I amIn 1994, at midnight, Marco Van Basten He often crawls from his bed to the bathroom. The pain in his injured ankle was so bad that, to divert his attention, he would count the seconds it took to cover the short but agonizing distance. He recalls: “I whisper, I never got to the toilet before I hit 120. The door sills are the most challenging part because my ankle has to pass over them without me touching them. Even the slightest touch makes me nibble my lips to prevent screaming.”
Two years earlier, Van Basten won his third Ballon d’Or while also being named FIFA World Player of the Year. “It was very difficult because I went from the highest level in football to the lowest level of personal misery,” he says. “It was a very big fall and a really dark time.”
Van Basten He played for AC Milan As a deadly scorer, he helped them win two European Cups as well as three Serie A titles. He had emerged at the height of world football in 1988 when he recovered from a season-long injury and lit up the European Championships. Along with teammates at Milan Rod Gullit and Frank Rijkaard, Van Basten scored five goals for the Netherlands, including one unforgettable. Hattrick against England And decisive strikes in the semi-finals and final, where the Dutch were crowned European champions.
Five years later, his brilliant career is over. He was only 28 years old, and two years later, he had transformed into a night crawl. That memory opens His biography Van Basten relives that horrific time via a Zoom call from his publisher’s office in Amsterdam. The room appears very white, with muted colors in the background, remnants of sadness lingering.
Van Basten notes that his last match, the UEFA Champions League Final in 1993 when Milan lost 1–0 to Marseille, was in the same Olympic stadium in Munich where he won the European Championship Final against the Soviet Union in 1988. On that day he had set up Gullit. For the opener before Hit plush shot That clinched a 2-0 victory.
“I was at the height of my career, and the things that followed were beautiful and beautiful. But suddenly, in 1993, I played my last game at the same stadium,” he says.
“Everything went down. There was a lot of pain and problems. You can say that in those five years I had all of my international career. After a lot of problems with operations I was lame. I couldn’t do anything without pain. I was really handicapped and the doctors couldn’t help me.” I was a little scared. “
Van Basten admits that at his lowest point he was worried about having bone cancer. “It turned from bad to worse. After many operations, seeing doctors from all over the world, I tried everything, but we couldn’t find the solution.
“There was a moment in 1996 I had to say,“ I must try to be healthy. ”We made a decision to tie my ankle. For an athlete, I was only 32 years old, this was the worst option. But I had to stop the pain.
The rigorous work succeeded. Slowly, Van Basten’s pain subsided and he began to lead a relatively normal life. He thinks many of the operations were catastrophic, but his book also makes clear that he played a lot when he hurt. In a touching revelation that suggests the problem started when he was a childhood hero, Johan Cruyff, Urged him to play with Ajax as they sought to win the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987. Van Basten’s ankle ligaments were so damaged that he was unable to participate in any league matches, but at the request of Cruyff, his coach in Ajax, he played crucial European matches – he even scored The only goal in the final, in his last match before leaving for Milan.
“I was injured for the first time in December 1986 and the condition has not improved.” Johan had a discussion with the doctor who said, “He has a problem but it will not be worse. he can play.’ I had a feeling this was not good. I’m in a lot of pain. Johan said, ‘Look, we’re making a deal. You cannot play all competitions and some exercises that you can skip. But you have to play in Europe. No matter what happens, you have to play the final. That was the deal we reached. “
If he had taken a complete break, would he have avoided his later troubles? Van Basten shrugs. At first the doctors didn’t give me good advice. I kept going over and over and the damage got worse. Next season I went to Milan with Gullit. The first games were played in August and September, then I went to another doctor in Barcelona and we made the decision to have an operation. It is too late, because the damage is done. “
Van Basten was fortunate to make up the Netherlands squad for Euro 88 and was on the bench for the first game, after a 1–0 defeat against the Soviet Union. His international career exploded in life when he was papped against England, with a 3–1 victory. “It was a really great game, because we both were good,” he says. “In the end we were lucky that they hit the post twice.
