Marco van Basten

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Marco van Basten
Marco van Basten (ca 2006).jpg
Van Basten in 2006
Personal information
Full name Marco van Basten
Date of birth (1964-10-31) 31 October 1964 (age 54)
Place of birth Utrecht, Netherlands
Height 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)[1]
Playing position Striker
Youth career
1970–1971 EDO
1971–1980 UVV
1980–1981 USV Elinkwijk
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1981–1987 Ajax 133 (128)
1987–1995 Milan 147 (90)
Total 280 (218)
National team
1981 Netherlands U21 15 (13)
1983–1992 Netherlands 58 (24)
Teams managed
2003–2004 Jong Ajax
2004–2008 Netherlands
2008–2009 Ajax
2012–2014 Heerenveen
2014 AZ
2014–2015 AZ (assistant manager)
2015–2016 Netherlands (assistant manager)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

Marcel "Marco" van Basten[2] (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmɑrkoː vɑn ˈbɑstə(n)] (About this sound listen); born 31 October 1964) is a Dutch football manager and former professional football player, who played for Ajax and A.C. Milan, as well as the Netherlands national team, as a forward. He is regarded as one of the greatest strikers in the history of the sport. He scored 300 goals in a high-profile career, but played his last match in 1993 at age 28 due to an injury which forced his retirement two years later.[2] He was later the head coach of Ajax and the Netherlands national team.

Playing for the Netherlands, Van Basten won UEFA Euro 1988 where he was named player of the tournament, scoring five goals that included a memorable volley in the final against the Soviet Union.[2][3] At 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.[2] In 1998, 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.[4][5] 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.[6] In 2004, he was named by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list of the world's greatest living players.[7] 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.[8]

Playing career[edit]

Van Basten celebrates his goal for Ajax against Feyenoord in 1983.

Early years[edit]

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.


Van Basten lifting the 1987 KNVB Cup for Ajax.

Ajax signed Van Basten for the 1981–82 season. He played his first match 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 and first choice Holland international 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 following season, the 18 year old Van Basten solidified his position as his 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 matches for Ajax.[2] On November 1986 he scored his most famous goal in an Ajax jersey, a spectacular overhead kick against FC Den Bosch.[9]

A.C. Milan[edit]

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 matches and was constantly troubled by an ankle injury.[2][10]

Van Basten with A.C. Milan in 1988 lifting the Ballon d'Or as Europe's top footballer.

In 1988–89, Van Basten won the Ballon d'Or as Europe's top footballer.[2] He scored 19 goals in Serie A and scored two goals in the final of the European Cup as Milan triumphed against Steaua București.[2] 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.[2]

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;[2] his tally from the 1991–92 season was the highest number a goals that a player had scored in a single Serie A season since Luís Vinício achieved the same tally during the 1965–66 season.[11]

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.[2] In December 1992, Van Basten was named FIFA World Player of the Year.[2]

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

—Former Milan manager Fabio Capello on working with Van Basten and his premature retirement.[12]

Milan stretched their unbeaten run into the 1992–93 season, going 58 matches over two seasons before they lost a match.[2] 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.[2]

His troublesome ankle injury[13] recurred in a game against Ancona, forcing him to undergo another series of surgery. He returned for the last few matches in the season, before Milan lost 1–0 to Marseille in the Champions League final. The match was Van Basten's final match for the Italian club.[2] He came off in the 86th minute for Stefano Eranio.[14]

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),[15] but his club ordered him not to take part in the World Cup amid fear of ruining his rehabilitation.[16] 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. Van Basten made a farewell appearance to thank the Milan fans before a home game at the San Siro, with an emotional Milan coach Fabio Capello breaking down in tears.[17]

International career[edit]

Van Basten celebrates his hat-trick against England at Euro 88

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,[18] and a spectacular volley from an acute angle in the final against the Soviet Union.[19] He finished top scorer and was named player of the tournament.[2] In 2002 the UK public voted Van Basten's volley against the Soviet Union #21 in the list of the 100 Greatest Sporting Moments.[20]

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.[2] Van Basten was named in the team of the tournament for his performances.[21]

After retirement[edit]

Van Basten as FIFA technical director meeting with Vladimir Putin in Moscow, July 2018

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 match 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[edit]

"It is between Romário and Van Basten."

