With such a successful football career on the pitch, having to take a step back due to an injury can be traumatising both career wise and emotionally in the world of sports. Therefore, when Marco Van Basten transitioned from player to manager there were a few years where he had to come to terms with this change in order to stay in the soccer world.

Throughout this article we are going to explore the inspiring history of this highly influential football player and manager throughout his career on and off the pitch. We also take a look at a list of the achievements he has accumulated over the years thanks to his expertise. So if you want to find out more about Van Basten and his journey through various roles in soccer, then continue reading!

Establishing His Soccer Career

Born in 1964, Marco started his football journey at only 6 years old where he played for local team – EDO. And after only a year with this Utrecht club, he transferred to UVV Utrecht where he spent nine years before briefly having a stint at Elinkwijk.

Moving onto his senior career, at only 16 years of age Basten started playing for Ajax during 1981/82 after his older brother was rejected by the team. During his first match in April 1982 he netted one of the 5 winning goals to help Ajax defeat NEC 5-0. The season after this he was up against Wim Kieft when it came to choosing who would be the centre forward for Ajax. This was a tricky challenge for Marco as Kieft was previously named the European top scorer, however after his performance during the 20 league matches making a total of 9 goals, he was a strong contender. But this rivalry was short lived as Kieft left Ajax to join Pisa, and this meant that Van Basten was able to secure his place in the Ajax first team.


And after this, his success was never ending with Ajax. Van Basten was named top scorer in the Eredivisie four seasons in a row between 1983 and 1987. This achievement was outstanding as he appeared 112 times on the pitch during the tournament and netted 118 goals. And his most impressive season with Ajax was 1985/85 where he netted 37 goals during 26 matches. While still playing for Ajax, Van Basten performed his most impressive goal against FC Den Bosch in 1986. This is possibly one of the most famous goals in football history where he netted the ball using an overhead kick.

In 1987 Marco was signed by AC Milan and after only 1 season with the squad, the team won their first Scudetto in eight years. A Scudetto is the opportunity to wear the Italian flag on their jerseys the following season after winning the Serie A the season before. Following this season he went on to achieve the Ballon d’Or and acquired 32 goals across all of the tournaments that year. Although the 1990/91 season was not the best for the squad and Van Basten, the manager of Milan was sacked and replaced by Fabio Capello. And this was a fantastic choice for the team as they went undefeated throughout the Serie A and won the chance to don a Scudetto again.

With AC Milan Van Basten became the first ever player to score four goals in a Champions League match. And one of the most impressive shots from this match was his outstanding bicycle kick. He then continued to have success after success with the Italian club team as they went on to win 58 matches undefeated across 2 seasons which is amazing. When it came to playing for the Netherlands national team, this international career started early for him too, just like his signings with club teams.

Marco was called up for the 1983 FIFA World Youth Championships playing for the Netherlands national team. And his first senior début with the senior national team for the Netherlands were later that year, so playing twice in one year on two different levels for his country is a magnificent achievement. In the UEFA Euro tournament which took place in 1988 he managed to net 5 goals including a hat trick against England which was impressive.

Across his entire football career he scored the following number of goals with each squad:

  • Ajax – 133 appearances, 128 goals
  • Milan – 145 appearances, 108 goals
  • Netherlands U21 – 15 appearances, 13 goals
  • Netherlands – 58 appearances, 24 goals

Unfortunately Marco suffered from a troublesome ankle injury which was triggered again in 1994 after a nasty tackle. This then lead him to go through his third surgery which meant he had to sit out of the following World Cup or play with AC Milan as it would disrupt his recovery. After a few years, he went on to become a football manager which we will look further into below.


Basten’s Transition to Manager

After he left AC Milan in 1995 after injury he retired from football all together and stated that managing a soccer team was not something he was interested in pursuing. But after a course with the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) he soon changed his mind about this choice to avoid the transition to manager. Returning to his former club Ajax his first management role was alongside former team-mate John van‘t Schip where he was an assistant looking after the B team during the 2003/04 season.

He was only in this position for one season before his roles were swapped with John van’t Schip when they both moved to the Netherlands national team and Marco became manager with van’t Schip as his assistant. The news that Van Basten had taken the reins with the national team had fans and the club sceptical of his lack of managerial experience. However, despite the minimal confidence in his experience, he was able to establish himself early on with the team and the players.

