Marcel van Basten
Date Of Birth: 31 October, 1964
Place Of Birth: Utrecht, Netherlands
Playing Position: Striker
Known for his strength on the ball, tactical awareness and spectacular strikes and volleys, Marco van Basten remains one of the finest players ever to grace the game. van Basten played for Ajax and Milan in an illustrious career cut short by injury in 1995. He was also a crucial part of the Dutch team that triumphed at the 1988 Euro in West Germany. Marco van Basten along with fellow Dutch compatriots Frank Rijkaard and Ruud Gullit combined to form a lethal force at Milan and together led the Rossoneri to their most successful era in history.
The 1988 edition of the European Championship Cup was held in West Germany. Euro 1988 was a rare incidence of a major football tournament ending without a single sending-off or goalless draw, nor any knockout matches going to extra time or penalties. Netherlands were in search of their maiden trophy and were up against the Soviet Union, England and Republic of Ireland in the group stage.
Marco van Basten had just made a return from injury and had to sit out the first game as Netherlands lost 1-0 to USSR. However, coach Rinus Michels opted to start with van Basten in the crucial encounter against England. Marco van Basten showed why he shouldn't be benched as he scored a hat trick in Netherlands' 3-1 victory. Oranje reached the semifinals after beating Republic of Ireland 1-0 courtesy of a goal by Wim Kieft.
West Germany and Netherlands faced off in this rematch of the 1974 World Cup final. It was the Germans who got the lead through Lothar Matthaus but Ronald Koeman cancelled out Germany's opener in the 74th minute. As extra time loomed large, Ronald Koeman pushed a pass up to Jan Wouters who was in acres of space, and another simple ball invited Van Basten to run across the face of Kohler and slide at full stretch to hook the ball across the keeper and low into the far corner. Netherlands had made it to the final where they faced the mighty Soviet Union again.
Marco van Basten's goal in the final vs USSR
The final was contested by players who were either all time greats or merely of the highest class but the match took some time to come to life. Erwin Koeman's corner from the right was headed out, he crossed with his left foot to the far post. With the Soviet defence coming out to play offside, Marco van Basten headed square towards the unmarked Ruud Gullit, whose own header beat Rinat Dassaev for power rather than accuracy. The second most famous goal in the history of Netherlands had just given them a 1-0 lead in the final. However the most famous goal in Dutch history was yet to be scored. A bad touch by Alexandre Zavarov allowed Adri van Tiggelen to intercept and run forward before feeding Arnold Mühren wide on the left. His instant high cross went deep across the Soviet penalty area towards Marco van Basten who hit an astonishing top-spin volley over the head of the best goalkeeper in Europe and just inside the far post. The 37-year-old Mühren was playing his last match for the Dutch, signing off with a part in their most memorable goal. Probably the greatest single strike in any top-level final, it clinched the Netherlands' only major trophy till date.
During his playing days with Ajax, van Basten won the Eredivisie thrice, the KNVB Cup twice and the European Cup Winners' Cup once. He was also the Top Scorer in the Dutch League on four occasions and won the Dutch Player of the Year in 1984-85 followed by the European Golden Boot in 1985-86. He had a trophy laden spell at AC Milan as they went onto win the Champions League thrice, European Supercup thrice, the Intercontinental Cup twice along with four Serie A and Supercoppa Italia titles. While representing the Rossoneri, van Basten won the European Player of the Year award thrice and two World Soccer Player Awards. He ended up as the top scorer in two editions of the Serie A and was the top scorer at the 1988 Euro with 5 goals to his name. He was crowned as FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992.
An ankle injury had hampered van Basten's career as he called it quits after spending two whole seasons on the sidelines. He was reluctant to start up a managerial career but soon took up a coaching course with KNVB and joined the Ajax Youth Setup as a coach. In July 2004, van Basten was named as manager of the Dutch national team where he led his team to the semifinals of the Euro 2008. After stepping down as coach of national team in 2008, he joined Ajax but resigned one year later as Ajax failed to qualify for the Champions League. SC Heerenveen announced that Marco van Basten will be at their helm for the 2012-12 season.