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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Why Overmars will be missed
By John May

Marc Overmars has been forced to retire at the age of 31
Overmars has waved goodbye to his playing career
Louis van Gaal could be excused for thinking he has been haunted by a friendly, benevolent spirit.

Wherever the great Dutch coach has plied his trade, Marc Overmars seems to have been there.

Ajax, Barcelona, the Dutch national team - whenever Van Gaal looked up, he would see the scurrying little figure with the fast feet, and the subtle shift of the shoulder which threw defenders off balance.

So it is not surprising that Van Gaal views Overmars' retirement at 31 with more than a tinge of sadness.

In an interview with BBC Sport, Van Gaal said: "I hope there is another Marc Overmars being developed out there somewhere.

"We need his kind of player to maintain the game as an attractive spectacle. That's very important."

Van Gaal did not inherit Overmars from Ajax's famed Academy, but signed him from Willem II in August 92.

The coach had arrived a year earlier, but they both left for different destinations around the same time.

During their time together at Ajax, the club almost harked back to the great all-conquering days of the early 1970s as the silverware piled up.

A Uefa Cup, three successive Eredivisie titles, the European Cup in 1995 and the World Club Championships a year later were all won, and Van Gaal will eagerly tell of the role Overmars played.

"I was a coach who wanted to attack with wingers. There aren't a lot of good wingers around and he was one of the best.

"He was a good dribbler who could beat people one-on-one and that was important for a winger in our system.

"But he also had a very good assist record and he could score goals.

Go Ahead Eagles 1/8/90-1/8/91
Willem II 1/8/91-1/8/92
Ajax 1/8/92-17/6/97
Arsenal 17/6/97-28/7/2000
Barcelona 28/7/2000-26/7/2004
Holland 84 caps, 17 goals

"Every season he got 10-15 goals and they were nearly always important goals.

"In my first period at Ajax we won everything and he was one of the most important players in my team."

Player and coach parted company in 1997, with Overmars the first to seek a new challenge.

"He went to Arsenal, and I didn't want him to go," adds Van Gaal.

"I remember I went to his house to convince him that he should stay and that we could win another Champions League title.

"But Marc had it in his head that he wanted to go."

Van Gaal left soon afterwards, for the mega-challenge of trying to revive a flagging Barcelona, a task he was successful in during his first spell in Catalonia.

They passed through a revolving door in 2000, when Van Gaal went to take over the national side, and Overmars left Highbury for the Nou Camp in a 25m deal.

Overmars continued to be an important part of Van Gaal's Oranje.

And when the coach resigned following his failure to guide Holland to the 2000 World Cup, they met up again at Barcelona when Van Gaal returned for a second, less successful spell.

Louis van Gaal
Van Gaal wants to see more players like Overmars
Things were different this time. Overmars was already fighting battles against the knee injury which forced him to retire this week.

"He wasn't the same player we knew, that was because of his injuries," said Van Gaal.

"When I arrived at Barcelona for my second spell he was already there and I saw him suffering.

"He couldn't train twice a day and he also had a lot of problems to play 90 minutes. It was a shame because he was a player who always wanted to do his utmost.

"For me it's not a surprise that he retired but I think it's a courageous and brave decision on his part because it can't be easy to say to yourself 'It's time to stop.'"

Although Arsenal fans remember Overmars fondly as part of a double-winning team, Van Gaal says: "I think Ajax had the best of him.

"With Arsenal he was more of a midfield player because at the time they played 4-4-2.

"That was maybe too much for him because he had to run more than in the system at Ajax.

"But at Arsenal he won titles, so he didn't do badly."

Overmars ends career
26 Jul 04  |  Football

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