Under his reign, the Netherlands national football team went on to dominate their World Cup qualification and sailing through the group stages at the 2006 games. But unfortunately their pride was short lived as they were knocked out in the round of 16 after losing to Portugal. Originally his contract with the KNVB to manage the Netherlands squad was set to expire in 2008; however the KNVB extended his contract to span throughout the 2010 World Cup after his impressive skills getting the team through many different levels at the previous tournament.

But although they expressed their interest in keeping Van Basten on further, he signed with Ajax again in 2008, leaving the Netherlands squad with a new manager for the upcoming World Cup, but did see them through the 2008 Euros. His time as an Ajax manager was short lived again as he was only part of the team for 1 season after a disappointing turnout with failing to qualify for the Champions League.

There was a bit of a gap between him leaving Ajax and starting another management role at Heerenveen. And this was because he became a pundit for Sport1 but in 2012 he then joined Heerenveen and took up a manager position. His impact on this team was visible as during the 12/13 season they ended the year in 8th place, but at the end of the 13/14 season they worked their way up to fifth place. And after 2 years with the club he then moved again to another job role with a different team.


His last managerial role with a soccer club was with AZ Alkmaar in 2014. Starting the season off, Van Basten had to take leave after a match against Doredrecht due to what was reportedly called stress related issues. This leave lasted from August until the end of September. And at the end of this time period, the club suggested that he should step down from the manager role and become an assistant to relieve the pressure. Therefore, as of 2016 he switched his position to the assistant manager. After only a year in this new role he then moved back to the Netherlands national team as an assistant to Danny Blind. But only a few months with the national side, he then announced he was changing his career placement to become a FIFA technical director, therefore his last few months with the international team was his last role with a single team.

One of the most significant things he brought to light in 2018 was the fact that women were not seen in the arena during sports matches in Iran. He called for this to be overruled after he visited the Tehran derby with FIFA president and the Iranian president.

Club and Individual Achievements

As we have explored above, we have seen that Marco has not only played for his national team and clubs, he has also managed these too. Therefore, there is no doubt that he has achieved a lot throughout the years. So in this section of the article we are going to look into his achievements as part of a team and by himself. Below we have broken these awards down into club and individual honours which Marco has earnt thanks to his impeccable skill on and off the pitch.


  • Eredivisie (Ajax) – 1981/82, 1982/83, 1984/85
  • KNVB Cup (Ajax) – 1982/83, 1985/86, 1986/87
  • UEFA Cup Winners Cup (Ajax) – 1986/87
  • Serie A (Milan) – 1987/88, 1991/92, 1992/93
  • Supercoppa Italiana (AC Milan) – 1988, 1992
  • European Cup/UEFA Champions League (AC Milan) 1988/89, 1989/90
  • European Supercup (AC Milan) – 1989
  • Intercontinental Cup (AC Milan) – 1989, 1990
  • UEFA European Championship (Netherlands) – 1988


  • Ballon d’Or – 1988, 1989, 1992
  • FIFA World Player of the Year – 1992
  • UEFA Best Player of the Year – 1989, 1990, 1992
  • European Cup Top Scorer – 1988/89
  • Serie A Golden Boot – 1989/90, 1991/92
  • Eredivisie Top Scorer – 1983/83, 1984/85, 1985/86, 1986/87
  • European Silver Boot – 1983/84
  • Dutch Footballer of the Year – 1984/85
  • European Golden Boot – 1985/86
  • World Golden Boot – 1985/86
  • Bravo Award – 1987
  • Onze d’Argent – 1987, 1989
  • Onze d’Or – 1988, 1989
  • IFFHS World’s Best Player – 1988, 1989
  • World Soccer Player of the Year – 1988, 1992
  • UEFA Euro 1988 Top Scorer and Best Player
  • UEFA European Championship Team of the Tournament -1988, 1992
  • FIFA 100 -2004
  • UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll - #4
  • Italian Football Hall of Fame – 2012
  • UEFA Euro All-time XI – 2016
  • A.C Milan Hall of Fame
  • IFFHS Legends

Which Role Do You Think he Thrived at More?

Throughout this article we have taken a very in depth look into the soccer history of Marco Van Basten. Analysing his successes and struggles moving from player to manager, what are your opinions on this significant member of the football community? Let us know over on our social media pages such as Twitter as we would love to find out whether you thought he had a positive impact or not. And whether you felt that he was a more effective player or manager.

Pledge allegiance to the clubs which Basten has played for such as the Ajax, AC Milan or Netherlands football shirts over at Soccer Box. And you too can feel a sense of country or club pride which was felt by all of the fans and Marco himself during his time on the pitch.

This article was written exclusively for Soccer Box by Loren Astbury