Diego Maradona on who was the best player he ever saw.[22]

Regarded as one of the greatest and most complete strikers in the sport, Van Basten was renowned for his attacking intelligence and clinical finishing, with a penchant for scoring acrobatic goals.[2][23][24] 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.[23][24][25][26] A fast and opportunistic striker with quick reactions and excellent movement, he often took advantage of loose balls in the penalty area due to his ability to anticipate defenders, and was capable of both controlling fast and difficult balls well with one touch, or even shooting first time.[24][26][27] 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.[25]

Although he was mainly known as a traditional attacker who operated in the penalty area throughout his career,[24] in addition to his goalscoring ability, Van Basten possessed excellent vision and distribution, which enabled him to play in deeper, more creative 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.[28][29] His strong physique and close control also enabled him to hold up the ball for teammates when playing with his back to goal.[24] 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."[23] Van Basten's career was severely affected by many grave injuries, which forced him to retire from football prematurely at the age of 28.[23][27]

Media and sponsorship[edit]

Van Basten in his Diadora football boots at A.C. Milan

Van Basten features in EA Sports' FIFA video game series, and was named in the Ultimate Team Legends in FIFA 14.[30] In his playing career, Van Basten was sponsored by Italian sportswear company Diadora. One of the most marketable players in the world, in the late 1980s Diadora launched his own personalized football boots, the San Siro Van Basten.[31]

Managing career[edit]

Ajax B[edit]

Van Basten officially left Milan in 1995 and retired from football, stating he would never try management. However, he changed his mind and took a course with the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB). His first stint as a manager was as an assistant to his former teammate John van 't Schip with the second team of Ajax in 2003–04.


On 29 July 2004, Van Basten was named the new manager of the Netherlands national team, with Van 't Schip as his assistant.[32] Van Basten’s appointment as manager of the Netherlands sparked a little controversy at the time, since he only just started his managerial career and the media argued that he did not have a lot experience yet.[32]

Van Basten while manager of the Netherlands.

As a manager, he soon established himself as a man of strong principles. Van Basten famously dropped regulars like Clarence Seedorf, Patrick Kluivert, Edgar Davids and Roy Makaay and benched Mark van Bommel, because he believed that they were either past their prime or constantly underachieving. There were also calls for Van Basten to call up Dennis Bergkamp, who had retired from the national team six years earlier for a final "hurrah" as he was retiring that season. Van Basten then revealed to the media that he never intended to do so despite Bergkamp's own willingness.

For probably the first time in decades, none of the "Big Three" Clubs (Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord) provided the backbone for the national team. Instead, newcomer AZ led the way with players such as Denny Landzaat, Barry Opdam, Barry van Galen, Ron Vlaar, Jan Kromkamp and Joris Mathijsen. AZ, at the time a local small football club for Dutch standards, proved to be successful in the Dutch league and in the UEFA Cup. Other unheralded choices were Khalid Boulahrouz, Hedwiges Maduro, Ryan Babel and Romeo Castelen. Van Basten had also wanted to include Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou, but was thwarted when Kalou was denied Dutch citizenship by the immigration authorities headed by Dutch Minister of Integration Rita Verdonk. Kalou eventually accepted a call-up to play for Ivory Coast.

Under his guidance, the team were unbeaten in their World Cup qualification group and made it through the group stages at the 2006 World Cup, but were eliminated in a frenzied 1–0 loss to Portugal in the Round of 16. Van Basten was heavily criticised for dropping Ruud van Nistelrooy before this match, in favour of Dirk Kuyt, who did not score throughout the entire tournament.

Van Basten (left) with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during training prior to Euro 2008.

In November 2006, Van Basten recalled exiled Milan midfielder Clarence Seedorf for a friendly against England at the Amsterdam Arena. In May 2007, Van Basten announced the end of his long-running dispute with Ruud van Nistelrooy, who had previously declared never to play for a Dutch national squad with Van Basten as its manager.[33] Other players, such as Roy Makaay, Mark van Bommel, Boudewijn Zenden and Edgar Davids, however, remained out of favour.

Van Basten had a contract with the KNVB for managing the Dutch national side until 2008. The KNVB had expressed its wishes to extend his contract to include the World Cup qualification route to 2010 World Cup in South Africa. On 22 February 2008, Van Basten signed a four-year contract with Ajax, starting from 1 July.[34] His last tournament thus was the UEFA Euro 2008, where the Netherlands surprised with a strong first round performance. They beat world champions Italy 3–0 in their first match, followed by a 4–1 win over World Cup runners-up France. In their third match, already qualified for the next round, Van Basten selected non-regulars such as Maarten Stekelenburg, Wilfred Bouma and Ibrahim Afellay for the starting lineup against Romania, a match the Oranje won 2–0. In the quarter-finals, Van Basten faced fellow Dutchman Guus Hiddink's Russia. With the score at 1–1 after 90 minutes, Hiddink and Russia went on to win the match 3–1. He finished his reign with a record of 35 wins, 11 draws and six losses in 52 matches.[35]

Return to Ajax[edit]

