the Guerin d'Oro award for the Serie A’s best player in 1981. The final two seasons weren’t as good, Napoli finishing in the bottom half of the league, and Krol left at the end of the 1983-84 season, moving to France and having two seasons in Ligue 2 with Cannes. Krol retired at the end of the 1986 season, having amassed more than 500 appearances for his four clubs.