Marc Overmars was one of the quickest and most talented wide players of recent times. Patrolling the left side of the park, the Dutchman frequently left opponents trailing in his wake with his high-speed dribbling before popping over dangerous crosses with his preferred left foot.
Capped 86 times by the Netherlands, he was no slouch in front of goal either, scoring 17 times for his country and recording 12-goal tallies in separate league seasons with both Ajax and Arsenal, in 1993/94 and 1997/98 respectively.
Two months after making his Oranje debut against Turkey in February 1993, Overmars underlined his potential when his lightning pace embarrassed Des Walker and won him the penalty that allowed the Netherlands to earn what proved a vital point against FIFA World Cup™ qualifying rivals England at Wembley.
The following year, aged 21, he delivered on his rich promise by playing a prominent role for the Netherlands as they reached the last eight at USA 94, before losing out to Brazil in a memorable quarter-final duel. Overmars appeared in all five of his country's matches at the tournament and no-one could fail to recognise the exceptional quality of a player nicknamed him 'Road Runner' or simply 'Meep Meep' because of his relentless scurrying and prodigious fitness.
Overmars later represented the Dutch at the 1998 finals in France, appearing in five matches en route to a semi-final shoot-out defeat by Brazil and scoring his one FIFA World Cup finals goal in the 5-0 rout of Korea Republic in the first round. Two years later he was part of the Oranje team that suffered further semi-final heartache at the UEFA European Championship on home soil.
The young Overmars' exceptional talent was spotted early and he enjoyed a meteoric rise through the youth ranks of Dutch football. Youngsters are normally not admitted to football clubs until they are six, but his prodigious skills meant the rules were relaxed and he joined SV Epe to learn the basics at the age of five. He remained with his local club until he was 14 when he switched to the academy at Go Ahead Eagles. A further two and a half years later, he signed for Willem II for the then-record sum for a youth of £200,000.
Overmars immediately felt at home in his new surroundings, but he moved on again to Ajax just a year later. "I was very sad about leaving at the time, but what can you do if Ajax come knocking at the door?" he recalled later. Any feelings of melancholy doubtless faded fast as he was to enjoy five successful seasons with the Amsterdam club.
While at Ajax, Overmars won three league titles and one Dutch Cup as part of a team featuring other up-and-coming stars such as the De Boer brothers, Jari Litmanen and Kanu. The ultimate evidence of that young side's quality was Ajax's astounding achievement in reaching back-to-back UEFA Champions League finals, winning the trophy in 1995. It was a special year in the club's history as they also collected the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.
Overmars joined Arsenal in 1997 and the winger continued his run of success, scoring 16 goals in all competitions in his first season, one of them in the FA Cup final against Newcastle as the Gunners completed the league and cup double.
The Dutch ace spent three years at Highbury before moving on to his final club, Barcelona, where he arrived in 2000. Unfortunately, Overmars did not add to this medal collection in four seasons with the Catalans before he was forced to end his playing career at the premature age of 31. After 13 years as a professional, this once jet-heeled winger bowed to the inevitable and hung up his boots as a knee injury ultimately took its toll.
"Marc has received offers from England and Italy, but his right knee is so badly damaged nowadays, he won't be able to perform at the highest level," Overmars' agent Rob Jansen announced in summer 2004. "He wasn't prepared to struggle on at a lower level of the game." His career was over, but his goals and dribbling skills will live on in the memory of genuine football fans everywhere.