100 Greatest footballers of all time (Marco van Basten)

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Marcel “Marco” van Basten (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmɑrkoː vɑn ˈbɑstə(n)] ( listen); born 31 October 1964) is a Dutch football manager and former football player, who played for Ajax and Milan, as well as the Netherlands national team, in the 1980s and early 1990s as a forward. He is regarded as one of the greatest players of all time and has scored 300 goals in a high-profile career, but played his last game in 1993 at the age of 28 due to an injury that forced his retirement two years later. He was later the head coach of Ajax and the Netherlands national team.

Playing for the Netherlands, Van Basten won, and was named player of the tournament, at UEFA Euro 1988, scoring five goals that included a memorable volley in the final against the Soviet Union.At the club level, he won three Eredivisie titles and the Cup Winners’ Cup with Ajax, and three Serie A titles and two European Cups with Milan.

Known for his close ball control, attacking intelligence and spectacular strikes and volleys, Van Basten was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992 and won the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1988, 1989 and 1992.In 1999, he was ranked sixth in the FIFA Player of the Century internet poll, tenth in the European player of the Century election held by the IFFHS and 12th in the IFFHS’ World Player of the Century election.He was also voted eighth in a poll organised by the French magazine France Football, consulting their former Ballon d’Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players. In 2004, a poll for the 100 greatest Dutch people was held in the Netherlands: Van Basten ranked number 25, the second highest for a football player, behind Johan Cruyff. In 2007, Sky Sports ranked Van Basten first on its list of great athletes who had their careers cut short.

Playing career
Van Basten celebrates his goal for Ajax against Feyenoord in 1983.
Early years

Marco van Basten was born on 31 October 1964 in Utrecht. He began playing for a local team, EDO, when he was six years old. A year later, he moved to UVV Utrecht. After nine years there, he briefly played for another club from Utrecht, Elinkwijk.

AFC Ajax signed Van Basten for the 1981–82 season. He played his first game for Ajax in April 1982, scoring a debut goal in the 5–0 victory over N.E.C..

In the 1982–83 season, he competed with the European top scorer Wim Kieft for the position of centre forward, and scored nine goals in 20 league matches. After Kieft left for Serie A club Pisa the next season, Van Basten solidified his position as the team’s main attacker.

He became a top scorer in the league for four seasons from 1983–84 to 1986–87, scoring 118 goals in 112 matches. In the 1985–86 season, he scored 37 goals in 26 league matches, including six goals against Sparta Rotterdam and five against Heracles Almelo, and won the European Golden Boot. He also scored the winning goal in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final against Lokomotive Leipzig in 1987. He had scored 128 goals in 133 league games for Ajax.On November 1986 he scored his most famous goal in an Ajax jersey, a spectacular overhead kick against FC Den Bosch.
Milan

In 1987, Silvio Berlusconi signed Van Basten for Milan, with fellow countrymen Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard joining in 1988. In his first season, Milan won their first Scudetto in eight years, but Van Basten played only 11 games and was constantly troubled by an ankle injury.

In 1988–89, Van Basten won the Ballon d’Or as Europe’s top footballer.He scored 19 goals in Serie A and scored two goals in the final of the European Cup as Milan triumphed against Steaua Bucureşti.In 1989–90, he became Capocannoniere, Serie A’s leading goal scorer, and Milan successfully defended the European Cup after beating Benfica in the final match.

Milan struggled in the 1990–91 season, as Sampdoria won the Scudetto. After Van Basten fell out with Arrigo Sacchi, Berlusconi sacked the manager. Fabio Capello took over the following season, and Milan went undefeated in the league to win another Scudetto. Van Basten scored 25 league goals, and became Capocannoniere again.

In November 1992, he became the first player to score four goals in a Champions League match, against IFK Göteborg, including a picture perfect bicycle kick.In December 1992, Van Basten was named FIFA World Player of the Year.

“Marco was the greatest striker I ever coached. His early retirement was a mortal misfortune for him, for football, and for Milan.”

Milan stretched their unbeaten run into the 1992–93 season, going 58 matches over two seasons before they lost a game.Van Basten was exceptional in the early part of the season. He was again voted the European player of the year, becoming the third player after Johan Cruyff and Michel Platini to win the award three times.

His troublesome ankle injury recurred in a game against Ancona, forcing him to undergo another series of surgery. He returned for the last few games in the season, before Milan lost to Marseille in the Champions League final. The match was Van Basten’s final game for the Italian club.

Van Basten had been hopeful of playing for his country at the 1994 World Cup as well as for his club in the 1994–95 season after spending the whole 1993–94 season out of action (missing Milan’s victory in the European Cup as well as their Serie A title glory),but his club ordered him not to take part in the World Cup amid fear of ruining his rehabilitation.He finally conceded defeat in his battle to recover on 17 August 1995, when he announced his retirement as a player after two whole years on sidelines.
International career

Van Basten’s talent was already noticed at a young age and he was called up for the 1983 FIFA World Youth Championship. He made his senior debut for the Netherlands national team that same year. At UEFA Euro 1988, Van Basten played a pivotal role in the victorious Dutch team. He scored a total of five goals, including a hat trick against England, the winning goal in the semi-final against West Germany, and a spectacular volley in the final against the Soviet Union.He finished top scorer and was named player of the tournament.In 2002 the UK public voted Van Basten’s volley against the Soviet Union #21 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.

The Dutch national team exited the 1990 World Cup early, losing to West Germany in the second round. Van Basten never scored in the World Cup Finals.

The Netherlands reached the semi-final of UEFA Euro 1992 where they lost to the eventual champions Denmark in a penalty shootout, with Peter Schmeichel saving a penalty shot from Van Basten.Van Basten was named in the team of the tournament for his performances.
After retirement

Van Basten played in the Demetrio Albertini testimonial at the San Siro in March 2006, and headed in a goal before being substituted early in the first half. On 22 July 2006, he also returned for the testimonial to celebrate the 11-year Arsenal career of Dennis Bergkamp, in what was the first game played at the new Emirates Stadium. He played in the second half for the Ajax legends team. He entered the match as part of a double substitution that also introduced Johan Cruyff. He took part in Tyskie’s (a Polish beer company) advertising campaign with Luís Figo and Zbigniew Boniek.
Style of play

Regarded as one of the greatest strikers in the sport, Van Basten was renowned for his clinical finishing, with a penchant for scoring acrobatic goals.His height and strength allowed him to excel in the air, and his technical ability and agility saw him execute spectacular strikes, such as volleys and bicycle kicks, throughout his career.[A fast and opportunistic striker with quick reactions, he often took advantage of loose balls in the penalty area.Possessing a powerful and accurate shot, he was capable of scoring goals with both feet from inside or outside the penalty area, as well as with his head; he was also an accurate penalty kick and free-kick taker.

In addition to his goalscoring ability, Van Basten possessed excellent vision and distribution, which enabled him to play in deeper positions and provide assists to his teammates, the most notable of which was his assist to Frank Rijkaard for Milan’s winning goal in the 1990 European Cup final. Despite his large stature, Van Basten possessed excellent technical skills and ball control, as well as good balance and a notable elegance on the ball, which inspired his nickname “the swan of Utrecht.”Van Basten’s career was severely affected by many grave injuries, which forced him to retire from football prematurely at the age of 28.

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