VAN BASTEN

VAN BASTEN

It's Marco Van Basten's birthday today – so we've compiled his career highlights for you. From his break through with Ajax all the way through to his early retirement with AC Milan at just 30 years old.

Happy Birthday Marco, you were some player...

 

Breakthrough at Ajax

 

Marco Van Basten’s professional career began when he signed for Dutch giants Ajax aged just 16. He would make his debut in the first team the very same season, coming on at half time for Ajax legend Johan Cruyff in April of 1982. Within 20 minutes he had his very first goal as many within the club began to realise just how special a talent they had on their hands.

By the end of 1983, the then 19 year old Marco had begun to establish himself as Ajax’s first choice striker. From 1984 to 1987 he scored a staggering 118 goals in just 112 matches, including an astonishing 37 goals in just 26 league matches in the 1985/86 season.

 

 

In perhaps the proudest moment of Van Basten’s Ajax career, manager Johan Cruyff elected to make him captain for the 1987 Cup Winners Cup final against Lokomotive Leipzig. He duly scored the games only goal in the 20th minute as got his very first taste of success on the European stage, it would by no means be the last time. 

 

That Volley

 

 

In 1988 Van Basten scored undoubtedly the greatest goal ever seen in a European Championship final. Tracking an overhit ball by Arnold Muhren, he hit a ferocious volley from a seemingly impossible angle. The ball looped in over the head of Soviet keeper Renat Dasayev and into the far top corner. 

It was this second goal that sealed the tie but Van Basten was also instrumental in assisting Ruud Gullit for the first of the game. He ended the tournament as top scorer, with over twice as many goals as his closest competitor.

 

The Ballon D’ors and European cups - The Milan years

 

 

By the time the Netherlands were crowned champions of Europe Van Basten was already a Milan player with Silvio Berlusconi acquiring the precocious striker the previous summer. His heroic exploits in the tournament helped him secure his very first Ballon D’or in 1988 as he became just the fifth player to retain the honour. With the addition of his compatriots Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard for the 1988/89 season Milan would become all conquering and would see Van Basten win his first European Cup.

 

 

The 89/90 season would see yet more triumph for Milan as they retained their European Cup as Van Basten became the Capocannoniere as the leading goal scorer of the Italian league. A disappointing year followed as Milans form slumped and Van Basten fell out with manager Sacchi. The arrival of Fabio Capello in June 1991 rejuvenated the side as they won the league undefeated as Van Basten scored 25, the most by anyone in Italy since 1966. 

The 1992/93 season would see Milan stretch their unbeaten run to a staggering 58 games as Van Basten picked up both the FIFA world player of the year and yet another Ballon D’or, joining Cruyff and Platini as the only men to have won the award three times.

 

92/93 - 20 goals in 22 games FIFA + UEFA player of the year - last ever season in the game at the just 28

 

 

No one could know it at the time but for the 28 year old Van Basten, with the world at his feet, the 92/93 season would also be his last. Chronic ankle injuries were exacerbated during a December 1992 clash and sidelined him for six months. He made a return just in time for the 1993 European Cup final but after a heavy challenge from Basile Boli, Van Basten exited the pitch after 86 minutes. He would never recover. 

After two years of rehabilitation Marco called time on his stellar career on the 17th August 1995. He made an emotional final appearance to thank the fans with an inconsolable Fabio Capello watching on. At just 30 years old arguably the greatest pure finisher the game has seen was gone.

It is a testament to the otherworldly abilities he possessed that Van Basten will always be seen as a ‘what if’ but on his 56th birthday it’s important to remember just how transcendently brilliant Marco Van Basten truly was.

 

 

 

 

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