“I was very nervous because it was my first real match after a long time. But I scored three and the wind blew the sails. Everything seemed easy after that.”
The Milan years were more urgent. Van Basten played under contrasting coaches and asserts that he was more in tune with Fabio Capello than his famous predecessor, Areigo Sake. “I got used to Cruyff, who was a great player. We were thinking the same thing. Capello too. Saki was more theoretical. We had to watch many videos and he was always talking during training. He was too much. So I said to him, ‘Mister, it is him.” She already told me this 12 times.If I didn’t understand it now, I’d never understand it. He was so fanatical that he kept telling the same stories. It was hard to accept.
“Saki and Cabello were lucky to have a great team. Baresi, Maldini, Costacorta and Tassotti. They were great defenders Who can also play well with the ball. We made each other better at training.
“They were other great clubs. Ajax In 1972, Bayern Munich in 1974, Liverpool from the eighties, as well as Real Madrid with Ronaldo, especially Barcelona with Messi, Busquets, Iniesta and Xavi. So I wouldn’t say we were the best. But we were one of them. “
One of the most fascinating topics in Van Basten’s book is his close relationship with Cruyff. His face softens when he remembers the first time he saw his idol himself. “It was a really special moment. I was 15 years old and off the field. I wanted to say to him,“ Listen, remember me, because we’ll see each other in the future. ”It was a strong feeling but I had no courage.
“A year later, when I was playing for Ajax Youth, we saw each other on the training ground and suddenly it became a part of my football life. I think he was feeling like:“ Well, this is an interesting player with talent. ”I played with him and against him in the last period of His career… I had as a friend and he was my coach. I loved training with him.
“Cruyff might be hard on me because he played in the street where she uses a different language. I did the same with Ruud van Nistelrooy when … I was a national coach. Maybe I was too strong, too tough, too direct like Yohan was with me. I should have been softer with Van Nistelrooy. I now have a very good relationship with Rod. He’s an amazing person but at first we didn’t have that feeling – maybe because he respected me so much. “
Van Basten regrets his succession with Cruyff later in life due to plans to restructure Ajax, and they were not reconciled before Cruyff’s death in 2016. “He was my hero, the best example for me and my friend. Then his opinion was different from my view of things in Ajax. It was like. It hurts, but it happens sometimes with the teacher and his student. He went right and went left. Suddenly we had no contact. After his death I saw his wife at a golf tournament in Turin. We kept talking about Johan and it was friendly again. ”
Danny Cruyff told Van Basten It is he and Pep Guardiola It was her husband’s favorite. She said, ‘Now we don’t have any contact and that’s sad. Upstairs, Johan would be happier if he saw our relationship as normal. I became very emotional and very beautiful. “
Cruyff was one of the best players The most influential players and coaches. Van Basten, on the other hand, was not a coach by nature. “I am Not a good managerHe says honestly. “I can coach players and talk about football. But losing as a manager was so painful that I couldn’t live with it. As a manager, you have to be positive with your guys, as a father to his kids, and that was something I really didn’t have.”
“The profession is also harmful to your health. When I became the assistant, I was smart and helpful. I had patience. As the coach I was the exact opposite. I made a good decision to go out. Now I do other things and feel more free. I do some work and work at TV and talk about a ball.” Foot. I still have a nice wife, nice children, and two grandchildren. We are all healthy. So I enjoy life. “
The 56-year-old smiles when I ask about his ankle. “I don’t have any pain but I’m tied up. I can’t play tennis or football. But I play squash and I’m grateful. Looking back, I felt it was a pity that I couldn’t finish my career after winning more Champions League.” [titles]. I wanted to show more of myself. Some players have 18 years in football. But some players were injured before they started. When I thought like this I said, “If you compare that I was very lucky. At least I had 10 years of a beautiful experience that changed my life forever.”
Basta: My Life, My Truth by Marco Van Basten and published by Cassel, octopusbooks.co.uk
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