Born Marcel van Basten on 31 October 1964, in the Dutch city of Utrecht, Oranje legend Marco van Basten began playing football with local side EDO aged just seven, where his extraordinary talent soon came to the fore.
One year later the budding striker moved to UVV Utrecht, where he spent almost his entire youth career before a brief spell at Elinkwijk Utrecht. Yet it was following his switch to Ajax, who signed him prior to the 1981/82 season, that he developed into one of the greatest strikers of all time.
Powerful yet sublimely skilled, Van Basten debuted for the Amsterdam giants aged 18 in April 1982, coming on as a substitute for another Dutch icon in Johan Cruyff. Anything but overawed by the occasion, the youngster quickly weighed in with a debut goal in a 5-0 victory over NEC.
Throughout the 1982/83 season, Van Basten remained in the shadows of Wim Kieft - a fellow key member of the Netherlands' UEFA EURO 1988-winning squad. However, the former still managed nine goals in 20 matches in 1982/83 and, after Kieft had departed for Italian club Pisa, it was time for the 6ft 3ins forward to take over as Ajax's goalscorer-in-chief.
Van Basten subsequently topped the Eredivisie scoring chart for four years running, which earned him recognition across the continent. In 1986 he was awarded the European Golden Shoe after netting 26 times in 37 games, with six coming in a single match against Sparta Rotterdam and another five against Heracles. Following three league titles and three Dutch Cup successes, the marksman crowned his time at Ajax by scoring the winner against German outfit Lokomotiv Leipzig in the final of the 1987 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup.
Taking Italy by storm
Having struck 128 times in 133 games for Ajax, Van Basten joined Serie A giants AC Milan along with countryman Ruud Gullit of PSV Eindhoven. The duo were joined one year later by a third Dutchman Frank Rijkaard, and together they formed a formidable footballing union.
But it was also in Italy that Van Basten's injury problems first began to surface - problems that would eventually spell a bitter and early end to his glittering career. I Rossoneri won the Scudetto for the first time in eight years following Van Basten's arrival, but the striker could only manage 11 appearances in his debut season owing to his troublesome ankle.
In the following campaign those niggles were soon forgotten as Van Basten scored 19 Serie A goals and helped his side to UEFA European Cup final glory against Steaua Bucharest, while also picking up the European Footballer of the Year award for his personal cabinet. The good times continued into the 1989/90 season, with Van Basten finishing top scorer in Serie A and helping Milan retain their European title by beating Benfica in the final.
However, the 1990/91 campaign was somewhat less enjoyable for the forward and his club. After Sampdoria had pipped Milan to the domestic title, Van Basten fell out with then coach Arrigo Sacchi, who was later dismissed.
Current England manager Fabio Capello took over the reins at the San Siro and soon got the club back on the glory trail. This was thanks in large part to the free-scoring Van Basten, who blossomed under his new coach and scored 25 times to top the league scoring charts in Milan's unbeaten charge to the title.
The striker etched his name into the UEFA Champions League history books in November 1992 by becoming the first-ever player to score four goals in one match against Swedish champions IFK.
Milan's fortunes seemed to correlate strongly with those of Van Basten, and it was during this period that the club went 58 league matches unbeaten at home. The then 28-year-old was voted European Footballer of the Year for a third time in 1992, becoming only the third player after Michel Platini and Johan Cruyff to win the award on three occasions.
Unfortunately, recurring ankle problems and knee complaints forced Van Basten on to the sidelines for increasingly extensive periods. The striker had to undergo several operations following an injury sustained in a league match against Ancona and only made his return to action at the end of the 1992/93 season.
The comeback was short-lived, with Van Basten's final game for Milan coming in the final of that year's Champions League, which the Italians lost 1-0 to Marseille. Injuries continued to haunt the player, dashing several comeback attempts before he finally announced his retirement from the game in 1995.
With that came the end of van Basten's ten-year international career. After making a name for himself at the 1983 edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Mexico, he was first called into the Netherlands' senior squad in September of the same year.
Van Basten's greatest success with the Oranje was undoubtedly at UEFA EURO 1988 in Germany, where he scored a dream goal in the final against Soviet Union, blasting a volley from the tightest of angles past goalkeeper Rinat Dasayev in a 2-0 victory.
However, Van Basten's subsequent appearances at major tournaments would fail to hit similar heights. At the 1990 FIFA World Cup Italy™, the Dutch lost 2-1 in an enthralling Round of 16 battle with bitter rivals and eventual champions West Germany. Meanwhile two years later, the Oranje exited at the semi-final stage of EURO 1992 in Sweden, with Van Basten's decisive penalty saved in the shoot-out by Peter Schmeichel of Denmark, who surprisingly went on to lift the trophy.
From marksman to mentor
Van Basten took his first steps on the coaching ladder as Ajax's youth-team assistant, but after just one year he was handed the Netherlands' reins. The Oranje went undefeated in qualifying for Germany 2006, only to lose out in the Round of 16 against Portugal. Two years later at EURO 2008 in Austria/Switzerland, Van Basten's time as national coach came to an end after his squad followed up a flying start to the tournament by bowing out to Russia at the quarter-final stage.
Van Basten subsequently returned as coach of his beloved Ajax ahead of the 2008/09 season but did not fulfil his four-year contract, resigning in May 2009 after failing to lead the club into the Champions League. And though there was talk of him taking over at another of his former clubs, AC Milan, in the summer, Van Basten personally rejected the claims. "I'm not ready for a job like that. I've got some problems with my ankle that I need to sort out first."
Marco van Basten was only the second FIFA World Player of the Year. The Dutchman followed in the footsteps of Germany's Lothar Matthaus.
The striker netted a total of 277 goals during a stellar professional career which was brought to a premature end in 1995, when he was just 30.
Van Basten came 25th in a poll to determine the 100 greatest Dutchmen in 2004.
The striker took part in two FIFA tournaments, first at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1983 and then at the FIFA World Cup in Italy seven years later.