Legendary Football Players: Marco van Basten

Marco van Basten

132. Marco van Basten

Marco van Basten was born on 31 October 1964 in Utrecht. He began playing for a local team, EDO, when he was seven years old. A year later, he moved to UVV Utrecht. After 10 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 NEC.

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 117 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.

In 1987, Silvio Berlusconi signed van Basten for A.C. 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 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 S.L. 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 scored four goals in a match against the Swedish team IFK Göteborg, setting a record for the number of goals scored by one player in a Champions League match. The record still stands, although there have been other players who subsequently scored four goals in a match in the European competition. Milan stretched their unbeaten run into the 1992-93 season, going 58 matches over two seasons before they lost a game. Van Basten played exceptionally well 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 A.C. Ancona, forcing him to undergo another series of surgery. He returned for the last few games in the season, before Milan lost to Olympique de Marseille in the Champions League final. The match was van Basten's final game for the Italian club. He thereafter spent two years fighting to come back, but eventually announced retirement in 1995.
Marco van Basten
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