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Last Updated: Monday, 11 August, 2003, 14:43 GMT 15:43 UK
Marco's back
Marco van Basten in action for AC Milan
Van Basten in action for AC Milan
In an exclusive interview, one of the game's greatest ever strikers, Marco van Basten, relives the day he had to give up the game for good...

In 1988 AC Milan President Silvio Berlusconi sat down with Vice President Adriano Galliani in front of a television set and searched for a new striker.

After watching ten of Ajax striker's Marco van Basten's goals, Berlusconi stopped the tape and told Galliani to sign him right away.

Van Basten then inspired Milan to two European Cups and three Italian titles with 90 goals in five seasons. But by 1993 his career was over, ended by an ankle injury that refused to heal. He was only 28 and has just been named Fifa World Player of the Year.

Since then, he's been an elusive figure. But now back coaching with his first club Ajax he spoke exclusively to World Football's Ashish Sharma about returning to the game...

"It feels good to be back on a football pitch" he said.

"For a long time I have only been doing nice things like playing tennis, golf and skiing.

"I wanted to develop myself as a person, and I wanted to be involved in football again.

"I did my training courses here at Ajax so I have a good relationship with the club, and I decided to work here. Van Basten has also been working with another Dutch great.

"I know Johan Cruyff very well and when he started the Johan Cruyff Welfare Foundation he asked it I could help him out, and for me it was a pleasure and a good feeling" he said.

At 28, van Basten should have been at the peak of his powers. Instead, a persistent ankle injury forced him to retire from the game altogether. But he told me he learned to deal with his situation.

"It's not a problem for me, it's all in the past" he said.

"It wasn't easy because at the time I was only just 28 and hadn't considered stopping playing, but after a lot of operations I had to accept it and that was hard.

"But now I am 38 and I couldn't play anyway even if I was fit! So it's good that I now have the chance to help young players. The game today is quicker and more physical, which is true of every sport. There isn't as much space, so we try to help our youngsters by teaching them to think faster during the game and learn to turn things to their advantage".

Van Basten also picked out two of today's strikers for special praise, Thierry Henry of Arsenal and Manchester United's Ruud van Nistelrooy, who many people compare to van Basten himself.

"They are good strikers" he said.

"It's nice that van Nistelrooy is a Dutchman because we are all very proud of him, but Henry is also a very good player. I was training at a coaching course in London last October and I saw him train and play, and he is a very good forward indeed.

Van Basten's two clubs, Ajax and AC Milan, both had excellent Champions League campaigns last season, but van Basten says it will be harder for both of them this year.

"Last season was very good for Ajax" he said. "No-one expected anything from them because they were a very young team. But now everyone expects good results and we will have to se if they can do it again. I hope they can.

"Everyone also expects a lot from AC Milan" he went on. "I have a good feeling with their club because I played there so I hope they can win it again, but we will see".

You can hear all of Ashish Sharma's interview with Marco van Basten on World Football on Saturday 9 August. Use the audio link on the front page.




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World Football 19 November 2005




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