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Marco Van Basten

On the 31st of October 1964 Marco Van Basten was born in the Dutch city of Utrecht. As a child the young Van Basten dreamt, not of becoming a professional footballer, but rather a world class gymnast - a dream he would later transfer to the field with some of the most unbelievably agile goals ever seen in the football world.

Marco began his career with a short lived spell at local side Edilwijk before being whisked off to Dutch super club Ajax in Amsterdam.

In 1980 at the Mundialito friendly-league in Milano, Johan Crujff the leader and coach of the team, introduce to Sandro Mazzola, the symbol-man of Inter, Marco Van Basten. Said Crujff: "Look at him, he's the new Crujff". Mazzola looked him with attention and so says now about that event: "Crujff showed us Marco, we understood immediately that we were in front of an amazing player". Marco had 16 years.

He played his first game for Ajax in the Eredivise on the 3rd of April 1982 in front of the Ajax faithful in the De Meer stadium against Nijmegen, fittingly replacing the reigning Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff and even managing to grab a goal in the process.

The following season he scored 9 goals in 20 games but in the 1983 - 84 season he set the Dutch league alight
and his consistency was evident immediately scoring an astonishing 28 goals in just 26 games.

By 1986 he had consolidated his position as the most lethal forward in European football, winning the European Golden Boot award with his 37 goal tally. In his time with Ajax Van Basten had filled his personal trophy cabinet with two Dutch Championships, two Dutch Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup. He played his final game for Ajax (a game he won for Ajax), against Dynamo Dresden, in that European Cup Winners Cup final. He had scored 128 league goals in just 143 games at an unprecedented strike rate and was top scorer in Holland 4 times.

During this time Silvio Berlusconi was busy rebuilding AC Milan after corruption charges levelled at the preceding club president had left Milan relegated twice in three seasons. In 1987 Berlusconi set about his task by investing in world class players - namely Gullit and Van Basten and adding Rijkaard the following year to form an unforgettable Dutch triumvirate. Berlusconi had to choose a new striker to buy.Hhe had 2 choices: Marco Van Basten or Ian Rush. After having seen only 30 seconds of a VHS about Marco, Silvio decided to buy "The Flying Dutchman".

He made his debut for Milan on 13th September 1987 in Pisa and scored from the spot as Milan won 3 - 1. In his first season at Milan however he played just 11 games scoring 3 goals as the Rossoneri won their first Scudetto since 1979. His first season at Milan in 1987 - 1988 was plagued by an ankle injury that would haunt him for the rest of his career.

As a result of his lack of matches for Milan he started the 1988 European Championships in Germany as a substitute - but by the end of the tournament he was being hailed as the greatest player in the World. In the tournament Van Basten destroyed England on his own scoring a sensational hat trick, knocked out the hosts with a late winner and scored one of the most unforgettable goals ever seen with an amazing volley against the Soviet Union in the final. He had made his mark on the international scene but due to the desperate in-fighting and inconsistency that was to dog the Dutch side over the coming years it would be the only honour Marco would win for his country.

Marco returned to Milanello for the start of the 1988 - 89 season full of confidence and that autumn he was named the 1988 European Player of the year. He followed this up by scoring 19 goals in Serie A as well as being an integral part of the Milan team that ripped apart the hapless Romanian side Steaua Bucharest 4 - 0 in the Nou Camp to win the European Champions Cup final with Van Basten scoring two along with his compatriot Gullit who also scored a double. In the 1989 - 90 season Marco repeated his 19 goal haul in Serie A to become Capocannoniere and was once again heavily involved as Milan retained their European crown defeating Portuguese champions Benfica 1 - 0 in Vienna with a Frank Rijkaard goal. The 1990 World Cup finals in Italy were next on Marco's agenda and he went as he went in search of the ultimate prize. The Dutch side however had a tournament to forget before going out to Klinsmann's Germany 1 - 2 in what many describe as the match of the tournament for the right and wrong elements of football.

At the start of the 90 - 91 campaign Milan were attempting to win their third consecutive European crown. Their will to win however was overshadowed by their bad sportsmanship when vice president Galliani ordered the team off the pitch as they were losing when the floodlights failed in the semi-final second leg tie against the French side Marseille. Red Star Belgrade went on to take Milan's crown in a cynical final while Milan themselves received a one year ban from European club football. Van Basten scored 11 goals in Serie A that season but it was surprise side Sampdoria who took the Scudetto. Without European football to concentrate on in the 1991 - 1992 season Milan took Serie A by storm and reclaimed the Scudetto while managing to remain unbeaten in Serie A for the entire 34 game campaign - a record unlikely ever to be broken - With 'Marco Goalo' scoring 25 goals to earn his second Capocannonere title. it is worth to mention the game vs. Cagliari in Sardinia. The first half was over and Cagliari was leading 1-0. During the half-time break, Van Basten had a discussion with Capello. Noone knows what they have talked about but when returning on the pitch Capello showed to Marco the number "3" by making it with his fingers. Marco scored a hat-trick in 18 minutes and secured Milan the victory.