Van Basten became manager of Ajax after Euro 2008 but resigned on 6 May 2009 after his team failed to qualify for the Champions League.[36] Van Basten started the season well, having spent millions on players such as Miralem Sulejmani, Ismaïl Aissati, Darío Cvitanich, Evander Sno, Eyong Enoh and Oleguer. However, in the second half of the season, striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar left for Real Madrid, and Van Basten started switching around his lineups. When Ajax lost 11 points in four matches, the Eredivisie title was out of sight. However, Ajax could still finish in second position, which would have ensured a place in the third qualifying round of the Champions League. But after two big losses against PSV (6–2) and Sparta Rotterdam (4–0), Van Basten's Ajax could only finish in third in the league table. Van Basten decided to resign as Ajax manager at the end of the 2008–09 season. Subsequently, Van Basten became a pundit for Sport1, but was still planning to return as a manager. He finished his reign with a record of 26 wins, 8 draws and 11 losses in 45 matches.[35]


On 13 February 2012, it was announced that Van Basten would become the manager of Eredivisie club Heerenveen in the 2012–13 season.[37] Van Basten led Heerenveen to an eighth-place finish in the 2012–13 year campaign. He then lead them to a fifth-place finish the following season, the 2013–14 campaign. He finished his reign with a record of 27 wins, 18 draws and 27 losses in 72 matches.[35]


AZ Alkmaar announced on 18 April 2014 that Van Basten would replace Dick Advocaat at the start of the 2014–15 season.[38] On 28 August 2014, Van Basten took a leave of absence for the following match against Dordrecht, with multiple Dutch news outlets reporting he was suffering of stress-related heart palpitations, and was replaced by assistant coaches Alex Pastoor and Dennis Haar.[39][40][41] Later, on 3 September, AZ confirmed Van Basten was given an extended leave of absence until 14 September.[40][41] On 16 September 2014, parties agreed Van Basten would relinquish his role as manager in order to sign a new contract as assistant coach until 2016; this was motivated by Van Basten himself, who stated the stress caused by his full-time role as head coach was causing him physical and mental issues.[42] He finished his stint with two wins and three losses in five matches.[35]

FIFA technical director[edit]

Van Basten (middle) in Tehran in 2018, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Iran Football Federation

After a year at AZ, Van Basten decided to take up the vacant post of assistant coach under the new head coach of the Netherlands national team, Danny Blind.[43] Van Basten would work together with fellow assistant coach Ruud van Nistelrooy, whom Van Basten sent away when he was a head coach of the Netherlands. In August 2016, Van Basten announced he would be leaving the role to take up a position at FIFA as technical director.[43]

In March 2018 Van Basten travelled to Iran with FIFA President Gianni Infantino to mark 100 years of the Iran Football Federation. After meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani they were welcomed by the president of Iranian Football Federation Mehdi Taj at the Tehran Olympic Hotel. Attending the Tehran derby, Van Basten called for the ban of women entering sports venues to be lifted.[44]

Career statistics[edit]



Season Club League League Cup Europe[nb 1] Other[nb 2] Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Netherlands League KNVB Cup Europe Other Total
1981–82 Ajax Eredivisie 1 1 1 0 0 0 2 1
1982–83 20 9 5 4 0 0 25 13
1983–84 26 28 4 1 2 0 32 29
1984–85 33 22 4 2 4 5 41 29
1985–86 26 37 1 0 2 0 29 37
1986–87 27 31 7 6 9 6 43 43
Total 133 128 22 13 17 11 172 152
Italy Serie A Coppa Italia Europe Other Total
1987–88 Milan Serie A 11 3 5 5 3 0 19 8
1988–89 33 19 4 3 9 10 1 1 47 33
1989–90 26 19 4 1 9 4 1 0 40 24
1990–91 31 11 1 0 2 0 1 0 35 11
1991–92 31 25 7 4 38 29
1992–93 15 13 1 0 5 6 1 1 22 20
1993–94 -
1994–95 -
Total 147 90 22 13 28 20 4 2 201 125
Career totals 280 218 44 26 45 31 4 2 373 277



Netherlands national team
Year Apps Goals
1983 3 2
1984 3 0
1985 4 1
1986 4 2
1987 4 1
1988 9 5
1989 5 2
1990 11 8
1991 5 2
1992 10 1
Total 58 24


As of 16 September 2014.
Team From To Record
M W D L Win % Ref.
Netherlands 29 July 2004[32] 30 June 2008[34] 52 35 11 6 067.31 [35]
Ajax 1 July 2008[34] 6 May 2009[36] 45 26 8 11 057.78 [35]
Heerenveen 1 July 2012[37] 30 June 2014[38] 72 27 18 27 037.50 [35]
AZ 1 July 2014[38] 16 September 2014[42] 5 2 0 3 040.00 [35]
Total 174 90 37 47 051.72

International matches[edit]

  • Matches as manager[50]

  Win   Draw   Loss









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External links[edit]