Van Basten was born in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He played very briefly for Elinkwijk before Ajax grabbed him. He played his first game for Ajax in April 1982 and was already being proclaimed as the new Johan Cruijff.
In 1987 Silvio Berlusconi brought Van Basten to Milan along with Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard joining them in 1988. In his first season Milan won their first Scudetto in eight years, but Van Basten played only eleven games and was constantly troubled by an ankle injury. Despite this in the 1988 European Championships Van Basten had a dazzling run of form - including scoring three against England and a spectacular volley in the final.
Boosted by his form in international competition Van Basten had a great season in 1988-89, he was European Player of the year and scored nineteen goals in Serie A as well as helping Milan demolish Steaua Bucharest to become Champions of Europe. In 1989-90 he was Capocannoniere and Milan defended their European Cup successfully. The Dutch national side had a very poor World Cup in 1990, finally going out to West Germany (and Jurgen Klinsmann) in the second round.
Milan's 1990-91 European season was ruined in the semi-final against Olympique Marseilles (blame Adriano Galliani), which led to the club receiving a year long ban from European football, Van Basten had early been banned for four matches following a cynical elbowing offense. Domestically the club disappointed as well, Sampdoria winning the scudetto. Van Basten clashed with manager Arrigo Sacchi and Berlusconi sacked Sacchi to placate him. Without European football in 1991-92 and under the leadership of Fabio Capello, Milan did not lose a single game in the league and retrieved the championship, Van Basten scored 25 goals and was Capocannoniere again. Internationally the Dutch went out of the 1992 European Championships to Denmark in a penalty shoot-out, Van Basten missing one.
Milan however stretched their unbeaten run into the 1992-93 season, going 58 matches in total before they lost a game. Van Basten had some great games in the early part of the season and was voted European Player of the Year for a third time before a return of his troublesome ankle injury while playing Ancona. Van Basten underwent another in a series of operations and returned to Milan for the final few domestic games and to lose the Champions League final to Marseille. The final was Van Basten's last game for Milan, despite efforts he was unable to recover from his injuries.
Van Basten officially left Milan in 1995 and retired from football, stating he would never try management, a promise he has kept to date.
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Holland (-1992) 58 caps, 24 goals
Cup Winners' Cup once (1987)