The European Championships in Sweden saw some great attacking football from the Dutch but they went out to late entrants and eventual winners Denmark in a penalty shootout where Van Basten, after his customary jump, missed from the penalty spot.
It was Marco's last international tournament.

In the Autumn of the 1992 - 1993 season Marco was on top of the footballing World. He was leading the Serie A goalsorers charts with 13 goals and included in his extraordinary start to the season came an incredible couple of games in the month of November.
In a league game in Naples he scored four goals as Milan demolished Napoli 5 - 1. He followed this up by scoring all four as Milan thrashed Goteborg 4 - 0 in the Champions League which Milan were dominating. Allied to this he was voted European Player of the Year for a record equalling third time and he was also playing his part as Milan smashed all unbeaten records in Serie A, a record which would eventually see them remain unbeaten for 58 matches.

For a joke of the destiny, Marco scored his first and last goal of his Italian experience to the same goalkeeper, Nista. Ferron is the goalkeeper that got more goals by Marco.

His extraordinary start to the season however was destroyed with a recurrence of the ankle injury which had plagued his career.

When in the first months of 1993 Marco was operated for the 4th time at the ankle, the medical staff of Milan AC disagreed with the operation, because they thought that another operation could be extremely dangerous.

He missed the vast majority of the remainder of the season playing only a couple of games before he was thrust back into action in the European Champions League final against Marseille. A tired looking Milan side lost 0 - 1 with Van Basten, who created numerous chances for Massaro and Papin, playing his last game for AC Milan.

18th August 1995, Luigi Berlusconi trophy, Milan-Juventus. In this usual great classic of the summer there is a special event: Marco Van Basten, the greatest european striker of last 20 years, leaves the football. 85.000 people at San Siro satnd-up and clap him as last wave.

Adriano Galliani so said when Marco left football: "The football lose his Leonardo Da Vinci"

In the six years he had played with Milan he had played a major part in catapulting them back to the pinnacle of World football, removing them from the shadow of neighbours Inter and laying down a solid foundation for future success.

He scored an incredible 90 goals in 147 Serie A games. He picked up 3 Scudetto's, 2 European Cups, 2 World Club Cups, 2 European Super Cups. Personally Marco claimed 3 European Footballer of the Year awards, 2 World Player of the Year awards, FIFA World Player of the year and 2 Capocannonere awards as Serie A top marksman. Not to mention that he has a 92.3% percentage rate at penalty kicks.

Van Basten had made a legend of himself before his injury dramatically shortened his brilliant career.

In the end he realised was fighting a futile battle against one opponent he knew he could never get the better off - his own body.
These days Marco, his wife Elisabeth (whom he married in 1992) and their 3 children Alexander, Angelica and Rebecca have two homes - one in Elisabeth's home village of Badhoevedorp and another in Monaco. Marco spends a great amount of time practising his golf handicap and is also a keen fan of tennis - hobbies he enjoys a lot more than the pressure cooker atmosphere of management which he says he will never try.

Marco Van Basten carried the torch of legends during his time with AC Milan. A torch passed on to him by Maradona, Cruyff, Pele, Puskas, Di Stefano et al.

He carried it with grace, dignity and a great love for the game. In return the footballing World had taken Marco into their hearts forever.

Marco is UNIQUE because he express alone that philosophy that Dutch football made at the beginning of 70s. The universality of one team is expressed only by one player that hasn't weak points. Marco is able to shoot with both feet, is great with head and he has a play vision of a real director, like Rui Costa or Gianni Rivera.

With Franco Baresi and Gianni Rivera, Marco has been the most loved player of AC Milan, that's because he talked little and communicated more with the actions and the goals on the field rather than with the words.

"Van Basten the divine!" wrote Gianni Brera, one of the greatest Italian football journalists.

Trophies won:
::3 x Dutch title
::3 x Dutch Cup
::3 x Dutch League top scorer
::3 x Italian title
::2 x European Super Cup
::2 x European Cup
::2 x Intercontinental Cup
::1 x Cup Winners Cup
::2 x Italian League top scorer
::1 x World Player of the Year award
::1 x Golden Boot award
::3 x European Footballer of the Year award
::2 x World Soccer Player of the Year award


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