Marco van Basten: A career through jerseys

Marco van Basten

When Diego Maradona was asked who the best player he’s ever seen was, it was a simple answer. “It is between Romário and Marco Van Basten.”

Marco van Basten is regarded as one of the greatest strikers to ever play the game. Known for his outstanding clinical finishing and his acrobatic goals, van Basten had astounding success in his career, winning trophies at Ajax, AC Milan and for the Netherlands as well as winning the Ballon d’Or on three separate occasions. Due to injuries, van Basten had to retire aged just 28 years old. In this article we will look at van Basten’s career through jerseys the iconic Dutchman wore during his playing days.

Ajax 1982 Away 

Marco van Basten joined Ajax at 16 years old. He made his debut for the club in April 1982 against NEC, coming on as a substitute for club legend Johan Cruyff. Van Basten got on the scoresheet in the second half. During his time at Ajax, van Basten won the Eredivise on three occasions. 

The jersey worn on van Basten’s debut was manufactured by Le Coq Sportif. This was quite a unique jersey worn on a few occasions in both red and blue. In this fixture the red strip was worn, which includes white applications on the collar and sleeves as well as a pinstripe design which runs throughout the jersey.

Ajax 1987 Home

Van Basten was a huge success at Ajax. Along with the league titles, he was top scorer in the league for four consecutive seasons. In 1987 under the management of Johan Cruyff, Ajax reached the European Cup Winners Cup final where they faced German side Lokomotive Leipzig. A trademark van Basten near post header was the only goal in the game as Ajax won 1-0 to win their first European trophy in 14 years.

The Ajax home jersey for the 1986/87 season was manufactured by Italian company Kappa. The shirt dons the classic Ajax red and white colourway combination. Red cuffs were accompanied by white sleeves and a red v-neck style collar. The old-school Ajax badge on this shirt has been re-introduced to the modern day jerseys, showing its importance to fans of the Amsterdam based club.

This was the end of the journey at Ajax for van Basten, as in the summer of 1987 AC Milan came calling.

Netherlands Home 1988

A debut season with AC Milan saw van Basten only play 11 games due to trouble with an ankle Injury. Despite this, van Basten was ready to play for the Netherlands at the 1988 European Championships in West Germany. 

The Netherlands faced the Soviet Union, Republic of Ireland and England in the group stages. Victories against Ireland and England were enough to see the Dutch advance to the following round, with van Basten scoring a beautiful hat trick against the latter. A win against hosts West Germany in the semi-finals set up a rematch against the Soviet Union in the final for the Netherlands.

Rudd Gullit opened the scoring for the Dutch but 10 minutes after half-time, van Basten got his moment and he made sure to take it. A near impossible acute angled volley was powered into the goal by van Basten, with the goal becoming one of the most iconic strikes in football history. The Netherlands lifted the trophy, and have failed to win one since.

The Netherlands home jersey from Euro 88′ is one of the most famous football shirts in history. Predominantly orange, the jerseys iconic geometric design pattern matched perfectly with the strips orange, white and black colour scheme. A white collar was also complemented by the three white stripes of Adidas on each sleeve of the jersey. This was a groundbreaking strip and can be credited for being one of pioneering shirts when it came to showing creativity.

AC Milan 1989 European Jersey

Van Basten continued to build momentum after his international success. His second season with Milan saw him win the Ballon d’Or, crowning him as the best player in world football. AC Milan also won the European Cup during the 1988/89 season, beating Romanian club Steaua București in the final 4-0, with van Basten scoring twice. 

Against Steaua, Milan wore their European away jersey. The shirt was manufactured by Kappa and was primarily white. Black and red applications were included on the collar and sleeve trims. A unique graphic runs throughout the jersey which includes the AC Milan badge as well as a square sequence. An old-school Italy badge is also on the shirt, accompanied with a star on top, which represents 10 of Milan’s Serie A league titles. The following season Milan won another European Cup, beating Benfica 1-0 in the final.

AC Milan 1993 Home 

Two more Ballon d’Or’s followed for van Basten and multiple trophies with Milan. Despite the success, injuries would continue to persist. In 1993 AC Milan reached yet another European Cup final and despite being not involved most of the season due to injuries, van Basten would start the final. Unfortunately Marseille would beat AC Milan 1-0 to lift the trophy. Van Basten would be forced off in the 85th minute due to a bad tackle which required him to get a third ankle surgery. This would be the final time van Basten would play professional football.

Marco van Basten

The 1992/93 AC Milan home jersey was manufactured by Adidas. Classic red and black vertical stripes were accompanied by an old school collar and the classic Adidas trefoil logo. Once again included is the Italian badge with the singular star on top.

Two years of attempts to recover from his injuries eventually became too much. Marco van Basten retired from football in 1995. Since retirement van Basten managed Ajax, AZ Alkmaar, Heerenveen and the Netherlands and now works as a pundit on Dutch television.

Marco van Basten was undeniably one of football’s greatest ever players and despite having his career cut short, he made it a memorable and special one.


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